The Golden-winged Warbler (Vermivora chrysoptera) is a passerine species whose populations have decreased internationally by approximately 66 percent since the 1960s, and by approximately 50 percent in New York. Major causes for declines are from loss of shrubland habitat and through hybridization with the Blue-winged Warbler (Vermivora cyanoptera). This study utilized published data and expert opinion on Golden-winged Warbler (GWWA) habitat requirements to create habitat suitability models within the Western Finger Lakes Region of NY (NYSDEC Region 8) using a geographic information system. This region is an important area for migratory birds and is previously unstudied for GWWA. The concentration of potential GWWA habitat was identified within the central part of the study area, dubbed the “Central Band”, comprising of areas within Livingston, Ontario, Schuyler, Seneca, Steuben, and Yates Counties. Sighting data from the Breeding Bird Survey (BBS) and Cornell Lab of Ornithology’s eBird Program (eBird) were utilized to test for the presence of GWWA within predicted habitat sites. BBS data were useful as an indicator of the model’s effectiveness, with two-thirds of BBS routes containing GWWA sightings intersecting predicted prime habitat sites. Cornell’s eBird sighting data were less effective as an indicator of the model’s accuracy, as available eBird data may contain spatial bias through under-reporting by fewer birders in areas of high habitat concentrations. This study also analyzed proximity of GWWA habitat to public and privately managed lands, offering specific locations where GWWA conservation plans, like NYSDEC’s Young Tree Initiative, could effectively be implemented with a focus on breeding bird habitat. GWWA habitat conservation is significant, as their habitat is also utilized by other species of conservation concern, such as American Woodcock (Scolopax minor) and Ruffed Grouse (Bonasa umbellus), making GWWA a type of umbrella species within early successional habitat.
Environmental Science (MS)
Department, Program, or Center
Thomas H. Gosnell School of Life Sciences (COS)
Rubenstein, Jesse Michael, "Using Geographic Information Systems to Identify Habitat for the Golden-winged Warbler (Vermivora chrysoptera) in Western New York" (2016). Thesis. Rochester Institute of Technology. Accessed from
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