Thursday, May 24, 2018

Warbler Guy: Is the Yellow-Breasted Chat still a wood-warbler? Or did it get “kicked out” of its family? Why is the chat a wood-warbler?

Thanks for the question, Mary.

After many years of debate, the AOS (American Ornithological Society) in 2017 moved the yellow-breasted chat (Icteria virens) to the Icteriidae. It is the only member of this family.

As you may know, this seven-inch songbird was once a member of the New World warbler family (Parulidae)

The reorganization does not end the controversy among researchers. Several still believe blood analysis suggests the chat should remain in the Parulidae.

Thursday, May 3, 2018

Warbler Guy, does the spring Blackpoll Warbler migration distance equal its long distance trek in the fall?

Yes, Amy (in Baton Rouge), for some populations, Blackpoll’s north and southward migration routes are likely the longest of all wood-warbler family members. 

In the spring, populations travel north over the Gulf of Mexico before reaching the USA. Some eventually reach as far north as Alaska where they nest.

The well-noted 2,150 autumn migration distance some New England Blackpoll partake in the autumn as trans-ocean migrants is a breathtaking marvel. 

Seventy-two to 90 continuous hours of migration over the ocean by a half-ounce bird seems an impossible feat. But imagine the current spring-time migrants (see graphic, courtesy of the and the map created by eNature, which is supported by The Pew Charitable Trusts). Some travel 100-150 miles per night, with some doing so for weeks and eventually reaching Alaska after beginning their path in n. South America. Equally awe-inspiring, correct?

Tuesday, April 24, 2018

Join Me On My Upcoming Tanzania "Birds & Big Game" Tour (2/1 - 2/13/19)

Coordinated by an experienced, reputable travel tour firm -- Travels With Teri -- here's the summary of a majestic tour that I'm co-leading with an excellent Tanzania ornithologist & tour guide: (After reviewing, I'd be glad to send you the itinerary and other please feel free to contact me at

Timed to experience the best of Tanzania’s Birds & Big Game species, join Avian Biologist and birding guide Daniel Edelstein & Tanzanian Ornithologist Edwin Osujaki for this February 1-13, 2019 tour of prime-time game reserves and birding spots in Tanzania. You’ll encounter calving wildebeest and zebra during their Great Migration across the Serengeti Plains, in addition to likely sightings of the African “Big Five”: the African lion, the African leopard, the African elephant, the Cape buffalo, and the rhino (either white or black).

Expect to see millions of flamingos, while also enjoying Secretarybird, Vulturine Guineafowl, Grey-breasted Spurfowl, Fischer’s & Yellowed-collared Lovebird, Golden-breasted & Ashy Starling, Rufous-tailed Weaver, Kori Bustard, Bar-tailed Trogon, and Golden-winged Sunbird. The duel focus on birds and mammals will be a photographer’s dream, while birders will be pleased with visits to diverse habitats — forests, lakes, and savannas — that teem with rare and endemic species.

Space is limited to 10 people.

Note that Travels With Teri is a certified travel agency based in Petaluma, CA

Tuesday, April 17, 2018

Warbler Guy, which wood-warblers are endemic nesters to the continental U.S.?

Not many, Giselle, as only the Swainson’s, Virginia’s, Kentucky, Hermit, Golden-cheeked, and Yellow-throated Warbler have breeding ranges limited to areas within the lower 48 states.

To clarify, the Blackpoll Warbler does not qualify as an endemic nester to the continental U.S. because it breeds extensively in latitudes north (and into Canada) of the places where it breeds in the northern U.S.

(Below photo shows a male Kentucky Warbler.)

Sunday, March 18, 2018

Warbler Guy, is there a good warbler app? An app featuring warbler photos?

Yes, Avrial (in Miami):

I recommend the new warbler app from Princeton University Press.

The one I like is complementary to The Warbler Guide.

I copied and pasted from the Press's web site the following information:

The Warbler Guide App is the perfect companion to Princeton’s revolutionary and widely acclaimed book The Warbler Guide, by Tom Stephenson and Scott Whittle. Taking full advantage of the Apple iOS® platform, the app allows you to identify birds by view or song, quickly and intuitively.

Exciting new 3D graphics enable you to view a bird from the exact angle you see it in the field. And the whole range of warbler songs is easily played, compared, and filtered. Whether for study or field use, this innovative app delivers the full power of The Warbler Guide in your pocket, built from the ground up for the Apple iOS® platform, and complete with unique new app-only features.

