Jul 4, 2019
HARLEYVILLE — Longshot the warbler is likely long gone. But the tiny yellow flash of a bird left a legacy that spans a globe.
The prothonotary warbler in the Audubon Sanctuary at Beidler Forest near Harleyville was outfitted with a geolocator chip in 2014 after staff noticed the migratory bird had returned to the sanctuary boardwalk within 15 feet of where it departed the summer before.
Longshot came back again the next year, with the trip-logging chip still attached and against stunning odds.
It had flown through Florida, Cuba, Central America, down the Pacific coast of Colombia and back to Four Holes Swamp — an odyssey of 4,000 miles.
Data from Longshot and 29 other warblers tagged in six states has been incorporated in a newly published multi-institution study. The study found nearly all of the wetlands birds wintered in a relatively small area of coastal mangrove and inland forests in northern Colombia — an area that is heavily logged.
The discovery was unexpected and alarming.
The prothonotary warbler, with its deep yellow head and chest, is the eye-catching songbird of the Southeast bottomlands. It’s a personable native bird — not as apt to fly off as other species and seeming to be almost curious as humans approach.
Like a lot of songbird species, it’s in a long-term decline, one of a number of species that conservationists have begun tracking by geolocators to get a fix on the environs where they migrate in order to work with groups in those countries to protect habitats along the entire range.