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Students stumping for Kirkland's warbler as state bird

Sunday, October 05, 2003
By Linda Angelo Flint Journal Staff Writer
GRAND BLANC - Grand Blanc - Should the Kirtland's warbler replace the robin as Michigan's state bird? The small yellow-breasted songbird that breeds almost entirely in Michigan is gaining some support, particularly among a group of City School students.

"The robin and chickadee are both state birds in other states," fifth-grader Max Lounds said. "I think choosing the Kirtland's warbler would be for the common good and make our state more interesting and unique."

The kids were conducting research for their "Take a Stand" paper when they learned the debate is about to come to life in the Legislature.

Sen. Patricia Birkholz, R-Saugatuck, introduced in September a bill that would replace the state's bird with the Kirtland's warbler, one of the most endangered species in North America. The students plan to write letters in support of the proposed change to legislators and possibly make a statement at a committee meeting.

"I would really love to see a kid make a presentation to the committee," teacher Vickie Weiss said. "I don't know if it's possible."

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QUICK FACTS - Kirtland's warbler

  • Nests on the ground under living jack pine branches.
  • Adults are lightweight birds, weighing a half ounce.
  • Breeding males have blue-gray plumage with black streaks.
  • Spends the fall and winter seasons in the Bahamas.
  • Diet includes many insect species and ripe blueberries.
  • Cowbird management is necessary for the Kirtland's warbler's survival.

Data on Kirtland's warblers in 1971 and 1987 revealed less than 170 breeding pairs, a number too low to sustain the population. The Kirtland's Warbler Recovery Team later formed to work on habitat management and controlling the population of cowbirds, which carry parasites. Within the past two years the population has exceeded 1,000 breeding pairs, said Leonard M. Stuttman of the Capital Area Audubon Society. The birds spend their winters in the Bahamas and return to Michigan to nest on the ground in large areas of young jack pine forest that are 5-20 feet tall. Their nests are in 10 counties in Michigan's Lower Peninsula, three counties in the Upper Peninsula and part of Wisconsin.

In the past, lawmakers have tried unsuccessfully to get the chickadee named as the state bird.
Linda Angelo can be reached at (810) 766-6340 or
Photo by Roger Eriksson, wildlife and nature photographer. More of Roger's photos can be seen at J.J. Cardinal's Fine Art Photography.


photo roger eriksson  

J.J. Cardinal's Wild Bird & Nature Store   ~   Grand Blanc, MI   ~   810-695-8733