Golden-winged Warbler working group photo.

Golden-winged Warbler Working Group

Birdwatching with Working Group membersIn Spring 2019, the Southern Appalachian Golden-winged Warbler Working Group, consisting of more than 10 agencies and organizations, met in the Roan Highlands to discuss landscape-scale conservation measures, including strategic land protection and cooperative management projects. SAHC was proud to host the group on our preserves and to assist with touring iconic public lands across the Roan.

The Appalachian Trail Conservancy, NC State Parks & Recreation, NC Wildlife Resources Commission, Audubon NC, Appalachian Mountains Joint Venture, U.S. Forest Service – Nat’l Forests in NC, The Nature Conservancy, Cherokee Nat’l Forest, U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, TN Wildlife Resources Agency, the University of TN, and private individuals and organizations attended the GWWA Working Group meeting.

The Golden-winged Warbler (GWWA) is one of the most rapidly declining birds in our country, with populations dropping more 97% from 1966 to 2010. This dramatic decline is due to habitat loss and deforestation in the bird’s South American wintering range and the rapid loss of quality early successional breeding and nesting habitat in our region, as old farms and fields are developed or mature into forests. At lower elevations, GWWA are also lost due to competition from and hybridization with Blue-winged Warblers. The extremely high elevations and ample early successional habitats found in the Highlands of Roan make this focal area a last stronghold for this tiny bird.

The Working Group discussed the rapid loss of GWWA breeding habitat in the last 25 years, and the associated need for a landscape level habitat assessment. This habitat assessment would identify key areas across the Roan landscape where early successional habitats can be restored with little to no impact on quality forests. We are thrilled to announce that our 2019 Stanback Intern, Kelly Joyner, will be using aerial photography and GIS mapping to  help create such an assessment.

The Group also discussed active management projects being implemented by partners and discussed long-term cooperation, resource sharing, and working across boundaries to manage the landscape for this rapidly disappearing songbird.