Setophaga discolor - (Vieillot, 1809)
Prairie Warbler
Other English Common Names: prairie warbler
Synonym(s): Dendroica discolor (Vieillot, 1809)
Taxonomic Status: Accepted
Related ITIS Name(s): Dendroica discolor (Vieillot, 1809) (TSN 178918)
French Common Names: paruline des prés
Spanish Common Names: Chipe de Pradera
Unique Identifier: ELEMENT_GLOBAL.2.103980
Element Code: ABPBX03190
Informal Taxonomy: Animals, Vertebrates - Birds - Perching Birds
Image 11123

© Jeff Nadler

 
Kingdom Phylum Class Order Family Genus
Animalia Craniata Aves Passeriformes Parulidae Setophaga
Genus Size: D - Medium to large genus (21+ species)
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Concept Reference
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Concept Reference: American Ornithologists' Union (AOU). 1998. Check-list of North American birds. Seventh edition. American Ornithologists' Union, Washington, D.C. [as modified by subsequent supplements and corrections published in The Auk]. Also available online: http://www.aou.org/.
Concept Reference Code: B98AOU01NAUS
Name Used in Concept Reference: Dendroica discolor
Taxonomic Comments: Phylogenetic analyses of sequences of mitochondrial and nuclear DNA (Lovette et al. 2010) indicate that all species formerly placed in Dendroica, one species formerly placed in Wilsonia (citrina), and two species formerly placed in Parula (americana and pitiayumi) form a clade with the single species traditionally placed in Setophaga (ruticilla). The generic name Setophaga has priority for this clade (AOU 2011).

Considered conspecific with Caribbean D. vitellina by some authors and constitutes a superspecies with it (AOU 1983, 1998).
Conservation Status
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NatureServe Status

Global Status: G5
Global Status Last Reviewed: 09Apr2016
Global Status Last Changed: 03Dec1996
Ranking Methodology Used: Ranked by inspection
Rounded Global Status: G5 - Secure
Reasons: Large breeding range in the eastern U.S. and adjacent southern Ontario; many breeding occurrences but has declined over the past few decades, apparently due to loss of early successional habitat and cowbird parasitism.
Nation: United States
National Status: N5B,NNRN (05Jan1997)
Nation: Canada
National Status: N3N4B,NNRM (25Jan2018)

U.S. & Canada State/Province Status
Due to latency between updates made in state, provincial or other NatureServe Network databases and when they appear on NatureServe Explorer, for state or provincial information you may wish to contact the data steward in your jurisdiction to obtain the most current data. Please refer to our Distribution Data Sources to find contact information for your jurisdiction.
United States Alabama (S5B), Arkansas (S4B), Colorado (SNA), Connecticut (S4B), Delaware (S4B), District of Columbia (S1B,S2N), Florida (SNR), Georgia (S5), Illinois (S4), Indiana (S4B), Iowa (S2N), Kansas (SHB), Kentucky (S5B), Louisiana (S4B), Maine (S4B), Maryland (S4B), Massachusetts (S3S4B), Michigan (S3), Mississippi (S5B), Missouri (SNRB), Nebraska (SNRN), New Hampshire (S4B), New Jersey (S4B), New York (S5B), North Carolina (S5B,S1N), Ohio (S5), Oklahoma (S3B), Pennsylvania (S4B), Rhode Island (S5B), South Carolina (S4B), Tennessee (S3S4), Texas (S3B), Vermont (S3B), Virginia (S5), West Virginia (S3B), Wisconsin (SNA)
Canada Ontario (S3B)

Other Statuses

Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada (COSEWIC): Not at Risk (01Apr1999)
Comments on COSEWIC: Reason for Designation: The species exists in Canada in relatively small numbers but its population has remained stable over the past decade. It breeds in scattered areas of marginal and early successional habitat, which will probably remain in relatively constant supply.

Status History: Designated Special Concern in April 1985. Status re-examined and designated Not at Risk in April 1999. More recently (2015) considered a low priority candidate for re-assessment.

IUCN Red List Category: LC - Least concern

NatureServe Global Conservation Status Factors

Range Extent: >2,500,000 square km (greater than 1,000,000 square miles)
Range Extent Comments: BREEDING: Subspecies DISCOLOR from eastern Nebraska east to Ontario and New England, south to eastern Texas, the Gulf Coast, and northern Florida (AOU 1983). NON-BREEDING: almost exclusively on Caribbean Islands (Pashley and Martin 1988); common from the northern Bahamas through the Greater Antilles and the Cayman Islands; uncommon farther southeast to the central Lesser Antilles; also reported in central Florida and on islands of Caribbean coasts of Mexico and Central America (AOU 1983). RESIDENT: Subspecies PALUDICOLA is a disjunct population in southern Florida, a common breeder in the Keys and uncommon on the Peninsula as far north as Pasco and Volusia counties (Stevenson and Anderson 1994; Prather, pers. comm.; Buerkle, pers. comm.).

