Environment Picture

Second MEC historical trail marker to celebrate Kirtland’s warbler resurgence

Tiny bird nest almost exclusively in Michigan during summer breeding
The second historical marker for a Michigan Environmental Council-sponsored Michigan Conservation Trail was approved by the Michigan Historical Commission this spring. Efforts by communities, scientists and governmental agencies to restore the endangered Kirtland’s warbler are the theme of the marker, which will be installed in the Mio area.

Thanks to heroic conservation efforts, the bird’s population rebounded from an all-time modern low of 167 nesting pairs in 1987 to more than 1,700 pairs in 2007.

The Conservation Trail project, piloted by the Michigan Environmental Council with the state Department of History, Arts and Libraries, will eventually include numerous markers throughout the state to celebrate Michigan’s conservation heritage. The first marker, commemorating the recovery of the Detroit River from pollution and habitat loss, was dedicated in September 2007. The Michigan Conservation Trail emphasizes three themes: citizen activism, Michigan’s special place globally, and bold leadership. When complete, the Michigan Conservation Trail will be a series of linked historical sites and associated educational materials.

The Kirtland’s warbler is a bird whose global summer breeding range is limited to the jack pine forests of northern Michigan. It is listed as an endangered species under federal and state law. From an all-time modern low of 167 nesting pairs in 1974 and 1987, the summer population of this beautiful but fragile species rebounded to more than 1,700 pairs in 2007. The recovery of the Kirtland’s warbler is testimony to sustained habitat restoration work by federal and state agencies and private bird conservationists.
Proposed marker text for Michigan Conservation Trail:
The Kirtland’s warbler is a bird whose global summer breeding range is primarily limited to the jack pine forests of northern Michigan. It is listed as an endangered species under federal and state law. From an all-time modern low of 167 nesting pairs in 1974 and 1987, the summer population of this beautiful but fragile species rebounded to more than 1,700 pairs in 2007. The recovery of the Kirtland’s warbler is testimony to sustained habitat restoration work by federal and state agencies and private bird conservationists. Originally dependent on fire-created young jack pine forests for summer nesting habitat, the species neared extinction until harvesting of older jackpine stands and replanting of jack pine trees began in earnest in the1970s, guided by research to effectively mimic natural fire processes. The parasitic Brown-headed cowbird, which lays its eggs in warbler nests and whose young survive at the expense of Kirtland’s warbler nestlings, must also be controlled. The Kirtland’s warbler is now the subject of an annual festival at Kirtland Community College near Roscommon, which attracts tourists and bird lovers from around the world, enhancing the local economy. The Kirtland’s warbler was first identified in 1851 from a specimen collected on Dr. Jared Kirtland’s farm near Cleveland, Ohio. Kirtland’s warblers migrate from Michigan to wintering grounds in the Bahamas.
-Dave Dempsey for the Michigan Environmental Council
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