Species-Specific Management (SSM)

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Of the warblers found in eastern US forest, none are permanent residents. However, some may be locally abundant during the breeding season of spring and summer. Migratory warblers can be attracted to the area by using seasonally available food patches.

The wood warblers found in this area require a diversity of cover types, but all are insect eaters and can be provided a common forage base. The following management techniques appeal to a general class of seasonally breeding wood warblers.

  1. Encourage stands of mixed hardwoods to account for the wide range of cover types required by the birds.
  2. Encourage prevalent undergrowth in all stands to ensure adequate cover. Certain undergrowth can also be used as food patches.
  3. Periodically create openings or forest gaps with the use of select cutting of large trees. This will promote sun-dependent undergrowth species and create dead woody material condusive to insect growth.
  4. Many warblers (e.g., the yellow-breasted chat) are edge species. Maximize the amount of edge habitat in the area to attract these birds. Some will be lost to cowbird predation but the gain/loss tradeoff seems of appropriate scale.
  5. Plant or encourage many low shrubs and bushes, such as mountain laurel, spicebush, and alder. Plant bushes and shrubs along edge areas and along streams and water holes.
  6. Maintain a buffer strip of low, dense vegetation along streams and water sources. Buffer strips create corridors for the movement of foraging warblers.
  7. Allow several small stands of trees to reach maturity. This not only provides for diverse cover types, but encourages natural snag development. Snags, in turn, become home to numerous insects.
  8. Create water holes.
  9. Maintain wet areas (seeps) and any low or dense vegetation surrounding them. This will ensure an ample foraging base for hungry breeding warblers. Wet and moist areas are important to the larval stage of many insects. Keep these areas well shaded with either large shade trees, such as maples and aspen, or with dense thickets of alder and mountain laurel.
  10. Plant shrubs and bushes with large showy flowers to attract butterflies and other insects.
  11. Plant some fruit producing species of vines and shrubs. Blueberry, blackberry, and bearberry are plants identified as being eaten by several species of warblers.
  12. Do not promote large areas of any one cover type, but maintain a mix of habitats.
  13. Since many warblers nest in low vegetation, get rid of any cats or dogs in the area that could disturb nesting sites.
  14. Tell people about your management project and have them plant some of the same species found on your area.
  15. Since most species of warblers are neotropical migrants, support international habitat projects locally and abroad.

A contribution of Bill Wilmoth (1992)
Department of Fisheries and Wildlife Sciences, Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University, Blacksburg, VA 24061-0321

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Last revision January 17, 2000.