Golden-winged Warbler Working Group

Cornell Lab's Land Trust Conservation Initiative

The Cornell Lab of Ornithology is promoting private land as a major opportunity for bird conservation. With over 61 million protected acres safegaurded by land trusts, private land trusts are critical for over 100 bird species of conservation significance. In 2013, the Cornell Lab initiated the Land Trust Initiative to maximize the synergy between birds and land trusts by building local Land Trust Bird Conservation Collaboratives, establishing educational opportunities, and incentivizing bird-friendly land management through a small grant program. The Land Trust Conservation Initiative aims to enhance bird conservation on private lands by providing funding and technical support to land trusts and partners. Learn more at the Land Trust Conservation Initiative Website.


Here are a few examples of how Cornell Lab’s small grant recipients are making a difference for Golden-winged Warblers:

Triangle Land Conservancy (North Carolina)

Triangle Land Conservancy’s Brumley North Nature Preserve, located in the Piedmont of North Carolina, stands out as a popular local birding destination. A part of the expansive 673-acre Brumley Nature Preserve, this 160-acre property is among Orange county’s largest natural area tracts. While boasting diverse habitats such as ponds, open fields, wetlands, and mature forests, the preserve also faces conservation challenges including invasive species and machine-planted loblolly pine stands, among others.

TLC is committed to reshaping this land legacy by enhance habitat quality for breeding, migrating, and resident bird species, as well as other wildlife. Special attention is given to the Golden-winged Warbler, a species of concern in North Carolina. TLC’s comprehensive, long-term management plan for the preserve incorporates specific habitat management strategies. These include the removal of invasive plant species, establishment of native plants, prescribed burns, and creating canopy gap openings in even-aged loblolly pine stands.

In collaboration with the New Hope Audubon Society (NHAS), TLC conducts seasonal bird surveys to gauge the impact of their management actions on local bird populations. The partnership extends beyond surveys, involving public engagement through bird hikes, educational events on eBird usage, and discussions highlighting the advantages of native plant species for birds, the threats posed by invasive plants, and TLC’s restoration efforts. The project site is envisioned as an outdoor classroom for local schools and universities, offering educational opportunities on wildlife surveys, habitat management, and preserve stewardship.

Vermont Land Trust (Vermont)

The Vermont Land Trust (VLT), alongside Audubon Vermont and the Friends of the Charlotte Park and Wildlife Refuge, is expanding breeding habitat and enhancing connectivity for Golden-winged Warblers (GWWA) in land adjacent to existing breeding habitat and conserved lands in Chittenden County, Vermont. As the northeastern-most extent of GWWA range and breeding habitat, Vermont houses the Western Vermont Golden-chain Collaborative (WVC), a partnership between the Cornell Lab and Vermont-based land trusts and conservation organizations working to enhance connectivity of preserved lands crucial to GWWA.

This grant represents a step forward in achieving WVC’s objectives, building upon GWWA habitat restoration efforts initiated with funds from a 2020 Cornell Land Trust Small Grant on an adjacent 400-acre property. The project aims to eradicate invasive species, including European buckthorn and bush honeysuckles, from successional shrubland. It will involve planting native trees and plants within the newly created habitat and conducting pre-and-post management bird monitoring to better comprehend the response to management by GWWA and other shrubland obligates. Allaire Diamond, VLT’s ecologist overseeing the project, expresses enthusiasm, stating, “Vermont Land Trust is thrilled to support this critical bird habitat restoration in the Charlotte Park and Wildlife Refuge, which was conserved in 1998.” She highlights the combined efforts of dedicated partners, leveraging years of research and migratory bird science expertise with local energy to yield practical, visible, and replicable outcomes aimed at improving GWWA habitat in the Champlain Valley.

As part of the initiative, VLT will host two workshops. The first, intended for WVC partners, land trusts, and regional conservation entities, will elucidate the grant, outline the initiative’s goals, and showcase restoration progress. The second workshop, open to the public and scheduled for spring 2024, will discuss the results of the work and its impact on GWWA habitat.

Introgressed Blue-winged Warbler recaptured and held for photo.
Introgressed Blue-winged Warbler recaptured in spring 2021 in newly managed area at Nordic Farms. Photo: Vermont Land Trust, Mark LaBarr.

Natural Lands (Pennsylvania)

Natural Lands has teamed up with Audubon Pennsylvania to enhance habitat for declining  Golden-winged Warbler, Wood Thrush, and Ruffed Grouse at Bear Creek Preserve in Luzurne County, Pennsylvania. Covering 3,565 acres of forests and stream valleys, Bear Creek Preserve is crucial for native wildlife, and supports a wide diversity of breeding migratory songbirds. Natural Lands’ habitat improvement plan involves a prescribed burn and silvicultural practices like overstory removal and shelterwood harvests to create early successional habitat and a mixed-age forest. Monitoring, facilitated by eBird, will track the success of management actions, assessing bird diversity and target species abundance. Natural Lands will share insights with adjacent landowners through workshops, post-management webinars, and ongoing use of the preserve as a demonstration site. 

Burning overgrown understory. Photo: Josh Saltmer
Nearly 20 acres were treated with a prescribed burn to create early successional habitat. Photo: Josh Saltmer
GWWA Habitat Photo: Josh Saltmer
Condition of the management site approximately one year after burning. Photo: Josh Saltmer