Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Smithsonian scientist discovers populations of rare songbird in surprising new habitat

30.10.2014

America's pine plantations provide hope for the future of the Swainson's warbler

The Swainson's warbler (Limnothlypis swainsonii) is one of the rarest and most secretive songbirds in North America, prized by birdwatchers in the southeastern U.S. hoping to catch a glimpse of it in the wild or hear its beautiful ringing song.

With only 90,000 breeding individuals sparsely distributed across 15 states in the U.S., the Swainson's warbler is a species of high conservation concern that, for decades, has left conservationists with little confidence that its populations would ever be fully secure.

However, new research published in the Oct. 30 edition of Bird Conservation International by Smithsonian's National Museum of Natural History scientist Gary Graves reveals that populations of Swainson's warbler are increasing in a surprising new habitat found mostly on private lands—pine plantations on nearly 16 million hectares on the coastal plain from eastern Texas to southeastern Virginia.

The study compiles data from 20 years of field studies and suggests that if current trends continue, forests managed as short-rotation pine plantations will support the majority of Swainson's warbler breeding populations by the end of the 21st century.

"The Swainson's warbler is becoming a conservation success story in a habitat that was once feared to be a biological desert," said Graves, curator of birds in the Department of Vertebrate Zoology. "This is a prime example of how intensive management of forest lands for industrial purposes can have a direct impact on bird populations in a positive way."

The rarity of the Swainson's warbler has long been attributed to its finicky preference for large areas of densely vegetated breeding habitat in the southeastern U.S. and wintering range in the Caribbean basin. However, new research in the 1990s revealed that this warbler could be found in a surprisingly wide spectrum of habitats, including young loblolly pine plantations in eastern Texas. Graves believes that the common denominators of breeding habitats are dense understory vegetation, quite often impenetrable, and moist soils carpeted with leaf litter.

In the case of short-rotation pine plantations in the southeastern U.S., there is a seven-to-eight–year window when the plantations are dense enough to support populations of Swainson's warbler. Once this period ends and the plantations thin out, Graves believes that the warblers will likely relocate to nearby younger plantations that exhibit the desired foliage density.

As part of its vast collections, the National Museum of Natural History stewards the type specimen of Swainson's warbler, the original specimen that John James Audubon used to describe the new species in 1834.

The Swainson's warbler is a small olive-brown bird with pale yellowish-white underparts that measures approximately 5.5 inches long. It uses its bill to forage on the forest floor, flipping leaves over and feeding on the insects living beneath them. This warbler is known for its loud, distinctive song and secretive behavior. Despite its small size, male Swainson's warblers defend large territories that range in size from 3 to 18 hectares.

Graves used playbacks of warbler songs to detect these reclusive birds during field surveys throughout the southeastern U.S. Future research will focus on the characteristics of pine stands and soils that promote the colonization of pine plantations by the Swainson's warbler.

Kathryn Sabella | EurekAlert!
Further information:
http://www.si.edu

More articles from Life Sciences:

nachricht Single-stranded DNA and RNA origami go live
15.12.2017 | Wyss Institute for Biologically Inspired Engineering at Harvard

nachricht New antbird species discovered in Peru by LSU ornithologists
15.12.2017 | Louisiana State University

All articles from Life Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Error-free into the Quantum Computer Age

A study carried out by an international team of researchers and published in the journal Physical Review X shows that ion-trap technologies available today are suitable for building large-scale quantum computers. The scientists introduce trapped-ion quantum error correction protocols that detect and correct processing errors.

In order to reach their full potential, today’s quantum computer prototypes have to meet specific criteria: First, they have to be made bigger, which means...

Im Focus: Search for planets with Carmenes successful

German and Spanish researchers plan, build and use modern spectrograph

Since 2016, German and Spanish researchers, among them scientists from the University of Göttingen, have been hunting for exoplanets with the “Carmenes”...

Im Focus: First-of-its-kind chemical oscillator offers new level of molecular control

DNA molecules that follow specific instructions could offer more precise molecular control of synthetic chemical systems, a discovery that opens the door for engineers to create molecular machines with new and complex behaviors.

Researchers have created chemical amplifiers and a chemical oscillator using a systematic method that has the potential to embed sophisticated circuit...

Im Focus: Long-lived storage of a photonic qubit for worldwide teleportation

MPQ scientists achieve long storage times for photonic quantum bits which break the lower bound for direct teleportation in a global quantum network.

Concerning the development of quantum memories for the realization of global quantum networks, scientists of the Quantum Dynamics Division led by Professor...

Im Focus: Electromagnetic water cloak eliminates drag and wake

Detailed calculations show water cloaks are feasible with today's technology

Researchers have developed a water cloaking concept based on electromagnetic forces that could eliminate an object's wake, greatly reducing its drag while...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

See, understand and experience the work of the future

11.12.2017 | Event News

Innovative strategies to tackle parasitic worms

08.12.2017 | Event News

AKL’18: The opportunities and challenges of digitalization in the laser industry

07.12.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

Single-photon detector can count to 4

18.12.2017 | Information Technology

Quantum memory with record-breaking capacity based on laser-cooled atoms

18.12.2017 | Physics and Astronomy

How much soil goes down the drain -- New data on soil lost due to water

18.12.2017 | Agricultural and Forestry Science

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>