Number of Occurrences: 81 to >300
Number of Occurrences Comments: Many occurrences.

Population Size: 10,000 to >1,000,000 individuals
Population Size Comments: Total abundance is far greater than 10,000 individuals.

Overall Threat Impact Comments: Declines might be influenced by resources in winter or by a decrease in old field habitat. Loss of breeding habitat, in space and time, is the most immediate threat. A net loss of early-successional habitats across the range, as forests matured and land was converted to residential or industrial, and in conjunction with fire suppression, is the cause of habitat loss in space. The period of time that a regenerating habitat is suitable has been decreased by increased mowing or broadcast spraying of herbicides, which maintains too early a seral stage, and also by reforestation, which speeds succession beyond the stage of suitability. Cowbird parasitism and predation likely also contribute to declines. In Canada, there are no identifiable threats to habitat (Lambert and Smith 1985). Subspecies DISCOLOR is especially vulnerable to declines in winter as most of the migratory population winters in lowland scrub, dry forest, or wetland on a cluster of Caribbean Islands. Single or localized events can impact a large fraction of the wintering population because its range is extremely concentrated in comparison to the breeding range. Threats include loss of habitat to agriculture, wood-cutting for charcoal, and development; also mortality from hurricanes and hunting by small children with slingshots (Arendt et al. 1992).

Short-term Trend: Decline of >10%
Short-term Trend Comments: North American Breeding Bird Survey (BBS) data indicate a significant population decline of 44% in North America between 1966 and 1993; nonsignificant decline of 5% occurred between 1984 and 1993 (Price et al. 1995; see also Askins 1993). Herkert (1995) reported that BBS data for midwestern states (Iowa, Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Ohio, Wisconsin) for 1966-1993 show a decline of 1.4% per year, with negative trends on 62% of 76 routes. In the southeastern and south-central U.S., declines have occurred in the uplands but not in the lowlands (BBS data, 1966-1987, James et al. 1992). Of the warblers studied by James et al. (1992), the prairie showed by far the largest declining trend (expressed as percentage of abundance in peak year). In Canada, distribution is limited but populations are stable (Lambert and Smith 1985). Abundance appears to fluctuate greatly, and the possibility exists that numbers were especially high in the mid- to late-1960s (BBS data). Winter abundance has declined greatly at Green Hills, Jamaica (Arendt 1992), and at the Guanica forest, Puerto Rico, where birds have all but disappeared since their decline in the 1970s (Faaborg and Arendt 1989, 1992). Abundance apparently increased greatly in the late 1980s in the second-growth open woodland of Cabo Rojo, 50 km to the west (Arendt 1992), where shrub and small tree density had been increasing slowly for about 30 years. Before European settlement, the species was rare or absent from much of its present range (Nolan 1978). Populations spread as forests were opened and agricultural fields abandoned, creating more early-successional habitat. Population densities apparently peaked between the late-19th- to the mid-20th-century (Bent 1953, Nolan 1978). Spring surveys in Tennessee showed a 5.44% annual decline between 1960-1992, over which time agricultural or vacant land decreased by 44,841 ha and developed land increased by 33,370 ha (M. Baltz, unpubl. data). The D. D. PALUDICOLA population is thought to be small and declining; it is designated as a "species of special concern" in Florida (Buerkle, pers. comm.).

Other NatureServe Conservation Status Information

Distribution
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Global Range: (>2,500,000 square km (greater than 1,000,000 square miles)) BREEDING: Subspecies DISCOLOR from eastern Nebraska east to Ontario and New England, south to eastern Texas, the Gulf Coast, and northern Florida (AOU 1983). NON-BREEDING: almost exclusively on Caribbean Islands (Pashley and Martin 1988); common from the northern Bahamas through the Greater Antilles and the Cayman Islands; uncommon farther southeast to the central Lesser Antilles; also reported in central Florida and on islands of Caribbean coasts of Mexico and Central America (AOU 1983). RESIDENT: Subspecies PALUDICOLA is a disjunct population in southern Florida, a common breeder in the Keys and uncommon on the Peninsula as far north as Pasco and Volusia counties (Stevenson and Anderson 1994; Prather, pers. comm.; Buerkle, pers. comm.).

