All hardcore birdwatchers wait in anticipation for the arrival of the warblers. Even more than the waterfowl and robins, these little birds signify the full arrival of spring. As the trees leaf out and the grass is greening up, it is the arrival of these small songbirds that confirm spring is here. The warblers are arriving about on schedule and since they are insect eating birds, I hope they have not come too soon. Most of them will pass through and head for the forests further north, but if we are lucky, we will catch sight of some on their journey.
Usually, the first to show up are the Yellow-rumped Warblers. It is typical for them to arrive at our place the first
A male Yellow-rumped Warbler in breeding plumage
or second week of May. Like all warblers, they flit nervously from branch to branch, challenging both beginner and advanced birder to see them with binoculars. Try to imagine following a ping pong ball in action.
Yellow-rumped Warblers (previously known as Myrtle warblers) measure just 5 ½ inches which is large for their kind. Males have a mostly bluish black back, white wing bars, a white eye stripe and throat patch, darker contrasting cheek patch and bright yellow on its sides, on top of its head and of course – its rump. Females have the same basic pattern, but are more of a brownish green on the back and head.
Females and immature Yellow-rumped Warblers have more subdued coloration.
As already mentioned, Yellow-rumped’s eat primarily eat insects, though they will also eat fruit, generally in the winter months in the southern U.S., when insects are scarce. When you see them hopping around on tree branches, they are searching – ‘gleaning’ is another word for this behavior – for small insects on the bark and leaves.
We have discovered that suet is a suitable bird food for them at this time while insects are scarce. Some of our best looks at these warblers have been on the hanging suet baskets in the maple tree just beside our deck.
There have been a few other warbler species showing up – the Pine and Palm in
A female at the nest with her babies
particular, but it will be a little later in the month when the mass movement of the other species occurs. Sometimes you get really lucky and find yourself in just the right place at just the right time to count 10-15 different species.
Finally, you might be wondering if warblers really do ‘warble’. The answer is no. I don’t know how or why they got that particular name for their Family. In most cases their voices are high pitched, thin, and nonmusical sounding. The Yellow-rumped’s song is a type of trill and its call sounds like ‘check’. But what their voices lack is more than made up by their tropical colors.
By Kate Crowley