Press "Enter" to skip to content

Arb Notes: Mirror, mirror on the wall, which warbler ID is the hardest of all?

(Mirror: Birding certainly is not my task. ‘Tis the binoculars whom you’d ask.)

If there are birds that perplex novices and experts alike, the warblers are sure to be among them. The complexity starts with the name: Warblers found in the Americas (classified as family Parulidae) are not at all closely related to their namesakes in Eurasia, and not all of those New World warblers bear the name “warbler” (I’m looking at you, American Redstart). Yet it is also this group of small, insect-eating songbirds that brings — to novices and experts alike — immense joy with their vibrant songs and colorations. 

Many warblers migrate, meaning they nest up north in the summer and overwinter in the South where insects, their food source, are still abundant. As a matter of fact, now is a great time to spot some of those passing species in the Arb.

The Yellow-rumped Warbler (Setophaga coronata) is one of the most common and easily-identifiable warblers in North America. Its name is a dead giveaway of its  key identifying feature: The patch of feathers on its lower back (the rump) is bright yellow, earning it the beloved nickname “butterbutt.” The sides under the wings (arm — wingpits?) are also bright yellow.

The Nashville Warbler (Leiothlypis ruficapilla) does not nest in Nashville or Tennessee as a whole; the only connection of the bird to the name is that Alexander Wilson, a 19th Century pioneer ornithologist, first spotted it in Nashville, which is located on its migration route. The Nashville Warbler can be best identified by its yellow throat and underbelly, olive-green back and gray head.

(At this point, at least the mirror knows which warbler ID is the easiest… or do you?)

Be First to Comment

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.