Breakthrough features from The Warbler Guide book that are included in the app:
  • Rapid and confident two-step ID process using visual finders and comparison species
  • The first complete treatment of warbler songs, using a new objective vocabulary
  • An intuitive visual finder that includes side, 45 degree, and undertail views
  • Master Pages with detailed ID points
  • Complete guide to determining the age and sex of warblers with photos of all ages and sexes
  • Annotated sonograms showing song structure and key ID points
  • Complete songs, chip calls, and flight calls for all species
  • Comparison species for making confident visual and audio IDs
  • Many additional photos to show behavior and reinforce key ID points
  • Highlighted diagnostic ID points
  • Color Impression Icons for narrowing down ID of warblers from the briefest glimpses
  • Behavior and habitat icons

Unique new app-only features:
  • 3D models of birds in all plumages, rotatable and pinch-zoomable to match field experience of a bird
  • Intuitive, visual, and interactive finders with filters for possible species based on audio and visual criteria chosen by the user
  • Playback of all songs and vocalizations with sonograms makes study of vocalizations easy
  • iPhone® and iPad® versions let you take these useful tools into the field
  • Selectable finder sortings grouped by color, alphabetical order, song type, and taxonomic order
  • Interactive song finder using objective vocabulary for fast ID of unknown songs
  • Simultaneous visual and song finders makes identifying an unknown warbler even easier
  • Half-speed song playback allows for easier study of song structure
  • Comparison species with selectable side, 45 degree, and undertail views
  • Features 75 3D images
  • Covers 48 species and 75 plumages
  • Includes 277 vocalizations, 156 songs, 73 contact calls, and 48 flight calls

Saturday, February 17, 2018

Warbler Guy, what are some techniques I can use to increase my ability to remember warbler songs and commit them to my long-term memory? Birding by ear tips you recommend?

Excellent question, Bernice (in Chicago).

Everyone’s different, I have discovered, in terms of learning style in the field and progressing toward a Master’s of Science in IDing Birds By Ear.

That’s why I offer 10 diverse hints in my Top Ten Tips To Improving Your Birding By Ear handout that’s free at my web site:

There, first click on “Birding Links,” and when the next screen shows a menu of files, click on Top Ten Tips To Improving Your Birding By Ear to access it and/or print it.

As a prequel to what you’ll read, here’s one tip among the 10:

#5. “Draw” bird vocalizations using your own “short-hand” notation marks, ala the chapter in Sibley’s Birding Basics (i.e., a quasi-sonogram shorthand method that he introduces). After your birding foray and when you’re out of the field, use these written notation marks while listening to songs/calls on media (e.g., CDs) to ID the species you heard and/or better learn their song/call patterns.

Monday, January 29, 2018

Warbler Guy, where do I register for ebird rare alert email posts?

Henry (in Janesville, WI).....There's a page at to do this task.

The following information is accessed via:

eBird Rare Bird Alerts

This eBird Alert notifies you about any unusual bird that has been reported in your region of interest, and provides a link to the location and to the checklist so you can get more information about the sighting, and make the critical call as to whether it's worth calling in sick to work! You can choose to receive Rare Bird Alerts on either the county, state, or country level, and get notices for all rare birds in that region! Read on for details on how the rarities are determined.

Like all alerts
, you have the option to subscribe hourly, daily, or just to visit the Alerts page and click to see the results from the past seven days. Since most Alerts will be drawing on your eBird data, you are required to log in to see them. Check out the article on subscribing and unsubscribing to Alerts for more information.

How it works
The Rare Bird Alert works in conjunction with the regional eBird checklist filters. Every time a record is entered in eBird, the location and date of the sighting is run against a list of expected maximum counts for each species in the area. If the number of birds in the sighting exceeds those expected counts, you receive the eBird confirmation message (always a sign that you have found a good bird!), asking you to confirm your entry. An Oleaginous Hemispingus at eBird HQ in Sapsucker Woods would definitely show up on these reports. These records are then confirmed by our volunteer expert reviewers, and these steps are critical to our data quality process. These checklist filters define what constitutes a "rare bird" in a region by highlighting any species (or subspecies) with the count limit set to zero, and those are the reports featured in the Rare Bird Alerts! These Alerts include not only out-of-range birds, but also unseasonal sightings. So a Curve-billed Thrasher showing up in Vermont obviously would be considered a rarity, but so would a January report of Red-eyed Vireo from the same area. As with other alerts, rarity records that have not been reviewed by an eBird editor are labeled as "UNCONFIRMED". Once records have been reviewed and approved, they are labeled as "CONFIRMED".

eBird checklist filters 
Please be aware that our Rare Bird Alerts rely on the quality of the checklist filter running behind it. Although eBird is a global project, these checklist filters are still fairly coarse in many areas outside North America, and these coarse filters could miss some reports of rarities. The United States, Canada, Mexico, the Caribbean, Chile, Argentina, and Costa Rica as well as the United Kingdom, France, Portugal, Iceland, Australia, New Zealand, the South Pacific, and scattered other countries and regions have refined, detailed filters. But for many other countries the filters are in need of refinement from experts, including most of Africa and Asia, parts of Europe, and even some areas in the New World (Guyana, Colombia, and a few others). If you are willing to help develop filters in these parts of the world, we would welcome your help (please get in touch at Also, if you think a bird should show up on the Rare Bird Alert and it isn't, drop us a line so we can modify the filter accordingly!