U.S. States and Canadian Provinces

Due to latency between updates made in state, provincial or other NatureServe Network databases and when they appear on NatureServe Explorer, for state or provincial information you may wish to contact the data steward in your jurisdiction to obtain the most current data. Please refer to our Distribution Data Sources to find contact information for your jurisdiction.
Color legend for Distribution Map
NOTE: The maps for birds represent the breeding status by state and province. In some jurisdictions, the subnational statuses for common species have not been assessed and the status is shown as not-assessed (SNR). In some jurisdictions, the subnational status refers to the status as a non-breeder; these errors will be corrected in future versions of these maps. A species is not shown in a jurisdiction if it is not known to breed in the jurisdiction or if it occurs only accidentally or casually in the jurisdiction. Thus, the species may occur in a jurisdiction as a seasonal non-breeding resident or as a migratory transient but this will not be indicated on these maps. See other maps on this web site that depict the Western Hemisphere ranges of these species at all seasons of the year.
Endemism: occurs (regularly, as a native taxon) in multiple nations

U.S. & Canada State/Province Distribution
United States AL, AR, CO, CT, DC, DE, FL, GA, IA, IL, IN, KS, KY, LA, MA, MD, ME, MI, MO, MS, NC, NE, NH, NJ, NY, OH, OK, PA, RI, SC, TN, TX, VA, VT, WI, WV
Canada ON

Range Map
Note: Range depicted for New World only. The scale of the maps may cause narrow coastal ranges or ranges on small islands not to appear. Not all vagrant or small disjunct occurrences are depicted. For migratory birds, some individuals occur outside of the passage migrant range depicted. For information on how to obtain shapefiles of species ranges see our Species Mapping pages at www.natureserve.org/conservation-tools/data-maps-tools.

Range Map Compilers: NatureServe, 2002


U.S. Distribution by County Help
State County Name (FIPS Code)
FL Collier (12021), Lee (12071), Miami-Dade (12086), Monroe (12087), Pasco (12101), Pinellas (12103), St. Lucie (12111)
IN Greene (18055)
MI Alcona (26001), Allegan (26005), Benzie (26019), Berrien (26021), Cass (26027), Cheboygan (26031)*, Delta (26041), Iosco (26069), Leelanau (26089)*, Mason (26105), Muskegon (26121), Newaygo (26123), Oakland (26125), Oscoda (26135), Presque Isle (26141), Schoolcraft (26153), St. Joseph (26149), Van Buren (26159), Washtenaw (26161)
* Extirpated/possibly extirpated
U.S. Distribution by Watershed Help
Watershed Region Help Watershed Name (Watershed Code)
03 Vero Beach (03080203)+, Florida Bay-Florida Keys (03090203)+, Big Cypress Swamp (03090204)+, Florida Southeast Coast (03090206)+, Crystal-Pithlachascotee (03100207)+
04 Tacoosh-Whitefish (04030111)+, Little Calumet-Galien (04040001)+, St. Joseph (04050001)+, Black-Macatawa (04050002)+, Kalamazoo (04050003)+, Pere Marquette-White (04060101)+, Muskegon (04060102)+, Betsie-Platte (04060104)+, Manistique (04060106)+, Lone Lake-Ocqueoc (04070003)+, Au Sable (04070007)+, Huron (04090005)+
05 Lower White (05120202)+
+ Natural heritage record(s) exist for this watershed
* Extirpated/possibly extirpated
Ecology & Life History
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Basic Description: A 12-cm bird (warbler).
General Description: Subspecies DISCOLOR: Adults and immatures have yellow ventral and olive dorsal surfaces. Breeding males have chestnut streaks on upper back, black eye line, malar stripe, and streaks on flanks. Females have same markings less extensive and olive to dark gray instead of black, lack chestnut feathers, and are paler overall. Immatures are grayer and paler, especially on face. Nolan (1978) illustrated and described plumages; Farrand (1983) and Harrison (1984) provided photographs. Length 11.5-12.5 cm, with females slightly smaller than males. Songs are distinctive though variable within and among individuals; the most common song lasts about 2 seconds and is series of more than 10 short, buzzy notes, equally spaced in time and rising in pitch (Nolan 1978). Individual males have two types of songs, using the B type during the dawn chorus (Nolan 1978). Eggs average 12 x 16 mm, whitish shades from cinnamon to smoke gray, with chestnut to blackish brown spots usually forming a wreath or cap on larger end (Nolan 1978).

Subspecies PALUDICOLA is much paler overall with grayish back; males lack the wide black markings on side and reddish backs (Bent 1953); also larger.

