Is Bachman's warbler extinct in the USA?

It was last documented in Cuba in 1981 and since then there were no verifiable sightings in that country either. Loss of mature forest habitat and widespread capture are the main reasons for its extinction

by Lorenzo Ciotti
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Is Bachman's warbler extinct in the USA?

Bachman's warbler was a small black and yellow songbird that once bred in swampy thickets in Alabama, Florida, Georgia, North Carolina, South Carolina, and Tennessee and wintered in Cuba. As early as 1953, it was one of the rarest songbirds in North America.

When it was first listed in 1967 as an endangered species under the Endangered Species Preservation Act, it hadn't been seen in the US since 1962. It was last documented in Cuba in 1981 and since then there were no verifiable sightings in that country either.

Loss of mature forest habitat and widespread capture are the main reasons for its extinction. This bird was discovered in 1832 by the Reverend John Bachman, who discovered the species near Charleston, in South Carolina, presenting its preserved remains and an accurate description to John James Audubon, his friend and collaborator.

Audubon never saw the bird alive, but christened it its present name in Bachman's honor in 1833. Bachman's warbler was not closely related to any other species, although the blue-winged warbler and the rarer gold-winged warbler, also belonging to the genus Vermivora, are thought to be its closest relatives.

No subspecies are recognized. This species was threatened by habitat destruction. It is believed to have nested in reed beds, and their destruction has been a major factor in the reduction of the species, along with the destruction of wintering habitats in the Caribbean and hunting for feathers.

In the 19th century, small-scale tree felling may have actually led to increased nesting habitat for Bachman's warbler. Deforestation and the draining of swamps through a series of canals were the two main causes of habitat destruction.

While we don't know if the change of habitats at its overwintering sites in Cuba had a negative effect on the species, a winter hurricane in the 1930s is thought to have dealt a major blow to its survival. Bachman's warbler nested predominantly in two distinct regions, namely the southern Atlantic coastal plain and the area from the Gulf Coast states extending north along the Mississippi River watershed to Kentucky.

In the southern Atlantic coastal plain, the bird nested in South Carolina near Charleston, but it is believed to have formerly bred in an area reaching north to Virginia and south to Georgia. North of Alabama it reproduced in Arkansas and Missouri along the St.

Francis River. Alleged breeding reports in East Texas, Oklahoma and Tennessee are considered erroneous by scholars. During migration, the species was seen primarily in Florida and the Florida Keys, although some birds migrated along the eastern section of the Gulf Coast. Additionally, there is evidence of a spring migrating specimen caught in the Bahamas in 1901.