Worm-eating Warbler RESEARCH


In Tennessee, the Worm-eating Warbler, which breeds on the Gorge's steepest slopes, is listed as a "species of concern". How can we protect this fragile population?

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Why birds?

Birds are an indicator species, which means if they're not healthy, there's a lot more that's not healthy! 

With a generous grant from Benwood Foundation, the Trust conducted research in the Tennessee River Gorge from May 2014 through May 2016, focusing on Worm-eating Warblers. The focus of this survey was both population numbers as well as post-fledgling foraging habitat needs, i.e. what the young birds need when they come off the nest. The Trust will use the data gathered in this project to determine best management practices for stewarding our forests to promote productivity and survivorship for these at-risk birds. 

SUMMARY AND RESULTS: Fledgling Worm-eating Warblers in the Gorge were tracked daily via radio telemetry. Their exact locations were observed and marked, and habitat assessments were carried out (such as measuring shrub layer density, leaf litter depth, slope, etc.) at each site. Analyses were conducted on which, if any, microhabitat characteristics play a determining factor in where the juvenile birds spend such a crucial time of their life cycle. Leaf litter depth and slope both appeared to be important factors, followed by shrub layer density and herbaceous cover. The metrics were gathered from a small sample size, and future studies on postfledging habitat would add greatly to the strength of the results. From a forest management perspective, the study indicates that maintaining sloped areas with well-vegetated understories could benefit young Worm-eatings during their juvenile stage.

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Holland Youngman, Researcher

Holland is a native of the South Carolina coast, and a graduate of Clemson University. She has enjoyed working environmental conservation jobs in Wyoming, Mississippi and Texas; and recently left her position with the SC Department of Natural Resources in Charleston to move to Chattanooga. She is thrilled to be here, where she will pursue her Masters of Environmental Science degree at UTC while working with the TRGT conducting Worm-eating Warbler research.


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