Diagnostic Characteristics: The only warbler with bright yellow underparts and face and a malar stripe separating the yellow below the eye from the yellow on the throat. Regularly bobs tail, as does the palm warbler (DENDROICA PALMARUM; darker back, more streaking, chestnut crown, usually much less yellower underparts, tail bobbing more continuous) and the very rare Kirtland's warbler (DENDROICA KIRTLANDII; much larger, dark-gray head, broken white eye-ring, lacks large white areas on underside of rectrices) (Stevenson and Anderson 1994).
Reproduction Comments: Paired and unpaired males can be distinguished by singing behavior, with unpaired males switching to the type A song at sunrise and singing these at relatively high rates throughout the day, while paired neighbors sing less and use a larger fraction of B songs (Houlihan, pers. comm.). Males begin to sing in late winter, before migrating north (Staicer, unpubl. data).

Nolan (1978) reported that pairing occurs about a week after male arrival on territory. Clutch size for subspecies DISCOLOR is 3-5 (usually 4). Incubation, by female, lasts 12-13 days. Young are tended by both parents, leave nest at 8-10 days.

Pair bonds are largely monogamous, but females may desert mate after nesting attempt and pair with another male who is already mated, especially in mid-season. Some males become polyterritorial, mating with different females on non-adjacent territories (Nolan 1978).

Data from BBIRD sites indicate that nesting success, as calculated by the Mayfield method, was higher in the thinned plantations (24% vs 17%) where predation rates were lower (33% vs 54%). Cowbird parasitism was slightly higher (12% vs 10%) in the young plantations, located closer to grazing cattle.

Ecology Comments: Rangewide, density typically is less than 1 pair per ha; highest breeding densities in Maryland were about 2 pairs per ha (Nolan 1978). In southeastern Massachusetts, density was 0.5-2.5 pairs per ha (Morimoto and Wasserman 1991). In western Massachusetts, approximately 0.7 pairs per ha occurred in a powerline corridor; densities were somewhat higher in burned-over areas (Houlihan, pers. comm.). In forest corridors of New Jersey, recorded in 30% and 20% of point surveys in oak-pine forest and hardwood swamp, respectively (Rich et al. 1994). In northern Arkansas oldfields, there was an average 0.25-1.25 singing males per point count (Dechant, pers. comm.). In Arkansas, density in young plantations was more than twice that in in thinned plantations (D. Barber and T. Martin, unpubl. data).

Density of D. D. DISCOLOR in winter: 0.1 per ha across pine forest habitats, 1.5 per ha in dense shrubs of Grand Bahama (Emlen 1977); 2 per ha in a favorable lowland second-growth dry forest in Puerto Rico (Staicer 1992); abundant across dry, urban, and pine forests on North Andros Island, Bahamas (Baltz 1993).

Mean territory size in Indiana was 1.6 ha (n = 171); at highest population densities (e.g., at a Maryland site) mean territory size was about 0.5 ha. Territory size was larger where longer stretches of undefended boundaries occurred, due to less suitable vegetation and thus lack of neighbors. Males show considerably more site fidelity than females, though males often wander well beyond their territory boundaries (Nolan 1978).

Predators caused 80% of nest failures in Indiana (18% lost to cowbird parasitism; n = 336). The most common predators of eggs and nestlings were snakes and chipmunks (Nolan 1978). In Arkansas plantations, snakes are the main nest predators (Barber, pers. comm.). High rates of nest predation were observed in western Massachusetts, where birds renested up to four times (Houlihan, pers. comm.).

The only known disease of adults is avian pox, but lesions occur on less than 1% of sampled birds. Known parasites include mites, ticks, lice, and blowfly larvae (on nestlings); nematodes have been found in the body cavity and pectoral muscle (Nolan 1978).

In winter in Puerto Rico, September-March, individuals generally avoided interactions with other warbler individuals (silent in 77%, solitary in 41% of observations), although some defended territories against conspecifics (Staicer 1992).

Non-Migrant: Y
Locally Migrant: Y
Long Distance Migrant: Y
Mobility and Migration Comments: More northerly populations arrive at the breeding site later in spring and leave later in the fall than do more southerly breeding populations. Spring migrants begin to arrive in March in the southernmost areas, in April in mid-latitude areas, and in early May in New England. Fall migration peaks during the first half of September in Indiana, a week later in Massachusetts, and 1-2 weeks earlier in Maryland and the District of Columbia (Nolan 1978). Arrives in Puerto Rico as early as September, departs by April (Raffaele 1983). Arrives on wintering grounds in August, stays until April (Pashley 1989).
Estuarine Habitat(s): Scrub-shrub wetland
Palustrine Habitat(s): FORESTED WETLAND, Riparian
Terrestrial Habitat(s): Old field, Shrubland/chaparral, Woodland - Conifer
Habitat Comments: BREEDING: Brushy second growth, dry scrub, low pine-juniper, mangroves, pine barrens, burned-over areas, sproutlands. Small patches of habitat may be suitable for breeding. Subspecies DISCOLOR primarily inhabits various types of shrubby vegetation: brushy second growth, dry scrub, low pine-juniper, jack pine stands, pine barrens, coastal pine subclimax, christmas tree farms, burned-over or cut-over areas, sproutlands, grassland-forest ecotone, powerline corridors, inner forest of Great Dismal Swamp, corridors in hardwood swamps, revegetating strip-mined lands, overgrown apple orchards, and abandoned fields in the breeding season. Many of these habitats are early successional and are suitable beginning about 5 years after burning or clearing and continuing for about 10-20 years.

