Sunday, March 29, 2020

Warbler Guy: Do warblers migrate over the ocean or was this bird (below photo) confused and lost?


Thanks for the question, Kevin.

Here's my answer, though it's a simplified one to your question that deserves more ink than this digital retorte provides.

*

Given your interesting photo of the Black-Throated Gray Warbler that landed on your boat’s deck while amid the Pacific Ocean, it’s 100% certain that your unfortunate friend is lost and wayward from its normal southern migration route. More exact, no wood-warbler species on the West Coast have yet been discovered to migrate to non-breeding/wintering grounds via an oceanic route.

On the West Coast, only disoriented and/or wind blown wood-warblers show up on offshore islands, such as those often seen by bird banders/researchers stationed at the central California chain of islands called the Farallones. Here, banders have captured in their nets various species of so-called eastern wood-warblers. Others, like the Black-Throated Gray in the photo, below, are wayward sojourners desperate for a wayside to rest upon while fighting to survive in a pelagic habitat that offers no food resources.

Unfortunately, the vast majority of wood-warblers seen resting on boat decks, buoys, and rip-rap along coastal and deep water habitats typically are hatch year birds. Most will either perish while traveling over the Pacific ocean before reaching island refugia such as the Farallones or incur high mortality after being set free by banders that discover them. Some researchers suggest eastern wood-warblers found on the West Coast (including Farallone Island individuals") are inherently "dyslexic" in the sense they do not have the orientation design necessary to complete the classic migration routes that their brethren successfully negotiate each spring and autumn on their north and south peregrinations.

Beyond the West Coast, trans-oceanic migration by songbirds is rare -- and, in the wood-warblers seen in N. America north of Mexico, it is only documented to occur in a few species.

One of them, for example, the Blackpoll is known to contain populations that in autumn perform the high-octane feat of an ocean migration route that totals more than 2,150 miles (NE USA/Maritime Provinces to northern South America).

How do researchers know the Blackpoll performs such a magician's stunt annually?

It's because bird bander's in Bermuda (an island east-southeast of the southeastern USA) band birds in the autumn, and, thereby, sometimes catch Blackpoll in their nets. Evidently, Bermuda is in line with the route over which Blackpoll travel during their southbound migration and this small island serves as a stopover wayside area for Blackpoll that wish to stop and "refuel" before leaving to migrate south again at night.

High-octane is an apt description of the Blackpoll's Herculean task because many leave their "staging" grounds en masse with other Blackpolls and fly en route together as heavyweight butterballs while weighing as much as 26 grams (nearly an ounce) at the beginning of their air treks.

By the end of the Blackpolls' long-distance trip, however, they have been documented to have lost half their starting weights. Emaciated and Twiggy-Thin Blackpoll, therefore, in some cases, are known to digest their muscle to serve as a last resort energy source.

While winging south, researchers have figured Blackpolls burn .08 grams per hour during their three to four days of travel, a process that is a non-stop direct flight, if the Blackpoll does not stop at island refugia such as Bermuda. In comparison, such a weight loss program for club members and gym rats on two legs would mean a 20-pound or more evaporation of girth per day (for the typical weight of 6' tall male or 5'6" female).

Now there's a weight loss program that would attract headlines and lead to a manic panic for (I imagine) a best-selling book titled: "Migrating With a TailWind To A Fat-Free Lifestyle." :-)

Regards, Daniel Edelstein

Birding Guide

&

Avian Biologist

warblerwatch.com

Wednesday, March 11, 2020

Warbler Guy, I saw a nectar-drinking warbler at my feeder? Which warblers drink nectar? Warblers act like hummingbirds?

"Yes," Stevie (in Orlando):

Although it sounds strange, a few warbler species visit hummingbird feeders, including
Orange-crowned, Nashville, Virginia, Yellow, Black-throated Green, Prothonotary, and Cape May.



(Above, Orange-crowned Warbler feeding at a hummingbird feeder)

The initial above three species tend to have longer bills that are adapted to successfully obtain
the sweet elixir (that provides them supplementary carbohydrates beyond the protein-rich insects they seek).

Cape May, by the way, even gobbles jelly birders serve to tanagers and orioles in their yards — so be on the watch for warblers at your bird feeders, folks.

Or simply grab your binoculars and enjoy a walk down your favorite trail.

Look for our fine-colored feathered friends that winging their way north, with the imminent return of several likely in the southeast, Mid-atlantic, and, yes, even the upper Midwest where a few anomalous Yellow-rumped Warblers are already present (as over-wintering individuals or early returning migrants by the end of March/early April).

Happy birding to you, Daniel

warblerwatch.com {features several free birding information handouts (including some excellent articles by David Sibley) via my "Birding Links" area and information about my 25+ years of birding tours and bird guiding services (via my "Birding Tours" area)}


Sunday, February 9, 2020

Warbler Guy, I live in the SF Bay Area where I observed in early February a Wilson's Warbler. Do you think it's an early migrant or a non-breeding season resident that is "over-wintering" without migrating?

Good question, Penelope (in San Francisco).

There's a good chance your Wilson's Warbler sighting was over-wintering straggler that did not migrate farther south like the behavior expressed by the vast majority of this species. (See range map, below, courtesy of Birds of North America online.)




male Wilson's Warbler (credit to Martin Meyers)



North-bound migrants that over-winter in, say, Mexico may return as early as mid-March in the SF Bay Area, but your early February sighting is typically too early for a true long-distance migrant.

Nonetheless, it's not uncommon for over-wintering Wilson's Warbler individuals to periodically appear throughout the winter months in the northern latitudes of California, including nearly annually sightings during Christmas Bird Counts in the region.

