The Environmental Journal of Southern Appalachia

Displaying items by tag: migratory bird

Cerulean Art

Ephemeral birds of lasting beauty dependent on Tennessee forest

Think azure. A male cerulean warbler is sky blue. And to see one, you have to climb to the tops of certain Appalachian ridges and look toward the wild blue. To see one is to see a bit of heaven in an eight-gram bird.

East Tennessee’s Royal Blue Unit is not named in honor of the cerulean warbler but it’s appropriate to think so. The land parcel is part of the North Cumberland Wildlife Management Area and is one of the few places — very few places — the sky-blue passerines still nest in North America. It is estimated that 80 percent of the remaining population nests in the Appalachians. 

The cerulean is the fastest declining migratory songbird in North America, said ornithologist David Aborn, an assistant professor of biology, geology and environmental science at UT Chattanooga. The Breeding Bird Survey estimates that cerulean warbler population declined by 70 percent between 1966 and 2008.

“The species is not in danger of imminent extinction, but is rare enough to warrant concern, and its future is not assured,” the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service reported in 2020.

Currently a management goal of “no net loss” is in place. “Management programs can be instituted at the present time that do not require major changes in land-use practices, but do consider silviculture appropriate to producing habitat for the species,” the report concluded.

The American Bird Conservancy and ProAves Colombia purchased 500 acres of rural land identified as wintering sites for the migratory bird. The Cerulean Warbler Reserve is the first in Latin America set aside for a migrant bird. It’s a start. But the beautiful bird faces many challenges here and abroad. 

Published in Earth