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Pennsylvania Golden-winged Warbler Monitoring Informs Management

Scrub oak barrens were one of the habitats found to be used by Golden-winged Warblers during surveys by PA Game Commission staff; photo by Doug Gross.
The Pennsylvania Game Commission’s (PGC) Wildlife Diversity section comprehensive monitoring program is informing the agency and its partners not only of Golden-winged Warbler population status but also potential for implementing best management practices.  PGC has been coordinating the Cornell Laboratory of Ornithology (CLO) Golden-winged Warbler monitoring for several years and integrating standard surveys such as Breeding Bird Surveys, Breeding Bird Atlas, CLO Golden-winged Warbler Conservation Initiative Monitoring (CIM), and selective searches in appropriate locations.  The team of field observers conducting monitoring activities includes both agency staff and volunteers.

Over the last three years, searches that follow-up on  Important Bird Area and Atlas surveys found Golden-winged Warbler in several game lands, state forests, state parks, and other locations, informing agency management of good habitat (early forest and thicket) in those areas. Golden-winged warblers also were found in wetlands and scrub barrens that may serve as source populations for young forested areas. Most of these sites were found in the northeastern counties but scrub barrens occur at many locations in the state, especially on ridgetops. Surveys have reaffirmed that rights-of-way have poor Golden-winged Warbler persistence, but some wetlands and wet meadows seem good, especially in the Poconos. Wetland data were shared with the Indiana University of Pennsylvania team for its research and implementation.  Management already is being targeted in game lands, forestlands, and on cooperating private lands due to the results of these surveys. Surveys have informed PGC wildlife habitat management of best potential locations for Golden-winged Warbler management on game lands and that information is being included in those plans. 

The CLO CIM sample matrix was adjusted in 2012 to the changing Golden-winged Warbler distribution and expanded in 2013 to 180 points in 36 quadrants. In 2013, there were 24 Golden-winged Warblers detected in these surveys, a decrease from 28 in 2012. There also were fewer Blue-winged Warblers detected in 2013 (22) than in 2012 (29).  However, there are clusters of Golden-winged Warblers detected in quadrants where silviculture and controlled burning are being conducted.  For the first time, an annual report was compiled for the agency about monitoring activities that includes many details of the locations where these priority birds were surveyed, searched for, and found.