Cerulean warbler on threatened list

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The Cerulean warbler, Dendroica cerulea, will be given special protection by being put on the Illinois Threatened Species list in August. The Cerulean’s range is actually expanding in the South and Northeast, but dropping in Illinois and the heartland to red flag status.

Its habitat is the upper reaches of large trees in swamps, bottomlands and woodlands near water such as river cliffs. It has a good foothold in some of Winnebago County’s protected areas and is even nesting on tall treed bluff areas along the Rock River in certain Rockford neighborhoods.

The Cerulean warbler is not hard to find in Rock Cut State Park or along the Sugar or Kishwaukee rivers in forest preserves. One just needs to search the taller treetops with binoculars or become familiar with its call, which it sings during breeding season that lasts from the end of May till mid-July. Migration for the Cerulean, which has a unique color of blue named after it, begins in late July shortly after breeding.

Being put on the state threatened list gives the Cerulean and its habitat some protection. Land known to be Cerulean warbler habitat would need to be signed off by state biologists before the land could be altered or developed. This applies to federal, state or private land. This is a great tool to stop or slow down development.

At one time, the Cerulean warbler was the heartland’s dominant woodland warbler, nesting and feeding high in treetops and being somewhat mysterious. But since the ’60s, its numbers have declined at a rate of 3.4 percent a year. Habitat destruction in North, South and Central America is the biggest culprit. The loss of oaks, sycamores, chestnuts and elms, along with the conversion of Mississippi and Ohio Valley bottomland to farmland has hurt the Cerulean the worst in North America. Add to this the fact the Bush administration has put a halt to adding species to the federal endangered lists and is leaving it up to the states to do so. The Cerulean warbler winters in Colombia, Venezuela, northern Bolivia and south to Peru. It spends its winter days on the western slope of the Andes in Colombia and the eastern foothills of the Andes from Venezuela south. It also winters in the cloud forests. All of these habitats are under siege from man’s logging to drug making and by the use of Roundup to defoliate Colombian drug plants by the authority of the Bush administration’s war on drugs.

If you know where Cerulean warblers are spending the summer, please let your DNR state biologists know. You’ll be helping the Cerulean and most likely helping to stop development somewhere in our besieged area. Learn the Cerulean’s call and/or learn to identify the bird. It’s truly one of our more beautiful warblers. It’s blue above and whitish with some thin blue streaking below. But seeing it in person will hook you to seeing 100 more of them.

Rod Myers is a local resident with an interest in the environment and disability issues. He has an associate’s degree in science and a bachelor’s in fine arts. Rod is a member of the Audubon Society, the Wild Ones Natural Landscapers and Rockford Amateur Astronomers, Inc.

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