Nesting Instincts

On Caring for the Habitat of the Human Family

Setophaga kirtlandii is the scientific name for Kirtland's warbler, a rare bird of Michigan's jack pine forests. These birds insist on nesting on the ground in large stands of jack pines, beneath the lower branches, which shield each nest. And the jack pines must be young—6 to 20 years old—and between 5 and 20 feet tall. The upper branches of older trees block the sun, causing the lower, sheltering branches to die, and when this happens, the warblers must find other nesting grounds.

For many years, Michigan had plenty of young jack pines for the warblers. Under natural conditions, their nesting habitat is produced by fire. Fire has always occurred naturally in these forests, and jack pine trees are dependent on it. Heat from the fires is needed to open their cones to release seeds. Fire also removes plants that compete with jack pines for forest space, and it creates a bed of ash that helps the new seeds grow. Before the twentieth century, fires were widespread in the jack pine plains of Michigan, and they created large nesting areas for the Kirtland's warbler.

Man intervened by greatly reducing the number of forest fires, which caused a reduction in the number of young jack pines, which in turn depressed the Kirtland's warbler population. Fewer well-protected nesting places were available. Cowbirds invaded many of the less-protected nests, often replacing warbler eggs with their own. Cowbirds hatch earlier than warblers, and they are also larger and stronger, making it difficult for the warblers to compete with them for food. In 1971, for example, only one-third of Kirtland's warbler nests produced offspring. A few years earlier, in 1967, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service had to place the bird on its list of endangered species. At the time, no one knew for sure why the birds were dwindling in number.

Taking Care

Both professional and amateur naturalists eventually identified the cause for the near-demise of Kirtland's warblers and took measures to rectify matters. Controlled burns, coupled with the seeding of jack pines, created a congenial habitat for the warblers, and the birds experienced a rebound. Whereas in 1987 only 167 singing males were documented, by 2012 the number had risen to 2,090. Kirtland's warblers have even spread to Wisconsin and Canada.

This turnaround took place because people who cared about the fate of a bird sought evidence for the causes of their plight. Upon discovering the causes, they figured out a solution and implemented it.

Consider, now, that Jesus said, "Of how much more value are you than the birds!" So why do government, academic, and cultural elites, sympathetic to endangered species, ignore the plight of human families? The habitat in which procreation takes place and families are formed has been compromised. The signs of duress in forming and raising families are not hard to see.

Mustn't something be amiss when one-third of all pregnancies end with the killing of the baby? (What other species deliberately destroys its young?) Marriage rates are down. Out-of-wedlock births are up. Sexually transmitted diseases, sexual promiscuity, sexual addiction, and sexual abuse have increased.

While many today still look forward to marriage and having children, many others are uncertain about whether they will ever create a family. Some are skittish about marriage to begin with; others are worried about, even fearful of, bearing and raising children. Birthrates have plummeted, with many countries facing imminent severe population decline. This is not due to poverty—we have cheaper food, larger houses, and more material goods available than ever before.

Something must be wrong. Salvo is trying to point this out, to encourage people to resist the cowbirds—and, rather than living in fear of our God-given fecundity, to let the children come.

(Source on Kirtland's warbler:

is the executive editor of Salvo and the  Director of Publications for the Fellowship of St. James.

This article originally appeared in Salvo, Issue #30, Fall 2014 Copyright © 2024 Salvo |


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