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Focus on Golden-winged Warblers

By dgross May 22, 2011

Golden-winged Warbler by Christian Artuso

The Golden-winged Warbler is one of the breeding birds of greatest interest in Pennsylvania.  It seems to be disappearing rapidly from areas where it was found only a few years ago.   It has been on the state and national Watch List as a Red Listed species.  This beautiful songbird is in dramatic decline in our state as the recent Breeding Bird Atlas demonstrated.   However, Golden-winged Warblers respond to various disturbances so its range and occurrences are constantly changing.  It is a constantly moving target.   We invite all Pennsylvania birders to go out and check places for Golden-winged Warblers and share recent sightings on eBird.  Check out the places where you located them during the recent Atlas, or on any past birding outing, or places you have heard about Golden-wings or think they might occur where nobody has checked.   We are always interested in new places and whether the old Golden-wing places are still occupied. 

Some Golden-winged Warbler (GWWA) populations now well-known resulted from fires, timbering, and various management, but did not exist before those events.  For example, the Sproul State Forest population, resulting from a fire in the 1990’s, was found by Audubon Important Bird Area surveys.  Many of the Delaware State Forest GWWA hotspots were originally located by the Cornell GWWA surveys and Pennsylvania Breeding Bird Area volunteers a few years after timber sales.  The more we learn about GWWA, the better we can respond to its needs and manage habitat in appropriate places.   We have learned that GWWA are not only thicket, old field, and early succession species but also nest in scrub barrens and some wooded wetlands.   At this point, almost all GWWA are nesting above 1100 feet in Pennsylvania. 

Please enter you observations in eBird, particularly using the PA portal:    Please also take advantage of the Comments field and the new Breeding Codes when entering data.   Of course, we also are interested in Blue-winged Warblers and the hybrid warblers.  

For more information about GWWA, check out the Golden-winged Warbler Working Group’s website:

Some suggested strategies: check out places where you have found GWWA in the last few years and include a wide search area, going off-road and back trails.  They often are associated with new clear cuts or shelterwood cuts in a forest, sometimes behind gates and deer enclosures.  Stick to higher elevations.  Check out some wetlands and wet meadows, especially red maple swamps and tamarack bogs, within a forest.   Scrub barrens with some trees and edge also can host Golden-winged Warblers.   Think about places that resemble the ones that get reported regularly on the list serve. 

GWWA really quiet down after June 15 – 20 or soon afterwards.  Please get out there soon to find some Goldens! 

Previously collected field trip data also are appreciated.  Those  notes in your notebook or on the shelf can be very valuable if shared through eBird.  

By Doug Gross, PA Game Commission