In recent years, conservation efforts aimed at golden-winged warblers have ramped up across their breeding range. In 2003, the Golden-winged Warbler Working Group was formed to address research and conservation needs for the species on both its breeding and wintering grounds. To date the Group has coordinated several key studies involving various states. These studies contributed to the 2012 release of a Conservation Plan for the breeding grounds. Also in 2012 the Appalachian Mountain Joint Venture developed best management practices for providing breeding habitat for golden-wings through timber harvesting. Additionally, in 2012 the National Resources Conservation Service partnered with the US Fish and Wildlife Service in launching the Working Lands for Wildlife initiative. The partnership uses agency technical expertise combined with financial assistance from the Wildlife Habitat Incentive Program to aid in the restoration of seven declining wildlife species, including the golden-winged warbler.
Golden-winged warbler conservation efforts in Virginia have also taken off in the past several years through collaborative projects involving several partners. The focus of the projects has been on establishing baseline data on the distribution and abundance of golden-wings, blue-wings and their hybrids, as well as on better understanding golden-wing ecology and habitat requirements. More recently, Virginia partners and stakeholders have begun meeting regularly to advance golden-winged warbler conservation within the Commonwealth. Below is a timeline summarizing the major conservation efforts to date geared toward golden-wings in Virginia.
Golden-winged Warbler Conservation in Virginia: a timeline
1995-2005: Cornell Lab of Ornithology implements the Golden-winged Warbler Atlas Project (GOWAP) across the species' breeding range. Largely run by volunteers, this effort includes a Hybrid Index designed to document the hybrid zone between golden-wings and blue-wings; and a Population Survey to create a distribution map of golden-wing occurrence and identify areas of high abundance. Virginia volunteers participate in the Hybrid Index in 2000 in several northwestern counties, and in the Population Survey in Bath (1999-2002), Giles (2000, 2002), Russell (2000), Washington (2000), and Carroll (2004) counties.
2005: The golden-winged warbler is listed as a Species of Greatest Conservation Need in the Virginia Wildlife Action Plan.
2005/2006: The VA Important Bird Areas (IBA) Program and US Forest Service coordinate volunteer-based surveys of golden-wings in Bath and Highland counties to collect baseline data to support the designation of the Allegheny Highlands IBA.
2006: The Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries funds a status assessment for golden-wings by the Center for Conservation Biology at the College of William and Mary across the species' historical range in Virginia (see Resources).
2008: A VABCI meeting of the Ridge and Valley Working Group helps to lay the foundation for future golden-wing work in the state and to coordinate with the Appalachian Woodcock Initiative on the creation of habitat demonstration areas that could benefit both species.
2009: Golden-winged warbler surveys in Bath and Highland counties are coordinated through the VA Important Bird Areas Program.
2009: Virginia volunteers participate in the pilot year of a monitoring survey of the golden-wing Appalachian population coordinated by the Cornell Lab of Ornithology. Monitoring is officially implemented in 2010 and will continue for at least 5 years. The effort in VA is being jointly coordinated by the Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries and US Forest Service. To date the effort has seen participation by volunteers and by personnel from USFS, The Nature Conservancy and DGIF.
2010: The Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries conducts surveys for breeding golden-winged warblers on four Wildlife Management Areas (WMA), including Highland, Gathright, Crooked Creek and Clinch Mountain WMAs. A wide variety of early-successional habitats are collectively surveyed, and golden-wings are documented on Clinch and Crooked Creek, where the species had previously been reported.
2010: The Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries funds a study by Virginia Commonwealth University on the characteristics of golden-wing breeding habitat in Bath and Highland counties (see Resources for report).
2010: Virginia participates in the August meeting of the Golden-winged Warbler Working Group in Ithaca, NY. Partners from various states share results of breeding season research and delineate focal areas for management action (see Resources for map). Within focal areas, they identify key habitats, management potential and conservation partners. These lay the foundation for development of the Conservation Plan (see Resources for report).
2012: The Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries funds a two-year study by Virginia Commonwealth University on the role of conspecific social cues (male song) on habitat selection by golden-wings. It is hoped that the study will provide additional tools for golden-wing recovery.
2012-present: the Virginia Golden-winged Warbler Partners group is formed to coordinate efforts under the federal Working Lands for Wildlife initiative, launched in the same year. To date, Group meetings have served to advance understanding of golden-wing habitat requirements in Virginia, improve communication and coordination among stakeholders, share information on ongoing golden-wing research in Virginia, and plan future surveys.
Golden-winged Warbler banner image by Bill Hubick