Efforts are helping tiny songbird to reverse population decline 


2013 Partners In Flight Award

Partners In Flight, an international bird conservation organization, has recognized the Cerulean Warbler Research Group for its Outstanding Research Award for 2013.  Drs. Patrick Keyser (shown left) and David Buehler of the University of Tennessee Department of Forestry, Wildlife and Fisheries led the eastern regional research team studying Cerulean Warbler response to forest management. Photo courtesy UT Institute of Agriculture.




KNOXVILLE, Tenn. – Two University of Tennessee Institute of Agriculture researchers with the Department of Forestry, Wildlife and Fisheries have received an international award for their work leading a team of scientists studying Cerulean Warbler response to forest management.
Partners In Flight, an international bird conservation organization, has recognized the Cerulean Warbler Research Group with its Outstanding Research Award for 2013. Patrick Keyser and David Buehler, both of whom are professors, along with scientists from five other institutions, designed and implemented one of the largest forest management experiments ever conducted. The eastern regional research team studied Cerulean Warblers at seven study sites in four states to examine the songbirds’ responses, and those of associated species, to commonly applied forest management practices.

The Cerulean Warbler is of high conservation concern in the eastern United States because of its small total population and because the species has significantly declined in number throughout its range. Tennessee is near the southern edge of the species’ North American breeding range.

A Neotropical migrant species, the Cerulean Warbler breeds in mature deciduous forests in eastern North American and overwinters in the forested Andes Mountains of South America. The distinctive blue songbird has been under consideration for listing as an endangered species and is already listed on the Audubon watchlist.

In addition to the UTIA scientists, researchers from
West Virginia University, the Ohio State University, Indiana University of Pennsylvania, the U.S. Forest Service Northern Research Station and the National Council for Air and Stream Improvement have participated in the effort.

The Cumberland Mountains, located just north of Knoxville, are among the sites where the scientists have studied the birds. The Tennessee sites contained both the greatest densities of ceruleans recorded across their breeding range and the greatest breeding productivity.

Throughout the six-year effort, the Cerulean Warbler Research Group has graduated 13 graduate students and trained hundreds of undergraduates in field wildlife research techniques. In addition to graduate student theses and dissertations, the project has published more than 10 peer-reviewed publications, with several more still in preparation. The important results and significant conservation impacts discovered to date have led to publication of the monograph Forest Management Guidelines for Cerulean Warblers. One of the key discoveries discussed in the publication, which is written for forest managers, is that certain forest management strategies can be beneficial to maintaining appropriate forest structure for nesting Cerulean Warblers.

When asked about the significance of the work, Keyser remarked, “Finding science-based solutions to both conservation and productive forest management are essential to ensuring that all of the components of our natural resources are managed in a way that ensures sustainability of these resources for future generations.”

The scientists’ work has been funded in part by UTIA Department of Forestry Wildlife and Fisheries. In addition to its agricultural and natural resource research programs, UTIA also provides instruction, research and public service through the UT College of Agricultural Sciences and Natural Resources, the UT College of Veterinary Medicine and UT Extension offices in every county in the state.


Dr. David Buehler, professor of wildlife science, Department of Forestry, Wildlife and Fisheries, 865-974-8845