Last week I wrote about a new breeding species that had been documented for Mecklenburg County: the Baltimore oriole. This week I want to mention nesting species that have all but disappeared from the county.
In most cases, these species declines within Mecklenburg County are consistent with national declines. Loss of habitat is the main culprit, as many of these birds can still be found relatively easily in more rural adjacent counties.
The night song of the whip-poor-will can now only be heard from the northern parts of Mecklenburg, at Cowan’s Ford Refuge and a few spots around Davidson. Perhaps even rarer is the song of the whip’s cousin, the chuck-will’s-widow. I heard one at Reedy Creek Park a few weeks ago, only one of just a handful of sites for this species’ songs.
One of my favorite warblers, the Kentucky warbler, has failed to return for the last couple of years to several nesting sites that I know about. This species likely still nests in some remote areas, but they are unknown to me. This warbler likes the upper and mid-slopes above floodplains, areas that often go unprotected from development. They don’t like human activity, a fatal caveat to nesting in this county.
The loggerhead shrike may already be gone as a breeder, but I hold out hope. If it persists, there are only one to three potential pairs. This bird likes rural farmland with areas of very short grass. At the coast they have adapted to golf courses but apparently not here.
Perhaps the most heartbreaking is the national decline of the Northern Bobwhite. Almost anyone age 50 or older who spent time in the country growing up is familiar with the “bob bob white” call. This bird apparently now nests only in the larger county nature preserves like Cowan’s Ford or McDowell. A main reason for this species’ scarcity has not been pinpointed since appropriate habitats remain over much of its range. Changes to farming and other land-use practices – and the increase of fire ants, feral cats and coyotes – have all been considered as the cause.
Taylor Piephoff is a local naturalist with an interest in the birds and wildlife of the southern Piedmont: PiephoffT@aol.com.
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