Habitat For The Declining Cerulean Warbler And Other Wildlife Conserved In Ozarks

(Washington, D.C. – December 10, 2008) A coalition including American Bird Conservancy, the state of Missouri, The Nature Conservancy, and the Missouri Conservation Heritage Foundation has protected 80 acres containing important floodplain habitat in the watershed of the Current River, one of North America’s most biologically diverse streams. The parcel links together federal and state protected lands and provides breeding habitat for the Cerulean Warbler, whose population is declining throughout its range.

Approximately 37 acres of the tract are in riparian flood plain and have been identified as Cerulean Warbler breeding habitat. American Bird Conservancy committed $35,000 to the purchase price of the tract because it is in an area of the Ozarks where there are high densities of Cerulean Warbler in the floodplain forests of the Jack’s Fork and Current River.

“While the Horse Creek tract was cleared a few decades ago, it has transitioned back into a mature bottomland forest with characteristics that Cerulean Warblers prefer: well-developed canopy layers and canopy gaps where tall trees, like sycamores or cottonwoods, emerge above the tops of other trees,” said Jane Fitzgerald, Central Hardwoods Joint Venture coordinator for American Bird Conservancy.

She also added that by protecting this property, it would prevent the land from being cleared, which allows Brown-headed Cowbirds to increase. The Cowbirds is a brood parasite that can impact the Cerulean Warbler population, which has declined by approximately 70% since the mid-1960s.

Missouri Conservation Heritage Foundation committed $55,500 through the Stream Stewardship Trust Fund. “MCHF through its Stream Stewardship Trust Fund was eager to help protect the Horse Creek Tract. This property was important for us because it closed a three-sided inholding on public land, contained a high-quality aquatic resource that was vulnerable to adverse private development, and occurs in a Conservation Opportunity Area as identified by the Missouri Department of Conservation,” said Rick Thom, executive director of the Missouri Conservation Heritage Foundation.

In addition to preserving excellent habitat for declining bird species, this land acquisition preserves three springs and over half a mile of Horse Creek, a beautiful Ozark stream. While assessing the property, biologists discovered a healthy blooming population of the rare Tall larkspur growing along the creek banks. This handsome wildflower is a popular nectar source for Ruby-throated Hummingbirds.

This acquisition is part of American Bird Conservancy’s Cerulean Warbler conservation program that is restoring and protecting breeding habitat, reducing threats, and developing and providing habitat management recommendations for landowners to optimize conditions for Cerulean Warblers and associated forest species. The project has protected lands for the Cerulean Warbler and critically endangered birds in Latin America, including the creation of the first Cerulean Warbler Reserve in Colombia, protecting 252 acres of wintering habitat.

“This land purchase is the first acquisition in the United States by American Bird Conservancy, and the first in the Central Hardwoods Bird Conservation Region specifically to protect habitat for a high-priority terrestrial bird species,” said Jane Fitzgerald. “This year, American Bird Conservancy also helped reforest abandoned mine lands in Ohio and Virginia as part of the Appalachian Regional Restoration Initiative to support populations of declining bird species including the Wood Thrush, Cerulean, Blue-winged, and Hooded Warblers.
-- American Bird Conservancy