Looking For Golden-winged Warblers In Bath And Highland
Monterey, VA – A small gray bird with bright yellow patches on its wings and head is the subject of an in-depth survey in Highland and Bath counties this year. The bird is the Golden-winged Warbler, a bird that is highly sought by birders who visit our area this time of year.
Survey leader Patti Reum of Blue Grass says the project is sponsored by Virginia Commonwealth University, and lead by Dr. Lesley Bulluck, an ornithologist in the Biology department. Dr. Bulluck did her doctorate dissertation specifically on the Golden-winged Warbler. The survey is also sponsored by Virginia Game and Inland Fisheries.
The goal of the survey is to ascertain the presence or absence of the bird and observe current habitat. Reum says the bird brings national attention to Bath and Highland Counties.
“It’s been proposed to be threatened, it hasn’t been listed yet” she says. “It’s only found as a nesting bird here in Highland and Bath County, [and] it’s a high elevation bird. Highland and Bath are considered important area by the National Audubon Society, and it is mainly because of the presence of the Golden-winged Warbler that we have that classification here in the counties.”
The population of Golden-winged Warblers is currently declining and researchers use surveys like this one to help determine the rate of that decline and the type of habitat needed by the bird for nesting. The survey field work required 3 visits to each site, one in early May, a second in late May/early June and a third later in June to do the vegetation survey. In order for the researchers to find these birds they use a portable audio system to play the song of the male Golden-winged Warbler and then listen for responses from Golden-winged Warblers in the vicinity.
Reum says they’ve had phenomenal success with the survey. They were expecting to find 20 to 30 occupied or unoccupied nesting sites, but instead found 52 occupied sites, and 80 to 90 unoccupied sites. Reum explains further that the results of the vegetation survey have shown important details of the habitat requirements of the Golden-winged Warblers.
“The habitat that this bird needs is number one, in hot elevation, but also it needs trees and saplings where they can announce their territory and announce their presence.”
The Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries in conjunction with the US Department of Agriculture currently offers incentive programs to help landowners create habitat for the Golden-winged Warbler and other wildlife species. Several area landowners are participating in these programs. For more information on Golden-winged Warbler conservation, call Patti Reum in Blue Grass Virginia at 474-3245.