The endangered Kirtland's Warbler (Dendroica kirtlandii) nests primarily in large (>32 ha) stands of young (5- to 25-yr-old) jack pine (Pinus banksiana) which grow on Grayling sand soil. These specific habitat requirements restrict the Kirtland's Warbler breeding range to only 13-16 counties in the northern lower peninsula of Michigan. Although the nature of the species' affinity for this habitat is poorly understood, one theory suggests that higher prey abundance in young jack pine may play a role. To explore further the hypothesis that Kirtland's Warblers choose nesting habitat due to prey abundance, a more thorough knowledge of the warblers' diet is needed. To better understand the diet, we identified arthropod and plant fragments found in 202 Kirtland's Warbler fecal samples, collected from June to September, 1995-1997. The major food items recorded were spittlebugs and aphids (Homoptera; found in 61% of all samples), ants and wasps (Hymenoptera; 45%), blueberry (Vaccinium augustifolium; 42%), beetles (Coleoptera; 25%), and moth larvae (Lepidoptera; 22%).
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Kirtland's warbler diet as determined through fecal analysis