Larkin on Trail of Golden-Winged Warblers

Posted on 1/26/2018 3:33:32 PM

Jeff Larkin (Biology) and his recent work with the Working Lands for Wildlife project are the subject of an exciting multimedia story produced by USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service. Larkin provided this introduction about the project and its goals.

The Golden-winged Warbler is a critically threatened migratory songbird that breeds in portions of eastern North America. In 2010, this species was petitioned for protection under the Endangered Species Act. The US Fish and Wildlife Service determined that the petition had substantial merit, and a listing decision is expected by 2023. Experts agree that loss of breeding habitat, in part, contributes to Golden-winged Warbler population declines, especially in the Appalachian Mountain portion of its breeding distribution. As such, efforts to create and maintain high-quality nesting habitat for this species on public and private lands, and ultimately prevent an ESA listing, are underway. 

In 2012, USDA-Natural Resource Conservation Service included the Golden-winged Warbler as one of seven focal species for their Working Lands for Wildlife effort, which added considerable funding and momentum toward efforts to recover the species on private lands in several Appalachian states. Since 2012, The IUP Research Institute has played a significant role in assisting NRCS with the landowner outreach and implementation of WLFW in Pennsylvania and Maryland. Specifically, IUP-RI has secured considerable external funding from sources such as National Fish and Wildlife Foundation, American Bird Conservancy, and NRCS to hire full-time conservation planners and foresters. The positions are strategically housed in NRCS field offices across Pennsylvania and western Maryland. The availability of experienced conservation planners and foresters to assist NRCS field office staff with various components of program delivery is critical for achieving program goals.

Additionally, IUP-RI and our partners have secured funding from the NRCS-Conservation Effects Assessment Project, Pennsylvania Game Commission, and National Fish and Wildlife Foundation to monitor Golden-winged Warbler, American Woodcock, and other songbird responses to habitat management on private lands enrolled in Working Lands for Wildlife. This funding has provided opportunities for several graduate and undergraduate students to gain significant experience conducting applied science and to contribute to further understanding the ecology of this imperiled species.