When the North Carolina Wildlife Federation sends out a species profile, there’s always a mixed message. The reader is simultaneously informed about a certain type of wildlife that he or she may never have encountered, and warned that the creature is fading.
The latest e-mail from NCWF featured the chestnut-sided warbler. A neotropical migrant, it breeds in temperate North American forests during the summer and flies to the tropics for the winter. Due to its population decline, it’s listed as a “priority species” by North Carolina Partners in Flight, a statewide program to maintain populations of migratory birds. Another conservation program called the North Carolina Wildlife Action Plan lists the bird as having a “population trend concern.”
The warbler lives in the mountains of North Carolina above elevations of 2,000 feet, darting between shrubs and low-lying trees and feeding on bugs crawling on the underside of leaves. Its range extends as far north as southern Canada and as far south as Georgia, but in North Carolina it is found only in the western mountain region. A medium-sized warbler, it’s mostly black and white, with flanks of chestnut brown. It has a bright yellow cap, and a so-called “moustache stripe” of black. This is what its song sounds like.
On the whole, migratory birds are believed to be in decline because of forest fragmentation, pesticide use, extensive land clearing and other habitat alterations in both temperate North America and South America.
— Rebecca Bowe, contributing editor