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Sunday Showcase: Cape May Warbler

Here is the Cape May Warbler that Elizabeth Sargeant had in her yard in SW Calgary last Sunday, December 2.  It was feeding with a group of Golden-crowned Kinglets.  Needless to say, this is very late for any warbler to be around, but it is the fourth time in the last eleven years that a Cape May Warbler has been reported in Alberta in the winter months (December-February).

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Fall Migration; Warbler Season!

As with the warblers that have now joined the southbound shorebirds, I too have migrated south; all the way down to Houston, Texas for the school year. I will be able to report on some of the birds that call Calgary home in the summer, such as robins, warblers and waterfowl, as they fly to warmer climates for the winter and then I will be able to announce their return trip to Calgary and the remainder of Canada as they return north next spring.

There are several different species of warblers you might be seeing in Calgary this fall; some will have assumed a drab winter plumage, making the identification of several species difficult; this identification can be made even harder due to the habit warblers have of flitting in trees and in bushes as they hunt for insects, rarely pausing for good views. Here are some of the warblers you are most likely to see in Calgary this fall.

Wilson’s Warbler: Usually feeding within 3 meters (10 feet) off the ground, these small, active and energetic birds are bright yellow; the males have a round black cap while females and immatures show only traces of this cap. When identifying these warblers, remember that they are olive above, bright yellow below and lack both streaks and wing-bars.

American Redstart: Described by Roger Tory Peterson (one of the world’s most famous birders) as “a butterfly-like bird, constantly flitting, drooping wings and spreading tail”, the American Redstart does just that as they act like a flycatcher, darting between perches to snatch up flying insects.

Black-and-white Warbler: Living up to it’s name, the Black-and-white warbler is striped black-and-white above and has a white belly. This pretty bird has an unusual habit for warblers; thanks to long claws, it can move along branches and trunks like a nuthatch, searching cracks and crevices for insects.

Orange-crowned Warbler: A drab warbler with olive-green upperparts and grey-yellow underparts, most Orange-crowned Warblers seen in fall and winter are very grey. Most Orange-crowned Warblers do not come through southern Alberta until the last two weeks of September and are sometimes accompanied by our next warbler, the Yellow-rumped.

Yellow-rumped Warbler: Brown above, streaked white below, the Yellow-rumped Warbler in winter plumage is best identified by it’s namesake yellow rump.

Other warblers that you might see this fall are the Ovenbird, the Blackpoll Warbler (in winter plumage), the Tennessee Warbler or even some more uncommon ones such as the Black-throated Green Warbler or a Townsend’s Warbler. Fall migration can prove to challenge every birdwatcher with identification, but this challenge can make birding a lot more fun!

Posted by Matthew Sim (In Texas)

Backyard Birds: Yellow Warbler

Have you seen a flash of yellow in your yard lately?

The Wood Warbler family is famous for their diversity in plumage, song, feeding and breeding biology. All of them are small birds with long, thin bills used for snapping up insects and larvae. Perhaps one of the easiest to identify is the Yellow Warbler, which has more yellow in its plumage than any other member of the family.

In spring breeding season, males have rusty streaks on the breast and flanks, a bright yellow face with conspicuous black eyes, and yellow upperparts. They are known to build another nest on top of an old one when Brown Cowbird eggs appear in it, which can result in up to six different layers.

Yellow Warblers can be seen around the city from mid May to mid September. These birds are widespread in most shrubby and second-growth habitats in North America, where they can be seen quickly hopping from branch to branch. This bird was busily flitting from the saskatoons and lilac shrubs to the poplar trees in my yard.

Posted by Pat Bumstead

Bird Songs 101

Ever heard that beautiful song coming from deep inside a dense bush, but don’t know what exactly is the source of that amazing sound?  You can check out this great site to help you match the song with the bird.

http://www.natureinstruct.org/dendroica/

The Blackpoll Warbler gives a very high-pitched song that can be inaudible at times.

Dendroica.com is a great site; whether you are a novice and just learning the songs, or you are a seasoned pro and brushing up for the spring migration. Photographs of the bird are provided on this site, as well as a description of the song or call and then the song itself. Once you have gotten familiar with the sounds, you can go out into the field with this newly-found or rediscovered knowledge, and be able to identify that beautiful song coming from deep inside the bush.

 

Posted by Matthew Sim