Committee Chair

Aborn, David A.

Committee Member

Boyd, Jennifer N.; Klug, Hope M.


Dept. of Biological and Environmental Sciences


College of Arts and Sciences


University of Tennessee at Chattanooga

Place of Publication

Chattanooga (Tenn.)


Declines in Neotropical migratory birds have been observed over the past several decades. Species with particular habitat needs, termed ‘specialists’, are especially at risk given continual habitat loss. These downward trends have prompted researchers to investigate species’ life histories and associated habitats to better understand the necessary components for successful life stages. The Worm-eating Warbler (Helmitheros vermivorum; WEWA) is an interior specialist with little known regarding its post-fledging habitat needs. I used harness-attached radio transmitters to track fledgling WEWAs in the Tennessee River Gorge to study habitat components and daily movements. Results between fledgling location and random points indicate that degrees slope (gradient of a hillside) and leaf litter depth are significant characteristics of juvenile habitat, and that shrub density and herbaceous cover may also be determining factors. Daily movements averaged 49 linear meters and moved down slope. Additional studies will further reveal post-fledging needs and guide conservation actions.


There are many to thank for their support and good humor throughout the process of this endeavor: Dr. David Aborn for his guidance and advice on the planning and execution of my field work, as well as the formulation of my thesis. Drs. Hope Klug and Jennifer Boyd for serving on my committee and providing insight on my field methodology and thesis content. Rick Huffines of the Tennessee River Gorge Trust, for his support, shared wisdom, patience and confidence in my abilities. The Tennessee River Gorge Trust in its entirety, for providing me the opportunity to conduct this project upon its beautiful lands. Lizzie and John Diener for their crucial help with my field work, both in hours spent and knowledge imparted; it made all the difference. Charlie Mix for sharing his GIS expertise to streamline my data collection process. Patrick Ruhl for his collaboration and advice. A host of dear friends in Chattanooga and beyond, who likely bore the brunt of my puling throughout the entire process, but remained by my side all the same. My 14-year-old dog, Bailey, who has stuck around to keep me company on this journey, and who has wagged her old tail every day. Thanks most of all to my family – my parents Bill and Lanie, my brother Nathan and sister-in-law Ali, and my niece Harper. They have provided love, support, laughter and encouragement that has kept me afloat and in forward motion.


M. S.; A thesis submitted to the faculty of the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga in partial fulfillment of the requirements of the degree of Master of Science.




Wood warblers; Birds -- Behavior -- North America


Worm-eating Warbler; Post-fledging habitat; Tennessee River Gorge; Radio telemetry; Avian research

Document Type

Masters theses




xi, 50 leaves