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County of Simcoe

Enhancement and Restoration of Habitat for the Kirtland's warbler

Kirtland’s warbler (Setophaga kirtlandii)

Project Details

Project Title: Enhancement and Restoration of Habitat for the Kirtland’s warbler – Packard Tract
Funding Recipient: County of Simcoe
Funding Awarded: $202,654 over 3 years
Targeted Species at Risk: Kirtland’s warbler (Setophaga kirtlandii)
Project Status: Ongoing

Project Summary

Kirtland’s warbler is a globally rare forest songbird most often found in Michigan but with small breeding populations located in the eastern Georgian Bay region of Ontario.  The main threat to Kirtland’s warbler is a lack of suitable habitat, as they tend to prefer expansive tracts of early successional, evenly aged and densely populated red pine and Jack Pine stands. Nearly extinct in the 1970s, the species is now one of seven eastern Georgian Bay Species at Risk under the Endangered Species Act.  As a result, the Ministry of Northern Development, Mines, Natural Resources and Forestry supports conservation and recovery approaches aimed at both the bird and its habitat, as part of protecting overall biological diversity and ecosystem health and sustainability in Ontario.

In continuing their 2019-2022 contribution agreement with Ganawenim Meshkiki, the County of Simcoe was allotted $80,670 of Eastern Georgian Bay Initiative funding in 2020 to continue the Packard Tract Habitat and Forest Restoration Project.  Located at 8398, 9th Line Essa, the Packard Tract is approximately 59 hectares in size, with 41 acres having already been reforested. 2020 project activities involved preparing the remaining ~18 hectares for reforesting.

Beginning with site preparation activities such as excavator and mulching machining to move debris and expose soil minerals, project activities in 2020 went on to include:

  • Collecting, cleaning, and storing the seeds of 85 native species (to be used for establishing native shrubs, herbs, grasses, and wildflowers following the prescribed burn),
  • A prescribed burn to prepare the site for optimal planting conditions and to improve soil nutrients,
  • Rototilling and plowing to prepare the site for tree planting and seeding,
  • Removal or re-alignment of several access roads, to maximize the habitat area and increase the interior forest area created,
  • Invasive species control, and
  • Installation of ‘callback’ devices to broadcast Kirtland’s Warbler vocalizations.

Activities in 2021 will focus on the planting of 28,500 native trees and the seeding of 85 different native shrubs, grasses, herbs, and wildflowers.

Altogether, the project marks the second project of its kind in Canada (first was in Simcoe County Forest Museum Tract) as part of an international effort to create habitat for Kirtland’s warbler.  In addition to creating early successional pine-oak forest ideal for this species, this regionally uncommon habitat type will benefit numerous other wildlife species.

2021 Project Presentation

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