Nests usually in a shrub, sapling, thicket, or fern clump, usually 0.3-3 m above ground, occasionally higher (Harrison 1978). In western Massachusetts powerline corridors, nests were 1-3 m above ground in vegetation clumps (1-10 m in diameter) of scrub oak, alder, or meadowsweet; nest locations had 30-100% cover (Houlihan, pers. comm.). In northern Arkansas, nesting areas included old fields invaded by cedars, locusts, sweetgum, persimmon, and pawpaw (Dechant, pers. comm.).

The following data are from Breeding Biology Research and Monitoring Database (BBIRD) sites in Arkansas plantations, where nests were mainly in hickory, elm (mostly winged), blackgum, oak, red maple, and vaccinium (D. Barber and T. Martin, unpubl. data). Mean values for nest site characteristics in thinned and young plantations were, respectively, 52 and 66% side cover, 67 and 80% overhead cover, 2.6 and 1.5 m nest height, 3.2 and 2.4 m plant height, 4.1 and 3.5 cm plant dbh, and presence of 8 and 13 small (<2.5 cm) and 70 and 54 large woody stems in a 5-m radius surrounding nests.

NON-BREEDING: In migration and winter, occurs in various woodland, second growth, brush, and thicket situations. Winter is spent mainly in arid lowland forest or scrub, especially second growth, pine, pastures, brushy fields; mangroves, shade trees, sun coffee, and forest edge also are used (Lack and Lack 1972, Arendt 1992). More common in dry forest of introduced mimosaceous trees at Cabo Rojo National Wildlife Refuge (where insects more abundant and birds had higher fat scores) than in dry forest of native species in Guanica (Baltz, pers. comm.). Across the Caribbean region, shows moderate habitat specialization (Wunderle and Waide 1993). In winter in Puerto Rico, September-March, individuals showed strong site fidelity within and between seasons (nearly 50% returned for a second winter, 40% a third winter).

Adult Food Habits: Invertivore
Immature Food Habits: Invertivore
Food Comments: Diet is mainly insects and spiders; forages among bushes, flycatches, hovers (Terres 1980); predominantly gleans prey from leaves and stems (Nolan 1978). In Jamaica in winter, takes insects off leaves at tips of side branches and of canopy, especially trees with low open canopy (Lack 1976). Individuals can be successfully kept in captivity for several months, by weaning gradually from mealworm diet to an insectivorous bird diet (Houlihan, pers. comm.).
Adult Phenology: Diurnal
Immature Phenology: Diurnal
Phenology Comments: Males are most likely to be detected by song during the first 60-90 minutes of singing. A lull occurs after sunrise, then song rates increase somewhat for the following 2-3 hours, decline through the day, and often increase again before dusk (Houlihan, pers. comm.).
Length: 12 centimeters
Weight: 8 grams
Economic Attributes Not yet assessed
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Management Summary
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Stewardship Overview: The primary management concern is provision of adequate habitat. Two types of management areas are needed:

(1) ACTIVE MANAGEMENT: In the absence of naturally occurring fires, where pine or deciduous forests are the climax vegetation, active management (prescribed burning, clearcutting) is necessary to create the early successional, shrubby vegetation required by most populations. As single areas cannot provide continually favorable habitat, a landscape should be managed to provide a mosaic of sites in different successional stages. Alternatively, an area cleared by burning or logging can be maintained in suitable condition for much longer periods by selective herbiciding of trees.

(2) HABITAT PRESERVATION: In other areas, habitats occupied by the species have been stable for thousands of years--shrubby vegetation on sand dunes and at the grassland-forest ecotone, and also the closed-canopy forest of the Great Dismal Swamp. These populations might be effectively managed by establishing preserves encompassing the inhabited vegetation. If these populations decline, management on the wintering grounds should be considered.

D. D. PALUDICOLA requires mangrove habitat in southern Florida and the Keys. Several small preserves would be preferable because a single area could be devastated by a hurricane. If populations in protected mangrove habitat continue to decline, removal of predators or cowbirds might be necessary.

