North America’s Rarest Songbird, the Kirtland’s Warbler, Sighted in the Bahamas

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The Bahamas National Trust has recruited students—including scientist Ancilleno (Leno) Davis—for the Kirtland’s Warbler Research and Training project, an ongoing project that studies the bird’s migratory patterns from Michigan to The Bahamas among other important information needed for its protection. The Kirtland’s warbler is still considered endangered, although its numbers have been rising in the last decade. The lowest counts ever were in 1974 and 1985 when birders in Michigan recorded only 167 singing males each year. In 2008 there were 1,792 singing males noted during the official census in Michigan plus a few others in Wisconsin and Ontario.

For decades after the first Kirtland’s sighting in 1879, scientists spent countless unrewarded hours searching The Bahamas for the bird’s winter nesting grounds on Andros Island, Hawksbill Cay, Eleuthera, and other islands of the 625-mile long archipelago. Earlier this year, Leno Davis achieved a birding triumph. He recorded three separate sightings of Kirtland’s warblers and even managed to get a good 20 seconds of video of the bird flitting among the branches of a low shrub called Strumpfia maritima on Hawksbill Cay in Exuma Cays Land and Sea State Park, the oldest park in The Bahamas.

leno_survey_imageDavis, a native Bahamian, stresses the importance of the Kirtland Warbler’s Training Program for aspiring scientists and for increasing interest The Bahamas’ ecological future: “I feel The Bahamas is on the verge of a scientific renaissance. For me, participating in the Kirtland Warbler’s Training Program was the springboard that led me to my advanced degrees, and brought me back home to work in The Bahamas. I feel more projects like this are needed to continue to encourage Bahamians toward environmental science careers and actually provide them with some of the skills they will need to succeed in the field.”

Eleanor Phillips, Director of Northern Caribbean public relations, notes that this training program has been groundbreaking and it not only increases “the body of knowledge about the Kirtland’s warblers for the inter-organizational partnerships,” but also brings about lasting contributions that the young scientists are making and will continue to make here in The Bahamas and throughout the conservation community. Several students who have participated in the program have already returned to The Bahamas and are working in science.”

The continuing success of Kirtland’s warbler monitoring owes much of its success to the partners that support it, including the International Program of the U.S. Forest Service, the International Institute of Tropical Forestry of the U.S. Forest Service, and the Bahamas National Trust.

For full article, video, and photos, see http://www.nature.org/wherewework/caribbean/bahamas/features/art29078.html

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