Squatting in a cluster of dogwood bushes between my wooded land and the neighbor’s corn field, I peered through my binoculars. I was looking for white-throated sparrows, but was shocked when a little gray and yellow bird with black patches over his eyes flitted onto a branch nearby. His eye markings were so distinct —it seemed as if he were wearing a pair of sunglasses. 

I had never seen anything like him. A quick visit to my favorite birding app and I learned what I saw was a golden-winged warbler. 

One year later, I’ve learned these delightful little birds are in distress. According to the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, golden-winged warblers have had a population decline of almost 2.5% per year between 1966 and 2014—amounting to an overall decline of 68%. They now have one of the smallest populations of any bird not on the endangered species list.

I feel honored to have seen one — and quite by accident.  Interestingly, Minnesota is home to approximately half of this little bird’s global population. 

Pine, Carlton, Kanabec and others surrounding counties are in a unique position to provide habitat for this declining species— and the USDA is providing financial support for landowners to implement conservation projects.  

I subscribe to some bird and garden magazines; I’ve always gotten irritated when they suggest planting a single shrub to support habitat for some bird or a butterfly. It’s a solution suited to the suburbs that, while appreciated, is a drop in the bucket of what creating habitat can really mean. 

Here in the rural areas of the state, we’ve got acres and acres of land that can make a significant impact for this species.

If you own land and are interested in helping golden-winged warblers, I’d encourage you to find more information on page 11 of this issue on how you can participate.

I sure would like to see one of those little warblers again. 

Kirsten Faurie is the group editor for Northstar Media, which includes the Pine City Pioneer, Hinckley News, Askov American, Pine County Courier, Moose Lake Star Gazette and others. She can be contacted at editor@moraminn.com or by calling 320-225-5128.


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