Restoration Potential: Restoration potential is moderate. At least some populations respond quickly to new forest openings and newly abandoned agricultural land. If forests were cleared on a large scale abundance would presumably return to the high levels of 1960s. Migratory populations that have persisted in more or less stable habitats could be maintained by protecting these habitats. Abundance of D. D. PALUDICOLA may stabilize if habitat loss is curbed; because range has permanently shrunk with development of mangrove areas, restoration to historical population density is unlikely.
Preserve Selection & Design Considerations: Two kinds of preserves are needed to accommodate breeding populations. For D. D. DISCOLOR, these include: (1) natural areas that have likely sustained populations for hundreds or thousands of years (the sand dunes along the Atlantic coast and parts of the Great Lakes, the Great Dismal Swamp, the grassland-forest ecotone; Nolan 1978); some of these naturally occur as narrow strips of vegetation, and (2) areas of subclimax pine forest, with shrub layer, maintained by regular burning; a shifting mosaic of seral stages would accommodate this and other species that require different stages of early successional pine habitats; optimal shape or distance between suitable patches is not known.

Needed preserves for D. D. PALUDICOLA include natural areas containing extensive stretches of mangrove habitat in southern Florida, large enough to allow for successional changes; especially the Keys in Florida Bay, where birds appear most abundant and predators less common. Such a preserve would accommodate many species that depend on mangroves. Several different areas should be protected in case of hurricanes.

Wintering populations can be best protected by preserving a variety of coastal and lowland xeric habitat on the Bahamas, Cuba, Jamaica, and Puerto Rico, and also mangrove habitat on Hispanola and Jamaica; these are where the largest proportions of individuals winter (Arendt 1992).

Management Requirements: Habitat that has been continuously available historically, though perhaps shifting slowly, should be preserved in large enough areas to accommodate such shifts; active management should not be required. In wooded areas, open corridors (e.g., along powerlines) can be maintained in the most suitable condition for this and other early-successional species for longer periods by selective basal spraying of herbicides to remove trees, thus creating a relatively stable shrubland (Niering and Goodwin 1974, Askins 1994). Areas of subclimax pine forest in the southern and northeastern states should be maintained by regular burning which promotes development of the needed shrub layer. If areas of hardwood or mixed-wood forests are to be logged, patches should be clearcut at different times to create a shifting mosaic of different successional stages, ensuring a stable supply of suitable habitat (relatively dense, low vegetation and little or no tree canopy) within normal dispersal range from existing populations.
Monitoring Requirements: Population trends in stable and changing habitats need to be distinguished. Declining trends in abundance across the range usually are attributed to a decrease in early successional habitat in eastern North America. Populations in stable habitat should be monitored to determine if local abundance has been stable while others have declined. It would be useful to monitor changes in vegetation along BBS routes.

Detection of unmated males through unique singing behaviors they exhibit should be incorporated into monitoring programs. Presently no information exists on what proportion of the singing males in an area are unmated; estimates of breeding abundance may be inflated. Contact P. Houlihan or C. Staicer for more information. Nests can be located by following males, which tend to concentrate activity near the nest, and by watching for females, which give distinctive calls when flushed from nest (Houlihan, pers. comm.).

Because the winter range is extremely concentrated in comparison to the breeding range, available habitat in the winter range should be monitored, as well as winter bird densities at representative sites. In winter, visual surveys are most effective: in open, dry forest scrub, individuals are five times more likely to be seen than caught in mist-nets (Staicer 1992). Experienced observers can also distinguish the species by its chip and tseep notes; in late winter some males can be heard singing softly.

Management Research Needs: Little information exists on length of habitat suitability in successional habitats; this may vary with type of forest (and thus with region) and type of management regime. In order to determine whether succession is a reasonable hypothesis for the species' decline, forest succession should be modeled over the period that BBS routes have detected significant declines. In addition, historical geographic distributions of the species, prior to European settlement through the present, should be reconstructed for summer and winter. The amount of habitat available historically may be greater than previously thought (e.g., Askins 1993). Since Nolan (1978), apparently no ecological studies have focused on D. D. DISCOLOR breeding ecology.

The status of early-successional species has not received enough attention (Askins 1993). More research is needed on response of D. D. DISCOLOR to different cutting or burning regimes in different forest types and in different regions. Effects of size of corridor on habitat suitability should be studied (Askins 1994, Rich et al. 1994), as should size, shape, and spatial configuration of habitat patches. Landscape-scale management will require information on (1) the distance that young birds move to find a suitable habitat in which to settle, (2) the effects of dispersal distance on individual mortality, and (3) how loss of territory (due to burning, cutting, mowing, or development) affects returning adults.

