The chirpy buzz of the golden-winged warbler's song might not sound like a dirge, but it very nearly is one.
The population of this little, gray songbird with bright yellow patches on its wings and head has been in precipitous decline since 1966. And, as of yet, it remains unprotected by the federal Endangered Species Act of 1973.
It's a dire situation for the warbler, and Ronald Canterbury wants people to know about it.
Canterbury, associate academic director of biological sciences at the University of Cincinnati, has studied the golden-winged warbler for 25 years and last saw one living in Ohio a place where the bird had been known to breed for at least a century in 1998. The bird's range once stretched from the southern Appalachians through the Northeast and Midwest and into southern Canada. Now the largest populations can only be found in Wisconsin, Minnesota and Ontario, Canada; and smaller numbers still exist in the Appalachians.
"If you go to the watch lists, like Audubon or American Bird Conservancy, the golden-winged warbler is going to be in the top 5 and sometimes even the No. 1 bird of critical concern in its breeding range," Canterbury says.
Canterbury has been studying golden-winged warbler habitats in southern West Virginia for more than 20 years and will have his research paper, "Assessment of Golden-winged Warbler Habitat Structure on Farmlands of southern West Virginia," published in the upcoming issue of the prestigious quarterly birding journal, The Redstart.
Canterbury has found there are two main threats to the bird's survival, one you'd expect and one that's less obvious, but both involve encroachment on its special habitat requirements. The golden-winged warbler is an early successional species, meaning it thrives in areas near the forest edge with a mix of open ground, shrubs and sparse shade trees. It also prefers to live at high elevations. Many areas like this can be foun
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University of Cincinnati