Monday, January 20, 2020

Warbler Guy, I saw a nectar-drinking warbler at my feeder? Which warblers drink nectar? Warblers act like hummingbirds?


"Yes," Stevie (in Orlando):

Although it sounds strange, a few warbler species visit hummingbird feeders, including
Orange-crowned, Nashville, Virginia, Yellow, Black-throated Green, Prothonotary, and Cape May.



(Above, Orange-crowned Warbler feeding at a hummingbird feeder)

The initial above three species tend to have longer bills that are adapted to successfully obtain
the sweet elixir (that provides them supplementary carbohydrates beyond the protein-rich insects they seek).

Cape May, by the way, even gobbles jelly birders serve to tanagers and orioles in their yards — so be on the watch for warblers at your bird feeders, folks.

Or simply grab your binoculars and enjoy a walk down your favorite trail.

Look for our fine-colored feathered friends that winging their way north, with the imminent return of several likely in the southeast, Mid-atlantic, and, yes, even the upper Midwest where a few anomalous Yellow-rumped Warblers are already present (as over-wintering individuals or early returning migrants by the end of March/early April).

Happy birding to you, Daniel

warblerwatch.com {features several free birding information handouts (including some excellent articles by David Sibley) via my "Birding Links" area and information about my 25+ years of birding tours and bird guiding services (via my "Birding Tours" area)}

Thursday, January 2, 2020

Warbler Guy: Which wood-warbler species' utilize non-breeding season habitat in the tropics that includes "shade grown" coffee farms? In theory, is it correct that changing coffee drinking patterns favoring "shade grown" coffee could benefit songbirds such as wood-warblers?

The brief answer, Jeremiah (in Rockford, IL)
is to note that several wood-warbler species likely
benefit from changed coffee farming methods that
favor “shade-grown” coffee, including Canada, Wilson's, Black-throated Green, and Cerulean Warbler. Cerulean populations, in specific, have dropped precipitously, perhaps in part due to habitat destruction of their "wintering" grounds (per Breeding Bird Survey trends and results suggested by other monitoring efforts).

To learn more (go to the ShadeCoffee.org web site) and/or see the following two links:

http:nationalzoo.si.edu/scbi.migratorybirds/coffee

(For a nice overview of a blog site article related to the benefits of using "shade grown" coffee as your morning delight choice, please see: http://naturallyavian.blogspot.com)


http://www.fws.gov/birds/documents/LR-CoffeeBirds.pdf


https://docs.google.com/viewer?a=v&q=cache:Q-jkmF-HQo0J:www.birdsandbeans.com/FactSheetonMigratoryBirdsinShadeCoffeePlantations.pdf+wood-warbler+coffee&hl=en&gl=us&pid=bl&srcid=ADGEESgo8sf7YWBtzwF50tIobylT4yhhqTVHtvs4vE3ujvWkY7ojYEkbcXcnMcV1NnuG-Us4KwjijFJPnZHbMZr4IsoYcLk7vXHs4RjZYBe-hbao2RUJv5QcEXLoT6Cpy7V5uxSW8Eh0&sig=AHIEtbR537Bc4GGn3274ZYuQ-eVv6Rs0zg

Sunday, December 22, 2019

Warbler Guy, do female warblers sing? If so, how many singing warbler females occur? Or only males sing? What about other singing female songbirds? Yes? No?

Yes, Hanna (in Fargo) it's true — some female wood-warblers sing.

But not many. 

Only two of our New World wood-warbler family members sing — Yellow and American Red-start — according to Jon Dunn and Kimball Garrett, author of the "Warblers" field guide (Peterson Guide Field Guide Series, Houghton Mifflin, 1997).

Then again, note Dunn and Garrett's findings are 22 years old. In recent years, researchers have witnessed several more female songbird order members expressing song. So, it's possible one or more other wood-warbler female species also perform song renditions.

Why do fewer females than males sing among songbirds? Speculation abounds, but one recent theory is that the majority of females previously sang, but through time lost their ability to do so
while males retained song as a primary function.

Next, note that wood-warblers are like most other songbirds. They experience a period of practicing a song in a stage that is called "plasticity."

Depending on the species of wood-warbler, true, definitive adult song is achieved by no later than the commencement of the following breeding season after a newborn singer arrives in a previous year's brood.

When that moment of virtuosity appears, it's called "crystalization" (when complete, full, learned song can be repeated by an individual).

Now there's a magnificent term that rings a chord of delight in any birder's heart.

(I still haven't revealed who the female singing species of wood-warblers are on the landscape. If you wish to know before the quiz deadline occurs, please feel free to email me:
danieledelstein@att.net)

Regards, Daniel Edelstein

Birding Guide

&

Avian Biologist

Tuesday, November 26, 2019

Warbler Guy, where can I read about nesting warblers? Get warbler information? Learn about warbler migration for each warbler species; Identify mystery warblers by reading about them?

Syd, you cannot go wrong by visiting:
1.
http://bna.birds.cornell.edu/bna/

This site features a comprehensive list of more than 720 North American species, with all of this area's Parulidae (warbler family) members present.

Yes, it costs money: $42 per year or $100 for three years.

Thumbs up. Way up. 

2. The Warbler Guide (2012, Tom Stephenson & Scott Whittle, Princeton University Press)



Comprehensive. A-1. Look on Amazon or many blog site that review this excellent field guide.

Email me with any warbler questions, of course, as I read this guide regularly....and I'm glad to answer your warbler questions:  danieledelstein@ att.net
warblerwatch.com (Feel free to see my "Warbler Tips ID Charts" at my Birding Links area at my home page.)