Tag Archives: cerulean warbler

Backyard Birding: A Rare Sighting of a Cerulean Warbler

By Lee Halasz

Lee Halasz is a native of Australia and is a former conservation professional with the Queensland State Government. He and his family now reside in western Massachusetts, and he volunteered his time with us in 2015. This spring, we feature a series of bird stories Lee wrote to celebrate #birdyear. 

Most of us have probably heard of and even seen a blue jay, and probably a bluebird, too. Perhaps some people know of indigo buntings – the males are almost entirely bright blue. But what about a cerulean warbler? The sky on a beautiful clear day is often described as cerulean blue.


Male Cerulean warbler (Credit: USFWS)

Well, it was just that sort of day in May two years, on an outing with my then three-year-old son, when I saw one.

The Right Place at the Right Time

We were doing a loop walk around the top of a local mountain. He did really well, though towards the end it was only snacking on salty carbohydrates that kept him going. As we were approaching the car, I heard a song that I instantly knew was different from the usual bird songs. It was a male cerulean warbler, singing with all his might.

Given my son was getting low on patience, I whipped out a lollipop, knowing it would give me a few minutes to enjoy the bird. Seeing it at such close quarters, and hearing it sing so loudly, really made my day (and the lollipop made my son’s!). It’s my one and only experience with a cerulean warbler.

It turns out that we were in exactly the sort of habitat that cerulean warblers like: ridge-tops and steep upper slopes, dominated by large oak trees, facing south, in large patches of forest. Sometimes finding wildlife is just about looking (or being) in the right place.

However, there is another ‘right’ place for cerulean warblers, and that is in the northern parts of South America. In fact, they spend just a few months in eastern North America, and most of their time in countries including Venezuela, Colombia and Ecuador. Twice a year they also spend a few weeks in migration traveling between the two areas.Unfortunately in the last half century, populations of cerulean warblers have declined by more than half. However, much can and is being done to address this decline. The Cerulean Warbler Technical Group has shown that targeted forest management in the United States can increase breeding populations, and they have published guidelines for forest managers. There is now a Cerulean Warbler Conservation Reserve in Colombia, and landowners around it are being supported to make the surrounding area desirable for the species.

cerulean reserve

The Cerulean Warbler Reserve in Colombia (Credit: Randy Dettmers/USFWS)

How You Can Help

Something very tangible anyone can do is to purchase ‘bird-friendly’ shade grown coffee (produced under canopy trees), rather than ‘conventional’ coffee grown in open fields.


Reserve coffee farm in Colombia (Credit: Katie Fallon/Virgina Tech University)

Is the average person ever likely to see a cerulean warbler? Probably not. But imagine if you were out walking, enjoying a beautiful blue sky spring day, and just happened to see one of these tiny birds?

I hope my son can see one again during his lifetime, if he wants to, when he can take in the whole experience, perhaps without a lollipop!

Remembering Flight 93

Photo from Flight 93 Memorial Facebook page. Credit: National Park Service

Photo from Flight 93 Memorial Facebook page. Credit: National Park Service

Today you're hearing from Deb Reynolds, outreach coordinator for the Appalachian Joint Venture and our agency's Division of Migratory Birds in the Northeast Region.

Today you’re hearing from Deb Reynolds, outreach coordinator for the Atlantic Coast Joint Venture and our agency’s Division of Migratory Birds in the Northeast Region.

It’s not too often that I get to participate in fieldwork.

As the outreach coordinator for the Atlantic Coast Joint Venture and Division of Migratory Birds, most of my time is spent working in the office with staff to develop strategic communication and outreach messages for our biological priorities.

So when I came to work recently as I usually do and opened my email, it was with delight that I not only saw some great news, I got to reflect on a remarkable day in the field I had almost 2 years ago.

It was a chilly rainy day in Storystown, Penn., and we were at the Flight 93 Memorial.

The memorial site was part of a project to reforest the previously mined and reclaimed land, as well as provide a windbreak for the memorial. The project was part of the Appalachian Regional Reforestation Initiative (ARRI), which is hard at work reestablishing native forests on former coal mining sites throughout Appalachia for the benefit of migratory bird species, including the golden-winged and cerulean warblers, birds of conservation concern.

That day, I witnessed an emotional remembrance of the tragedy and then watched as the victims’ family and friends joined the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, multiple partners, and dozens of volunteers to plant trees that served not only to create a beautiful memorial site but would also provide habitat for migratory birds.

It was the perfect blend of partnership, habitat restoration, and working with the community and volunteers. The beauty of the project for birds is that restoration of reclaimed mines benefit golden-winged warblers, and as the forest matures, it will in turn benefit the cerulean warbler and a multitude of wildlife that share similar habitat. Both species are high priority species for our agency’s Division of Migratory Birds.

Nearly two years after the project began, the ARRI Flight 93 Reforestation Project was awarded the Department of Interior’s prestigious Partners in Conservation Award last week. I feel proud to have been a part of a project with the families of Flight 93 and nearly 1,200 volunteers who planted over 35,000 tree seedlings.

This project serves as a beautiful memorial of a great human tragedy and is a testament to the power of partnerships for bird conservation.