Restoration Potential: Restoration potential is probably good, with appropriate habitat management. Some apparent range expansion along the Atlantic coast and in Florida (Potter et al. 1980, Taylor et al. 1989, Stevenson and Anderson 1994) suggests the ability to recolonize suitable habitat previously inhabited in southeast Arizona and New Mexico.
Preserve Selection and Design Considerations: Preserves for both the eastern and western populations will need to maintain early to mid-successional vegetation, with an emphasis on retaining a mix of open and wooded or shrubby components. In the southeast, protecting beach shrub-scrub and coastal wetland habitats will be important (Meyers 1999). More detailed preserve design specifications must await the completion of further study, some of which is underway (Sykes and Meyers 1999).
There are no data to suggest parameters for preserves on the wintering grounds; it is possible that protection from illegal capture and sale for the pet trade may be as significant a factor as habitat protection (Muehter 1998).
Because the western populations spend significant time molting and feeding during their autumn stopover in southeastern Arizona and northwestern Mexico, consideration should be given to the protection of habitat in this region--especially riparian vegetation (Thompson 1991a, 1991b). No information which might guide the design of such preserves appears to exist, however.
Management Requirements: In areas where succession proceeds toward forested climax conditions, managers will need to interrupt this process through mowing, burning, herbicide application or other means. The most significant concern for the Atlantic coast populations is the transformation of valuable wetland and scrub-shrub habitats into intensive pine management and residential development (Meyers 1999); successful management will require the protection of existing habitat.
Management Research Needs: Population declines are well documented, but reasons for the declines need more study. A better understanding of threats within the breeding range and wintering area, and the biology of the western populations on their fall migration stopover are needed. The relationship of habitat quality to nesting success, especially across the range of the western population, needs research. Effects of brown-headed cowbird (Molothrus ater) nest parasitism needs further study. Cowbird impact is less than among some coexisting species (Barber and Martin 1997; Meyers et al. 1999), but may become a factor among eastern populations which have only recently come into contact with cowbirds (Lowther 1993, Lowther et al. 1999).
Biological Research Needs: Genetic studies of the eastern and western populations should be undertaken to determine if they are distinct species or if the two subspecies currently described are appropriately defined (Thompson 1991b, Lowther et al. 1999).
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