Kirtland's Warbler

"Kirtland’s Warbler Study" by Dan Milligan (digital)

I spent a great deal of my childhood on the lakes and in the woods of Northern Ontario. Although I enjoyed every aspect of nature, I became fascinated with birds. So much so, that I became an avid birdwatcher/painter and practiced the art of falconry. This love of all things feathered, made the Kirtland’s Warbler an easy choice.
— Dan Milligan

Also known as the Jack Pine Warbler.

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This warbler nests only in stands of young jack pines in central Michigan, a habitat that grows up only briefly after fires.  In migration, they are seen in thickets and deciduous trees. During winter, rarely seen, found only in dense undergrowth of pine forests of the Bahamas.

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Family Life

Males arrive on breeding grounds in mid-May, a few days before the females, and establish large territories. They tend to be loosely colonial (lone pairs are rare), and males tend to return to the same colony in which they previously nested. Males sometimes have more than one mate. The young are fed by both parents. 


Kirtland’s warblers have a short life span--about two years. 

Hunting Habits/Diet

These birds forage for insects near the ground and in lower parts of pines and oaks.  They eat mostly small insects, some berries. Adults also feed on pine sap.  


From record lows of 167 in 1987, the number of singing males increased to around 2,000 in 2012.

Fun Facts

  • The Kirtland warbler is one of the rarest songbirds.

  • This songbird is one of 56 species of wood warblers found in North America.

  • It nests in just a few counties in Michigan's northern Lower and Upper peninsulas.

Why Are They Endangered?

Always known as a scarce bird with a limited range, Kirtland's Warbler apparently began to decline seriously in the 1960s. Today, Kirtland's warblers face two significant threats: lack of crucial young jack pine  forest habitat and the parasitic brown-headed cowbird. Through most of the 1970s and 80s, the annual counts hovered around 200 males, twice dropping as low as 167. Since 1990, the numbers have gradually increased, and the total of singing males hit 2,000 in 2012.


Near Threatened