Thursday, November 9, 2017

Warbler Guy, what's a good web site to tell warblers from one another? Here's some warbler photos that perplex me for the ID of warblers.

Jessie, try looking at:

As for your warbler photos, below, here's my opinion as to their identities (from top to bottom):

Orange-crowned, Nashville, Orange-crowned, Yellow-breasted Chat

As for apps: iBird Pro (wonderful!)....Sibley Birds (equally excellent, and especially for gull species because the age class for each "cycle" is visually expressed well).

The Warbler Guide app is OK and is complementary to the field guide with the same name....but its breadth and depth is not as advanced as iBird Pro and Sibley Birds. There are several other FINE bird apps, so I don't wish to suggest this communique is comprehensive.

Enjoy the wood-warblers and birding fun, hosts my "Birding Tours" information.....and feature my current "Raptors of San Francisco Bay" college class that continues through 11/12/17.

Saturday, November 4, 2017

Warbler Guy, I wonder what the "alula" feathers are on a bird? Do warblers have alula feathers? What function do alula feathers do?

Sherry (in Helena, MT):

Great question (but NOT always one I receive....).

Here's a photo (BELOw) of a bird — a Common Pigeon — that highlights its alula feathers and notes their function: (Wood-warbler family members ALSO possess alula feathers, but they are more challenging to see....and best seen via museum specimens and/or in the hand when banding birds at a mist net station.)

Three to five feathers in wrist of the wing that are used in slow flight or landing, much as slots on an airplane.

As for the source of this photo, I thank Vireo and R. Curtis....and feel free to see more bird terms and vocabulary at:

Enjoy the birds and don't forget to lean over and fall back tonight one hour: Daylight savings ends, I'm sorry to say....Imminently, there's one fewer hour of birding to do in the afternoon (!) 

Daniel, with 
(hosts my "Birding Tours" information for the northern and central CA area....including the SF Bay Area birding tours I regularly lead....including today, when I'll bring my "Raptors of the San Francisco Bay Area" Merritt College class to Hawk Hill in Sausalito (Golden Gate Raptor Observatory) ).

Rock Pigeon      Columba livia

Thursday, October 26, 2017

Warbler Guy, is it possible to ID the "Audubon's" Yellow-rumped Warbler vs. the "Myrtle" subspecies by call notes? Where do I learn more about telling call notes by bird species?

Good question, Kristen:

Here's one general answer, that I dare say is also an oversimplification of this complex topic.

First, you are probably aware from your smart question that a "call" note is a different and distinct vocalization than a "song," — the latter of which is typically a learned and memorize rendition sung in most cases by males as a rhythmic vocalization of one or more phrases (e.g., think of a loquacious Northern Mockingbird).

A "call" note is one element. 

Most songbirds express one call note, ala your question, above.


Obviously, Yellow-rumped Warbler individuals are NOT currently 
singing during the non-breeding season, but you do often hear 
their loud chip or call notes where the subspecies Audubon’s 
and Myrtle Yellow-Rumped Warbler forage during the non-breeding season.

This is the case throughout the San Francisco Bay area 
where I live. In the fall and through March (and, even, 
into April), most of the Yellow-rumped Warblers seen 
and heard occur as the Audubon's subspecies. 
Sometimes, I am able to spot a Myrtle 
subspecies individual....though for every, 
say, 100 Audubon's I see in the SF Bay 
Area, approximately one is a Myrtle subspecies.

(Note the Audubon's subspecies nests in 
a few higher elevations in the SF Bay Area, 
including Marin County where I live (20 miles 
north of the Golden Gate Bridge).)

In many cases you can hear how the Myrtle 
(one of the subspecies of the Yellow-rumped 
Warbler species) has a flatter and softer 
chip note than the Audubon’s.
The “ch” component of the call note is 
weaker for the Myrtle and it often gives 
many calls in rapid succession.

However, be careful. Intergrades (individuals 
that display visual characteristics specific 
to both Audubon’s and Myrtle) may 
announce call notes of the other subspecies. 
In other words, it’s possible to see a bird that 
looks like an Audubon’s, but it’s call note 
sounds like a Myrtle. This individual could 
likely be an intergrade.

Regards, Daniel
(hosts my resume and my "Birding Tours" 
information for N. and Central CA tours that 
I have conducted since 2001)

Monday, October 16, 2017

Warbler Guy, I'm planning an upcoming California birding tour and want to go with a San Francisco birding guide. As I prepare, where do I check for "rare" bird alerts that will reveal which rare California bird species are recent sightings?

Hi Davey:

Here's the answer to your question, above:

To see recent bird species sightings throughout California, feel free to check:

This link features a composite list of all California listserv sites.

Click on one or more as you please to see the latest bird sightings lists posted by


Glad to help:

One "strange but true" facet of California birding relates to how most of the state soon expresses a touch of spring (already!), given the courtship dance of male Anna's hummingbird individuals are often observed this time of year (and especially by November and December, annually).

Initial egg laying by this common, year-round resident hummingbird species occurs as early as December. Multiple broods may be tended by a female during one breeding season, with July and August the latest months each year when final active nests are observed.

