One of the most rare songbirds in the Midwest is being found in great abundance in an isolated stretch of thick woods in northeast Iowa. The cerulean warbler is about the size of a sparrow and is mostly blue, with black and white flecks.
Birder Jon Stravers, of Harpers Ferry, was doing a bird count for the DNR in a bird conservation area along North Cedar Creek in Clayton County — and was stunned by the numbers of the rare species.
Stravers says, "We didn’t have any idea we were going to find this big of a population because there’s a mile stretch along this stream, this very small, narrow stream, that you can virtually hear ceruleans at any point in that mile." He says it’s an incredible find.
Stravers says: "It’s certainly one of the rarest birds that we have in the state or in our region and unfortunately, in a lot of their nesting range, their numbers appear to be declining at a steady rate, so it’s a wonderful surprise to find a big pocket of these birds in northeast Iowa." While he says his team could hear all sorts of the blue-colored birds, actually seeing them is another matter.
Stravers says: "Unfortunately, this bird usually only occurs in the thickest, biggest, oldest woods and it’s a treetop bird, so seeing these things is a real trick. We do most of the work by sound so hearing them is just as fascinating to me but that’s how we do a lot of the work is by sound." In addition to being a consultant for the DNR, Stravers is considered one of the nation’s leading raptor researchers and he’s the National Audubon Society’s research coordinator for the Mississippi River Initiative.
While it won’t likely spark a birding furor like the recent possible sighting of a woodpecker in the Southern U.S. that was thought to be extinct, Stravers says the discovery of such a large population of cerulean warblers may make northeast Iowa a haven not only for rare birds, but bird watchers as well.