More information is needed on winter ecology. Staicer (1992) found birds moved between roosting (large shade trees in pasture) and feeding areas (dry scrub) daily; whether this occurs in other areas is unknown. It is not known whether or how birds respond to vegetation succession on the wintering ground (e.g., are certain seral stages especially attractive?). Response to some habitat characteristics and resource levels in winter in Puerto Rico is currently under study by M. Baltz. Wintering locations of breeding populations need to be known to understand the relationship between trends in summer and winter abundance.

Additional topics: Singing behavior and functions of song types have been studied in detail (papers in preparation by P. Houlihan). Close relative is D. VITELLINA, endemic to Cayman and Swan Islands (paper in preparation by David Spector, Connecticut). A. Buerkle is conducting a comparative morphological and genetic study between subspecies DISCOLOR AND PALUDICOLA.
Population/Occurrence Delineation
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Group Name: Passerines

Use Class: Breeding
Subtype(s): Foraging Area, Nest Site, Nesting Colony
Minimum Criteria for an Occurrence: Evidence of historical breeding, or current and likely recurring breeding, at a given location, minimally a reliable observation of one or more breeding pairs in appropriate habitat. Be cautious about creating EOs for observations that may represent single breeding events outside the normal breeding distribution.

Mapping Guidance: Breeding occurrences include nesting areas as well as foraging areas.

For swallows and other species that have separate nesting and foraging areas, separations are based on nest sites or nesting areas, not to locations of foraging individuals. For example, nesting areas separated by a gap larger than the separation distance are different occurrences, regardless of the foraging locations of individuals from those nesting areas. This separation procedure is appropriate because nesting areas are the critical aspect of swallow breeding occurrences, tend to be relatively stable or at least somwhat predictable in general location, and so are the basis for effective conservation; foraging areas are much more flexible and not necessarily static.

Separation Distance for Unsuitable Habitat: 5 km
Separation Distance for Suitable Habitat: 5 km
Separation Justification: Significant dispersal and associated high potential for gene flow among populations of birds separated by tens of kilometers (e.g., Moore and Dolbeer 1989), and increasing evidence that individuals leave their usual home range to engage in extrapair copulations, as well as long foraging excursions of some species, make it difficult to circumscribe occurrences on the basis of meaningful population units without occurrences becoming too large. Hence, a moderate, standardized separation distance has been adopted for songbirds and flycatchers; it should yield occurrences that are not too spatially expansive while also accounting for the likelihood of gene flow among populations within a few kilometers of each other.

Be careful not to separate a population's nesting areas and foraging areas as different occurrences; include them in the same occurrence even if they are more than 5 km apart. Mean foraging radius (from nesting area) of Brown-headed Cowbird females was 4.0 kilometers in California, 1.2 kilometers in Illinois-Missouri (Thompson 1994). Yellow-headed Blackbirds, Brewer's Blackbirds, and probably Red-winged Blackbirds all forage up to 1.6 kilometers away from breeding colony (Willson 1966, Horn 1968). In one study, Brewer's Blackbirds were found as far as 10 kilometers from nesting area (Williams 1952), but this may be unusual.

For swallows and other parrerines with similar behavioral ecology, separation distance pertains to nest sites or nesting colonies, not to locations of foraging individuals. For example, nesting areas separated by a gap of more than 5 km are different occurrences, regardless of the foraging locations of individuals from those nesting areas. This separation procedure is appropriate because nesting areas are the critical aspect of swallow breeding occurrences, tend to be relatively stable or at least somwhat predictable in general location, and so are the basis for effective conservation; foraging areas are much more flexible and not necessarily static.

Be cautious about creating EOs for observations that may represent single breeding events outside the normal breeding distribution.

Unsuitable habitat: Habitat not normally used for breeding/feeding by a particular species. For example, unsuitable habitat for grassland and shrubland birds includes forest/woodland, urban/suburban, and aquatic habitats. Most habitats would be suitable for birds with versatile foraging habits (e.g., most corvids).

Date: 10Sep2004
Author: Hammerson, G.

Use Class: Migratory stopover
Subtype(s): Foraging Area, Roost Site
Minimum Criteria for an Occurrence: For most passerines: Evidence of recurring presence of migrating individuals (including historical) and potential recurring presence at a given location; minimally a reliable observation of 25 birds in appropriate habitat.

For swallows: Evidence of recurring presence of migrating flocks (including historical) and potential recurring presence at a given location; minimally a reliable observation of 100 birds in appropriate habitat (e.g., traditional roost sites).

Occurrences should be locations where the species is resident for some time during the appropriate season; it is preferable to have observations documenting presence over at least 7 days annually.

EOs should not be described for species that are nomadic during nonbreeding season: e.g., Lark Bunting.

Be cautious about creating EOs for observations that may represent single events.

