The Cerulean Warbler (Dendroica cerulea) is considered a high-priority Neotropical migratory bird. Sometimes hard to spot, the cerulean blue and white warbler is a favorite among birders, even though it is often responsible for “warbler neck”. The Cerulean Warbler Atlas Project (CEWAP) ran from 1997 to 2000 as a way to study the breeding range of this dendro warbler.
Due to the low population densities and sporadic distribution, the Cerulean Warbler was a perfect candidate for citizen science. Birders and biologists worked together to monitor known and potential breeding areas and the data was collected into a final report: “An Atlas of Cerulean Warbler Populations” [PDF].
The goal of CEWAP was to use the data to create an updated population analysis and provide future land management projects a set of guidelines. The work had some fantastic success:
During the 1997 breeding season, CEWAP researchers surveyed a Cerulean Warbler site known to local birders and found some 46 breeding pairs. As a result, the National Audubon Society’s New York Important Bird Areas Program committee identified the location as an Important Bird Area (IBA). Later in the year, when a private donor approached the Laboratory of Ornithology about local land preservation opportunities, the Cerulean Warbler IBA site emerged as the top priority. With the help of a regional land trust, part of this site was purchased. –CEWAP
The Cerulean Warbler population was estimated at 560,000 individuals in 2004 and has been in a steady, alarming decline. According to the Birder’s Conservation Handbook, Cerulean conservation is still in need of developing a baseline inventory of breeding and wintering populations. It is up to us as birder-citizen scientists to collect this data to help increase conservation efforts.
When spring arrives (or if you happen to be on their wintering grounds), make sure to add your Cerulean Warbler sightings to Priority Migrant eBird, an ongoing population monitoring program sponsored by the Cornell Lab of Ornithology and the National Audubon Society.