Ecology and Management of Golden-winged Warbler Breeding
Habitat in Northcentral Pennsylvania

Jeff Larkin

The Golden-winged Warbler has been identified as one of the most critically threatened, non-federally listed vertebrate species in eastern North America. As such, the development of management prescriptions that create or maintain Golden-winged Warbler breeding habitat is a conservation priority. In 2008, we initiated a 2-year study intended examine demographic and habitat relations of the Golden-winged Warbler in northcentral Pennsylvania. This study was conducted in two areas: Bald Eagle State Park and Sproul State Forest. While the two study areas were only 29 km (18 miles) apart, they were located within very different landscape contexts. We captured and banded 77 territorial male Golden-winged Warblers across both study sites in 2008 and 2009. We mapped the territories of 114 male Golden-winged Warblers from May through June 2008 and 2009. Fifty-nine (n=59) of these territories occurred on the Sproul State Forest study area and fifty-five (n=55) occurred on the Bald Eagle State Park study area. We also conducted habitat sampling within each territory and within adjacent unused territories. Habitat data from used and unused territories were analyzed separately for each study area using multiple logistic regression. Important habitat variables identified at Bald Eagle S.P. were also found to be important at Sproul S.F. These findings are promising, in that despite having very different plant communities, it appears as though Golden-wing Warblers at Bald Eagle S.P. and Sproul S.F. were using similar habitat features to select territories. While only preliminary, these results are a good first attempt at identifying habitat features that Golden-winged Warblers consistently select for regardless of the plant species composition of the early successional habitat. Results from this study were used to create site-specific habitat manipulation prescriptions intended to create/enhance Golden-winged Warbler habitat on 7, 20ha sites during winter 2009-10. Habitat manipulation is currently underway, and it is likely that all seven plots will be complete by March 2010. We will monitor Golden-winged Warbler response to this habitat manipulation work during the 2010 and 2011 breeding seasons.

Click here to here Jeff Larkin's radio story.