Working Lands

Collaborating for Protection of the Golden-winged Warbler: What we’ve learned

Anyone who regularly reads our newsletter, blog, or attends our programs knows that Audubon North Carolina has spent a lot of time and effort over the last few years working to learn about and conserve Golden-winged Warblers (GWWA).  And we are not alone.  The Golden-winged Warbler Working Group (GWWAWG)was established in 2005, by more than 75 partners, to dig deep into the science and life cycle of this species. In this series of blog posts, learn about all the work of the GWWWG and what this collaborative effort has done to protect this tiny gem of our forests.

Post by Curtis Smalling, Coordinator NC IBA Program & Mountain Program Manager

One of the first things we learned was that the Golden-winged is hard to detect, so by adding recorded playback of their song to our surveys we could find a lot more birds.  Unlike some persistent singers like Red-eyed Vireo or American Robin, Golden-winged Warblers do not sing a lot, and that little bit of singing is very compressed into both the morning hours and early in the breeding season.  In fact, once a male finds his mate, he sings even less. From this observation, we now know that a bird still singing consistently after June 1 is probably unmated.

We worked with a graduate student at Duke University, Jamie Brown, very early on, and he did a predictive model on where Golden-wings were likely to occur. His work was one of the first to show us that the single best predictor of where they occur is not how much early successional habitat (young, shrubby forests) is available, but instead how much forest was available at a landscape scale.

This has become one of the most important factors for conservation of the species.  We now know that they occur in landscapes that have at least 80% forested cover (within a 100 km2).  This has become critical in thinking about conservation of the species because we don’t want to create too much early successional habitat at the expense of the forest at the landscape scale (or as we will see later, even at the stand level).

In our next entry in this series, learn how habitat conservation can help stop the hybridization of this species with other warblers. Read the full series here.

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