Birds of North Carolina:
their Distribution and Abundance
Kirtland's Warbler - Setophaga kirtlandii
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General Comments Considering that North Carolina is about halfway between the species' wintering grounds in the Bahamas and breeding grounds in Michigan, one would think that Kirtland's Warbler might be a regular transient through our area. Well, in actuality, it probably is. However, the rarity is mostly explained in a simple way -- there are perhaps 4-5,000 individuals in the world, as opposed to many times more than that -- 100 to 1,000 times more -- for practically all other warbler species. The chance that a birder would encounter a Kirtland's is thus quite remote. At least, there are now six accepted sight records, in addition to a handful of others than have not been accepted by the NC BRC. [A species this rare needs nearly indisputable details for acceptance of a sight report.] Four of these sightings are for the mountains and two are for the Piedmont. One is from spring (20 May) and the other five from fall, with four between 24 Sep and 1 Oct.
Breeding Status Nonbreeder
NC BRC List Definitive
State Status E
U.S. Status E
State Rank SZ
Global Rank G3G4
Coastal Plain No accepted records. It is quite a surprise that, as of 2017, there are still no documented records for this province, which lies essentially along the suspected migratory route. There are several old reports from the inland part of the province that were not accepted owing to lack of published details.
Piedmont Casual fall transient in the western portion of the province, but no accepted records yet for the eastern half. A male was seen in Allison's Woods (Iredell) on 29 Aug 1982* [Chat 51:107-08 link]. A female or immature was seen and photographed at Cowan's Ford Wildlife Refuge near Huntersville (Mecklenburg) on 27 Sep 2010* [Chat 75:51 link]; this report is the first record documented with photos. There are several other reports that have not been accepted.
Mountains Casual to very rare transient, with five records (but only one of them in spring). A first-year female was seen by five birders along the Blue Ridge Parkway near Haywood Gap (Milepost 426.2) (Jackson) on 20 May 1995* [Chat 64:21-25 link], [Chat 64:140 link]. An immature female was seen by multiple observers near Milepost 235 on the Blue Ridge Parkway (Alleghany) on 23-24 Sep 1995* [Chat 64:21-25 link], [Chat 64:140 link]. One was seen near Brevard (Transylvania) by eight observers on 1 Oct 2008* [Chat 73:2 link]. One was photographed at Ridge Junction Overlook, along the Blue Ridge Parkway (Yancey), 28 Sep 2016* [Chat 81:26 link]. One was banded and photographed on Big Bald Mountain (Yancey), along the TN state line, on 3 Oct 2017 [Chat 82:44-45 link]; this report has not yet been reviewed by the NC BRC.
Finding Tips
1/2 *
Attribution LeGrand[2018-02-21], LeGrand[2018-02-01], LeGrand[2017-12-13]
NC Map
Map depicts all counties with a report (transient or resident) for the species.
Click on county for list of all known species.
NA Maps
(source NatureServe)

View NatureServe distribution maps for Setophaga kirtlandii