Warblers Are Abundant Again

Finally, the warblers are abundant, again. We deserve them after the long, frigid winter. One of my favorites is the hooded warbler, in the Wilsonia family. This flycatcher’s cousins include the Canada and Wilson’s warblers. The Wilson’s migrates through our area in early May to spend the summer in Canada, but the other two like it right here for the summer.

Identifying these two is pretty easy. The Wilson’s male has only the black on the very top of its head, with solid yellow underneath and light brown on the back. The female’s cap can be anywhere from a combination of black and darkish olive to all dark olive.

The hooded is really different. It kind of reminds me of the medieval knight with his armor surrounding his entire head, his face and throat. His breast is also solid yellow. If you catch him flying, you’ll see white on his outer tail feathers, when he flicks that tail (which is practically all the time). Underneath, his tail is mostly white, with yellow coverts or outer edges. Like the Wilson’s, his back is olive colored.

Now, let’s concentrate on the hooded warbler. Donald and Lillian Stokes suggest that this flycatcher arrives in southwestern New York in the middle of May. It has traveled from South America, across the Gulf of Mexico, and up through eastern Texas and Louisiana. However, another source suggests that it only goes as far south as Mexico and Central America, or even as far as Costa Rica in South America. Mostly, however, it migrates to southern Costa Rica. (I loved Costa Rica. I wish I could winter there every year.) Occasionally it be seen in the west, but usually it prefers the eastern states. Isn’t that amazing for such a tiny bird?

When it arrives in the south, this flycatcher hangs out in swamps with many trees and even thicker masses of shrubs.

I always know when it has arrived back north in the spring, because I hear its song, “ta-wa ta-wa ta-weeyo.”

Most of the time, it finds insects in low shrubs. Occasionally it will take a chance to hunt on the ground. The females are the ones who feed near or on the ground. The males perch on a somewhat high branch, and catch their prey in the air. Do you think that maybe it is also guarding the female up there? One good thing is that they don’t have food fights.

Dense shrubbery is also used for breeding, but it also likes deciduous woods, especially if there are streams in them. Guess what? I have dense shrubs on my property and the neighbors have beautiful woodlands with streams all through them. How lovely – the habitat and the birds.

Its nest is tightly composed of bark strips, dried plant fibers. This is all placed on a bed of leaves. Four or five white eggs have hints of reddish brown.

Who are this bird’s enemies? The dastardly cowbird, that’s who. That nasty bird just loves to lay its eggs in another’s nest, and then lets them raise the chicks. I don’t respect adults who do that either. Get it? Some fathers enjoy the sex, and then dump the female, who has to raise the kids by herself. Bad, bad, bad.

Here’s the good thing. These spunky parents just build a new nest. Way to go, you two! I’m proud of your courage and stamina!

Exactly where do these two go in the winter? Opposite habitats. I have not found out exactly where, but each one heads for a different habitat. Each one still feeds in the same old way. Each is very, very strong in holding on to its winter territory. Wow. Very strong birds, each in its own right.

Well, well, well. I can’t help thinking that these two remind me of friends of mine who head in different directions in the winter, but get together in the summer. It works for them, and it works for these birds. I don’t think that we should knock either couple. After all, they’re still together. That’s saying something very big and special.