A wind that blew strongly through northwestern Wisconsin in the fall of 2011 left behind the 90,000 acres of woodland destruction. Benefits from this would be hard to find.

But, consider the Golden-winged Warbler. 

This tiny brightly colored migrant depends on Minnesota and Wisconsin for 40 percent of its breeding habit. Golden-wings need a young-forest landscape, successional growth. For many reason human-based that type of forest is diminishing.

The Wisconsin storm jumped and bumped its way across the woods. The blowdowns are scattered. The entire situation is ideal for what happened and is happening next. Where possible, the scarred land is being restored as nesting habitat for Golden-winged Warblers.

This is an effort jointly pursued by the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources, six county governments, private landowners, and the American Bird Conservancy, a non-profit devoted to the welfare of birds.

Golden-wings are in a steep population decline, steepest of any songbird species in the past 45 years. We’re losing about four percent of these birds each year. Interest on your bank account of four percent annually, compounded, could fund your retirement. Lose four percent each year and you go bankrupt. That’s what could happen to the warbler.

The bird seeks nesting habitat in woodland about three to 15 years of age. Of the 90,000 acres touched by the storm about 13,000 have been identified as suitable for restoration to benefit the bird. That work is underway. The first Golden-wings to enjoy the fruits of that storm could be nesting there this coming spring. 

Ruffed Grouse and American Woodcock also should benefit by this landscape change.

This is good news for and good work done by everyone involved.

Below, a Golden-winged Warbler photographed near the area pounded by the storm.


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