Last of the Warblers
This is just about the end of the Spring migration for those cute, colorful warblers. A few stay around here and breed, but most are on their way to northern states. It is a brief challenge to capture a nice shot, and to remember what they are called. It seems I have to learn them over again each Spring!
The Black-and-white Warbler is one of the first to arrive, in fact I saw one briefly at Quintana Neotropical Sanctuary in early March. This tiny bird travels around tree trunks and branches much like the Nuthatch; they move up the tree as they hunt for insects and grubs. It is supposed to have a high, squeaky song, but I am not good at audio identification, unless it is loud and distinctive. Like American Bitterns.
These two were at the drip at Lafitte's Cove and I got nice examples of both the male and female. She is a duller version, and has a white throat. Was this a mated pair? I have no idea. When they do get to breeding/nesting grounds, the male will defend the territory around the nesting site chosen by the female. The clutch size is 4-6 eggs and they might have two broods a year.
This handsome fellow is a Black-throated Green Warbler. He is headed to the forests of the Appalachians, the northeastern US and Canada. He picks insects and prey from leaves and smaller branches.
Everyone has a niche to exploit.
Do any of these cute guys stay around here? Yes, the Northern Parula has wintered in Central America and will breed in the eastern US and parts of Canada. Lucky for us, this little one will find a mate and raise chicks in trees with Spanish moss. I have seen them at Brazos Bend State Park during the summer, but never any nests or babies.
I just love this little Philadelphia Vireo. He isn't as colorful as some of the others, but he was inquisitive and cooperative. He is headed all the way to Canada, and doesn't breed in Philadelphia. He resembles the Tennessee Warbler a great deal; in fact I couldn't tell them apart and relied on the binocular birders to identify this one. I found this info on a page about Tennessee birds:
The Philadelphia Vireo gets its name because the specimen used to describe the species was collected in Philadelphia during migration by John Cassin in 1851. A nineteenth-century local name for this species was Brotherly-love Vireo.
The female Hooded Warblers are just a tad less bright as the male and lack the dark black hood. These birds winter in Mexico and Central America on the Caribbean side and are quite feisty. The males and females maintain well-defined separate territories during winter.
All birds are vulnerable to loss of habitat but the Hooded Warbler is also frequently parasitized by Cowbirds. We see Brown-headed cowbirds in mixed flocks with Grackles and Red-winged blackbirds. Cowbirds feed on insects, especially those that may be stirred up by cattle. They have evolved a strategy to stay with the herd; forego building nests and just lay their eggs in with a host's eggs. They are quite clever and will often remove an egg so the number stays the same. The unwitting host then incubates and raises their chick. Cardinals will often feed the larger interloper at the expense of their own chicks, but some birds recognize the strange egg and evict it from the nest. It is called Brood Parasitism if you want to read more; there are any number of adaptations.
Magnolia Warblers winter in Central America and are just passing through to the New England states and Canadian forests. The males arrive on the breeding grounds first and establish their territory. He has two songs; one to defend the territory and another to attract a mate. This one has a white eyebrow that shows up in other photos, but looks faint here. Identification is tricky and I am grateful to the binocular birders for their help.
Spring migration is about over for the little warblers. I feel good about the new ones I saw and photographed this year, but the Painted Bunting eluded me again. Perhaps next year.
Any new birds in your yard this Spring? or nests in strange places? Let me know in the comments below.