Separation Distance for Unsuitable Habitat: 5 km
Separation Distance for Suitable Habitat: 5 km
Separation Justification: Separation distance somewhat arbitrary but intended to define occurrences of managable size for conservation purposes. Occurrences defined primarily on the basis of areas supporting concentrations of birds, rather than on the basis of distinct populations.

For swallows and other species with similar behavioral ecology, the separation distance pertains to communal roost sites rather than to foraging areas; the former tend to be more stable and specific over time than the latter.

Date: 03Sep2004
Author: Hammerson, G., and S. Cannings

Use Class: Nonbreeding
Subtype(s): Foraging Area, Roost Site
Minimum Criteria for an Occurrence: Any area used traditionally in the nonbreeding season (used for populations that are not resident in a location year-round). Minimally, reliable observations of 10 or more individuals in appropriate habitat for 20 or more days at a time. For G1-G3 species, observations of fewer individuals could constitute an occurrence of conservation value. Sites used during migration should be documented under the 'migratory stopover' location use class.

Separation Distance for Unsuitable Habitat: 5 km
Separation Distance for Suitable Habitat: 5 km
Separation Justification: Separation distance is necessarily arbitrary but attempts to balance the high mobility of birds with the need for occurrences of reasonable spatial scope. Note that a population's roost sites and foraging areas are parts of the same occurrence, even if they are more than 5 km apart.

For swallows and other species with similar behavioral ecology, the separation distance pertains to communal roost sites rather than to foraging areas; the former tend to be more stable and specific over time than the latter.

Date: 03Sep2004
Author: Hammerson, G.

Use Class: Nonmigratory
Minimum Criteria for an Occurrence: Occurrences are based on evidence of historical presence, or current and likely recurring presence, at a particular location. Such evidence minimally includes collection or reliable observation and documentation of one or more individuals in or near appropriate habitat.

These occurrence specifications are used for nonmigratory populations of passerine birds.

Separation Barriers: None.
Separation Distance for Unsuitable Habitat: 5 km
Separation Distance for Suitable Habitat: 5 km
Separation Justification: Significant dispersal and associated high potential for gene flow among populations of birds separated by tens of kilometers (e.g., Moore and Dolbeer 1989), and increasing evidence that individuals leave their usual home range to engage in extrapair copulations, as well as long foraging excursions of some species, make it difficult to circumscribe occurrences on the basis of meaningful population units without occurrences becoming too large. Hence, a moderate, standardized separation distance has been adopted for songbirds and flycatchers; it should yield occurrences that are not too spatially expansive while also accounting for the likelihood of gene flow among populations within a few kilometers of each other.

Be careful not to separate a population's nesting areas and breeding-season foraging areas as different occurrences; include them in the same occurrence even if they are more than 5 km apart. Blue jays have small summer home ranges but fly up to 4 kilometers to harvest mast (Tarvin and Woolfenden 1999). Flocks of pinyon jays range over 21-29 square kilometers (Ligon 1971, Balda and Bateman 1971); nesting and foraging areas may be widely separated. Tricolored blackbirds forage in flocks that range widely to more than 15 kilometers from the nesting colony (Beedy and Hamilton 1999).

Unsuitable habitat: Habitat not normally used for breeding/feeding by a particular species. For example, unsuitable habitat for grassland and shrubland birds includes forest/woodland, urban/suburban, and aquatic habitats. Most habitats would be suitable for birds with versatile foraging habits (e.g., most corvids).

Date: 10Sep2004
Author: Hammerson, G.
Notes: These specs pertain to nonmigratory species.
Population/Occurrence Viability
Help
U.S. Invasive Species Impact Rank (I-Rank) Not yet assessed
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Authors/Contributors
Help
NatureServe Conservation Status Factors Edition Date: 13Feb1996
NatureServe Conservation Status Factors Author: Dirrigl, F. J., Jr., C. Staicer, and G. Hammerson
Management Information Edition Date: 21Sep1995
Management Information Edition Author: STAICER, C.A.; REVISIONS BY D.W. MEHLMAN
Management Information Acknowledgments: Val Nolan, Jr., Indiana University, kindly provided a draft of his Birds of North America account of the prairie warbler. I thank David Barber and Tom Martin, University of Montana; Alex Buerkle, Indiana University; Michael Baltz, University of Missouri; Peter Houlihan, University of Massachusetts; John Prather and Jill Dechant, University of Arkansas, for access to their unpublished data and for answering my questions.
Element Ecology & Life History Edition Date: 12Sep1995
Element Ecology & Life History Author(s): Hammerson, G.

Zoological data developed by NatureServe and its network of natural heritage programs (see Local Programs) and other contributors and cooperators (see Sources).

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