As for wood-warblers typically occurring on listservs currently in the SF Bay Area where I often serve as birding guide to hot spots such as Point Reyes National Seashore (Marin Co.) and Bodega Bay (Sonoma Co.), the once abundant in-migration Yellow Warbler (late summer through September) is now a rare sighting, with only the rare individual detected on local San Francisco Bay Area Christmas Bird Count forays.

More typical, it's common to see Yellow-rumped Warbler individuals in many habitats this time of year through March (Audubon's Yellow-rumped Warbler subspecies — Setophaga cornonata auduboni) is the most abundant subspecies in this species to observe, though the West Coast also attracts the occasional to uncommon Myrtle Yellow-rumped Warbler subspecies (Setophaga coronata coronata).

Feel free to review my web site's "Warbler ID Charts," if you wish additional info. and/or see the "Birding Links" articles and my "2017 Nature Watch Calendar" where several wood-warbler articles appear, among other information elements.

Regards, Daniel Edelstein
Consulting Avian Biologist,
Birding Guide,
& Birding Instructor (Merritt College, Oakland, CA)

Tuesday, September 26, 2017

Warbler Guy, are Myrtle and Audubon Yellow-rumped Warbler their own species? Or subspecies?

Fine question, Jerry (in Chicago).

As brief background, in 2017 the American Ornithological Society (AOS) voted down a measure that would have split Yellow-Rumped Warbler into different species* (see two notes, below, for more details related to the aforementioned sentence).

Many of you already know the Yellow-rumped Warbler currently occurs as at least two, three, or four subspecies (varying among taxonomic organization plans). Among the current taxonomic plans, the “Myrtle” group (coronata), and the “Audubon’s” group (auduboni) are accepted in every one, with “Black-fronted” (nigrifrons), and “Goldman’s” (goldmani) also noted in at least one other taxonomic plan. 

NOTE  #1: In the N.A. Birds Online account for this species, the following additional subspecies is described in the "Myrtle group (below photo)":  D. c. hooveri McGregor, 1899: Breeds in central and s.-central Alaska, se. Alaska, Yukon Territory, Mackenzie, and nw. British Columbia; intergrades with auduboni known from Stikine River, AK (). Like nominate coronata, slightly larger, with longer wing (minimum wing length 73.5 mm in females, 75.5 mm in first-year males, and 78.0 mm in adult males); more streaked below (Alternate-plumaged males) or paler brown (females). Characters broadly clinal where range meets that of nominate coronata; for this reason, hooveri not recognized by Hubbard (). More recently, hooveri maintained as valid (, R. Dickerman and P. Unitt pers. comm.).

(Audubon's Yellow-rumped subspecies appears in photo, below.)

NOTE #2: The International Ornithological Congress (IOC) differs from the AOS assessment of this species. It ALREADY splits the Yellow-rumped Warbler, thereby recognizing Audubon's and Myrtle as two species).

(* = The recent AOS rejection vote against creating additional divisions of the Yellow-rumped complex was based, in part, by several committee members who suggested the need for further genetic analysis and determination of the extent of interbreeding in the subspecies’ contact zones where the “Myrtle” group (coronata), and the “Audubon’s” group (auduboni) mix in western Canada. The status of two other subspecies — “Black-fronted” (nigrifrons), and “Goldman’s” (goldmani) remain unchanged according to at least one taxonomic organization plan.

Black-fronted is a resident in Mexico, and Goldman’s occurs only in southernmost Mexico and Guatemala. Neither of these two subspecies has been observed in the American Birding Association geographical area.

As for why, the IOC considers the Myrtle and Audubon's to represent two distinct species, the following 10 naming rules appear to guide the IOC's reasons for adopting name choices, with one or more the reason why the IOC divides the Yellow-rumped Warbler into two species: Myrtle Yellow-rumped Warbler and Audubon's Yellow-rumped Warbler:

1.            - Each species should have one name only.
2.            - A species name must be unique.
3.            - Anglicized names are acceptable.
4.            - Established names should prevail.
5.            - Local names should not have priority.
6.            - Offensive names should be changed.
7.            - Patronyms are acceptable without bias for or against.
8.            - Simplicity and brevity are virtues.
9.            - Use of the word “island” will be limited.
10.          - Species in the same genus may have different group names.

       For more information, see: 

Tuesday, September 12, 2017

Warbler Guy, which warblers are the most confusing to identify because they look like other species? Any tips to identify look-alike warblers?

Jamie (in Boston), I like the pictorial guide to confusing look-alike species in The Warbler Guide
("Comparison Species" corresponding to each warbler account and, in addition, pages 512-519 within the "Similar Non-Warbler Species" section).

(Orange-crowned Warbler is shown above.)

In this section, photographs of these look-alike birds feature both Ruby-crowned and Golden-crowned Kinglet, Bushtit, Verdin, Blue-gray Gnatcatcher, Black-Capped Chickadee, Blue-headed (and Plumbeous and Cassin's) Vireo, Yellow-throated Vireo, Red-eyed Vireo, Warbler Vireo, Philadelphia Vireo, Bell's Vireo, Sparrow species, and Eastern Towhee.

This field guide is excellent and recommend it for many other outstanding features that few other field guides host.

Happy Birding On These Last (Precious) Days Of Summer (!), Daniel
(hosts my resume and my "Birding Tours" addition to
birding articles, etc. at the "Birding Links" tab-button)