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Do the Golden-winged Warbler and Blue-winged Warbler Exhibit Species-specific Differences in their Breeding Habitat Use?

DOI: 10.5751/ace-00392-050202

Keywords: Blue-winged Warbler , distance to forest edge , Golden-winged Warbler , habitat differences , Kentucky , reclaimed mines , territory size , Vermivora chrysoptera , Vermivora cyanoptera , Vermivora pinus

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We compared habitat features of Golden-winged Warbler (Vermivora chrysoptera) territories in the presence and absence of the Blue-winged Warbler (V. cyanoptera) on reclaimed coal mines in southeastern Kentucky, USA. Our objective was to determine whether there are species specific differences in habitat that can be manipulated to encourage population persistence of the Golden-winged Warbler. When compared with Blue-winged Warblers, Golden-winged Warblers established territories at higher elevations and with greater percentages of grass and canopy cover. Mean territory size (minimum convex polygon) was 1.3 ha (se = 0.1) for Golden-winged Warbler in absence of Blue-winged Warbler, 1.7 ha (se = 0.3) for Golden-winged Warbler coexisting with Blue-winged Warbler, and 2.1 ha (se = 0.3) for Blue-winged Warbler. Territory overlap occurred within and between species (18 of n = 73 territories, 24.7%). All Golden-winged and Blue-winged Warblers established territories that included an edge between reclaimed mine land and mature forest, as opposed to establishing territories in open grassland/shrubland habitat. The mean distance territories extended from a forest edge was 28.0 m (se = 3.8) for Golden-winged Warbler in absence of Blue-winged Warbler, 44.7 m (se = 5.7) for Golden-winged Warbler coexisting with Blue-winged Warbler, and 33.1 m (se = 6.1) for Blue-winged Warbler. Neither territory size nor distances to forest edges differed significantly between Golden-winged Warbler in presence or absence of Blue-winged Warbler. According to Monte Carlo analyses, orchardgrass (Dactylis glomerata), green ash (Fraxinus pennsylvanica) seedlings and saplings, and black locust (Robinia pseudoacacia) saplings were indicative of sites with only Golden-winged Warblers. Sericea lespedeza, goldenrod (Solidago spp.), clematis vine (Clematis spp.), and blackberry (Rubus spp.) were indicative of sites where both species occurred. Our findings complement recent genetic studies and add another factor for examining Golden-winged Warbler population decline. Further, information from our study will aid land managers in manipulating habitat for the Golden-winged Warbler.


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