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Tag Archives: warblers

MacGillivray’s Warbler

Today, I had another migratory warbler sighting:  one MacGillivray’s warbler, Geothlypis tolmiei.  A quick, little guy scooted through my backyard while I was filling up the birdbath.  He checked out a few of the shrubs and was gone.  He was too quick to allow for a photograph, so I am attaching a picture of one that I took last May at Vedauwoo east of town.

This is the best photo of this species that I have in my collection because these guys often shyly hide in the underbrush and refuse to have their portraits taken!  The website Birds of the Rocky Mountains states, “Keeping to the densest and most impenetrable shrubs in the Rockies, the MacGillivray’s Warbler is a very difficult bird to observe. To get a clear view you must often crouch down, peer deep into dark bushes and strain your neck in rapid response to the bird’s faintly perceptible actions. A hard-earned glimpse of this bird is often satisfying, however, because the male MacGillivray’s Warbler is certainly one of the most beautiful warblers in the Rockies.”

This is not a bird that I have seen very often, though they can be at least occasionally found in the area from late-May through this time of year.  They are quite recognizable with their yellow bellies, green backs and wings, and grey hoods, as well as their distinct black eye stripe cutting through their white eye ring.  Their coloring is similar to the mourning warbler, Geothlypis philadelphia, of eastern North America.  William MacGillivray, by the way, was a Scottish naturalist (an Aberdeen man!) and friend of John James Audubon, who gave this bird its common name.

 
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Posted by on September 14, 2012 in Nature

 

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Wilson’s Warbler

Wilson’s warblers, Cardellina pusilla, were the first warblers I ever saw in Wyoming.  These little guys migrate through town each fall, flitting quickly through trees and shrubs in their gorgeous yellow feathers.  That first year–before I understood the vast variety of wildlife that could be found in the area simply by paying attention–I was shocked to find several of these golden guys in the shrub right outside my front door!

Now they are back again. I spotted a bunch of high energy bird bundles in the trees of a local park this morning. Besides the yellow feathers, Wilson’s warblers have olive-gray backs and wings. Sharp dressed males have head caps that are very distinct and black, while the females have understated gray caps. Both have very prominent, dark eyes.

At first, I thought that the creatures I saw today might be yellow warblers (Setophagia petechia) because I didn’t notice an obvious cap on the one that I got the best glimpse of, but these birds are a little daintier than yellow warblers and have smaller bills.  Yellow warbler males also tend to have red streaks on their chests.  Don Verser of the Houston Audubon explains: “Some Wilson’s Warblers, particularly first fall females, can be confused with Yellow Warblers. Check to see that the undertail is gray for Wilson’s and not yellow as it is for Yellow Warblers.”  Gray tail, check.

The autumn migration is in full swing.

 

 
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Posted by on September 3, 2012 in Nature

 

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Townsend’s Warbler

There is no doubt that the fall bird migration is in progress.  Yesterday, I saw a few greater yellowlegs on the Laramie River.  Today, on a walk through a quiet neigborhood, I spotted two Townsend’s warblers, Setophaga (once Dendroica) townsendi.  These birds are quite rare visitors to this part of the country.  They spend their summers in the Pacific Northwest and western Canada and their winters in Mexico, so they are simply, briefly, passing through.  The birds most often stick to the Rockies and west, but they have been known to migrate through Wyoming and even as far east as South Dakota at times.

I had never seen this species before.  Their tiny size, their yellow feathers and their interesting way of almost hovering and flitting like butterflies made them very unique.  Their coloring is a bit like that of yellow-rumped warblers, but with more diffuse yellow and a dark eyeband and crown.  Females have a more olive-gray coloration to the breeding males’ black.

Both have two white wingbars.  The birds in these photos are either females or immature males, since they lack the black throat and darker plumage.

A sighting of a new bird makes for a cheerful start to September! 

 
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Posted by on September 1, 2012 in Nature

 

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Yellow-rumped Warbler

From yellow heads, it’s on to yellow rumps, although, to be fair, the male yellow-rumped warbler, Setophaga coronata (once known as Dendroica coronata),  also has yellow sides and a wicked yellow mohawk.  This species migrates through my yard each May and October, but today I saw this early bird in a city park cottonwood tree, with the leaves just starting to bud.

According to online bird guides, there are two varieties of yellow-rumped warblers.  The “myrtle” subspecies (coronata) has a white throat and is common in the eastern U.S.  “Audubon’s” warbler (ssp. auduboni) has a very yellow throat and is the western variety.  This guy I saw today looks like a myrtle, but I have also seen Audubon’s types in my yard last May (the yellow-throat is quite visible in the next photo, even though it’s not a close-up).  Could Laramie be at the point of the overlapping of their ranges?   According to Audubon guides:  “Until recently, the eastern and western populations of the Yellow-rumped Warbler were thought to be two distinct species, respectively the “Myrtle Warbler” and “Audubon’s Warbler.” However, it has been found that in the narrow zone where the ranges of the two come together, the birds hybridize freely.”

The Front Range of Colorado is often noted as a place where east meets west in terms of species.  For example, you can find both the eastern Blue Jay (at the westernmost part of its range) and the western Steller’s Jay in Boulder or Fort Collins, CO.  I have yet to see an eastern blue jay as far west as Laramie, but they are apparently not unknown here and are even quite common 45 miles east in Cheyenne.  Steller’s jays don’t seem to make it any farther east (going by eBird stats) than the Sherman hills east of town (where I saw one just the other day).  Very interesting to be at the crossroads!

Oh, yeah, and here’s a picture of that yellow rump, just to be thorough.

 
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Posted by on April 20, 2012 in Nature

 

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