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" information....in addition to
birding articles, etc. at the "Birding Links" tab-button)

Wednesday, August 30, 2017

Warbler Guy, last time I wrote you mentioned late summer is when the initial waves of wood-warblers start migrating, correct? Migrating warblers occur through which date in the Midwest? Warbler dispersal begins when, please?

Joey (in Chicago):

Interesting question that you pose given a recent report from Ryan Brady, an ornithologist/bird researcher/scientist for the Wisconsin DNR. See his list of 20 wood-warbler species that he detected on 8/29/17 near Bayfield/Washburn, WI (near Lake Superior): (Then see more of my commentary, below.)

From: Ryan Brady <ryanbrady10@hotmail.com>
Subject: [wisb] 20 warbler sp. - Bayfield County
Date: Wed, 30 Aug 2017 01:50:37 +0000

An excellent flight last night brought 20 species of warblers to the trails around my property this morning, including Golden-winged, Blackpolls, Bay-breasteds, Mournings, Palms, Pine, and more. Thrushes were on the move in the morning fog, yielding some Swainson's and my first Gray-cheekeds of the fall. Also had my first Lincoln's Sparrow and a nice push of 3 Yellow-bellied Flycatchers.

Full eBird checklist at http://ebird.org/ebird/wi/view/checklist/S38887593

Ryan Brady
Washburn, Bayfield County, WI


Responding more to your questions, above:

Dispersal begins earlier than migration. Fledgings leave the nest and begin their independent lives while foraging BEFORE eventually migrating. So newborns may linger in an area near where they were born. By mid- to late-August at upper Midwest latitudes, some begin to migrate south while other species -- such as American Redstart, Palm Warbler, Yellow-rumped Warbler, among others — may have a protracted migration. These three species are among the latest to leave northern latitudes, with some Yellow-rumped and Palm remaining through November and December -- and, in recent years, some of both species persisting through Christmas Bird Count surveys in the upper Midwest (and even remaining throughout the winter in some cases). Pine Warbler may also persist late while sometimes feeding at seed feeders after an insect fauna is depleted with freezing temperatures.

A nice resource to read about breeding vs. non-breeding ground ranges of wood-warblers is in Warblers (the field guide from 1998 by Jon Dunn & Kimball Garrett). Its information is dated in spots, but most of the text remains valid. As a more updated complement, I also refer to the fantastic The Warbler Guide (Tom Stephenson & Scott Whittle, Princeton University Press, 2013). This guide's range maps for migration and breeding/non-breeding ranges more accurate in some cases than Warblers, with more comprehensive photos for each species. You won't be sorry for purchasing both books.

Enjoy the migration, everyone....and time for my raptor class at Merritt College to begin next week (BIOL 80A, Raptors Of The San Francisco Bay Area....via danielsmerrittclasses.blogspot.com)

Regards, Daniel
warblerwatch.com (hosts my "Birding Tours" information)

Friday, August 11, 2017

Warbler Guy, did the proposal to split Yellow-rumped Warbler into three species pass? Or is the Yellow-rumped Warbler still considered three subspecies by the American Ornithological Society (AOS)?

No, sorry, Kristi (in Middleton, CA): The American Ornithological Society did NOT pass this proposal in 2017.Here's the comments from the AOS Committee on Classification and Nomenclature (North & Middle America committee members as to why this proposal did not pass: (Regards, Daniel Edelstein, Avian Biologist & Birding Guide, warblerwatch.com)

Proposal: Split Yellow-rumped Warbler Setophaga coronata into three species
YES - 1 without comment.
YES. A side note – The Toews paper (published in The Auk) states in the introduction "….the complex is currently treated as a single species, Setophaga coronata, by the American Ornithologists' Union, but as 3 species by the International Ornithological Committee (IOC); we used the IOC taxonomy in this article." I think AOU publications should follow AOU taxonomy. This point should to be made to the editor, if it hasn't already.
YES to split of goldmani, given how well-differentiated genetically and morphologically it is. A weak YES to split of coronatus and auduboni (despite the hybrid zone), given the indirect evidence for post-mating isolating mechanisms (which are after all isolating mechanisms), their different calls, and their differing morphology.
YES. First, I think the level of plumage and genetic differentiation between goldmani and other coronata taxa is comparable to differences among species in other closely related species groups in Setophaga. Therefore goldmani should be treated as a species. In regards to coronata/auduboni, the lack of assortative mating is troublesome, but I think the proposal does an adequate job to show that selection against hybrids is operating at some scale, as is selection for traits that are differentiating these taxa. This selection appears to be stable or increasing, which will further barriers to introgression through time.
YES. A strong yes, in fact. I feel that the weight of the evidence is now strongly in favor of this re-split. The genomic evidence is very strong that (for example) auduboni and coronata are well-differentiated, and that some regions of their genomes are under differential selection. Within the hybrid zone there appears to be no assortative mating (= little prezygotic isolation), but there does appear to be only limited genetic introgression and some form of selection against hybrids (= substantial postzygotic isolation). This scenario is the one theoretically expected in the early stages of full speciation under the BSC, where the postzygotic fitness consequences of hybridization impose selection (aka reinforcement) that leads to the later evolution of pre-mating isolation. Moreover, the hybrid zone itself is narrow and apparently stable, despite the vast population sizes of these birds and their very high dispersal potential. And phenotypically they are very easily distinguished. On an aside: the evidence is even stronger for recognizing goldmani as a full species.
NO. The problem here as I see it is the hybrid zone between coronata and auduboni. There is no evidence that there is assortative mating where they come together, and they hybridize like crazy. The evidence of postzygotic selection against hybrids (Toews and Irwin 2009) is important, and I agree it is likely that "some form of selection impedes the fusion of the Myrtle and Audubon’s forms." (T & I 2009:3057). But this is a long way from species-level stuff. Evidence of adaptation is not evidence of speciation, and I think that may be being confused here: a lot of adaptation occurs between populations that are not species. Selection for particular alleles across geographic space and a shift in such a selection regime across subspecies boundaries and non-assortative (and extensive) mating at a contact zone screams "subspecies" to me.
Brelsford & Irwin (2009) said it well in their title "Incipient speciation despite little assortative mating," and in the abstract: "Pairing data indicate that assortative mating is either very weak or absent…"  and "…there is moderate reproductive isolation between these populations…" Adaptation to different selection regimes (probably natural and sexual in this case) is great, and while reinforcement does appear to be occurring, it is only able to apparently stabilize what are actually pretty high rates of gene flow at least away from the contact zones." Toews et al. (2016) included multiple samples from each subspecies, but did not sample birds from the contact zone between S. c. coronata and S. c. auduboni." This leads to their uncertainty over whether more homogenized regions of the genome are due to hybridization or gene flow. Let me tell you from the specimens: gene flow will be responsible for a lot of it. I agree that "Clearly, performing additional genomic assays from birds across regions of sympatry will be beneficial." (Toews et al. 2016:708).
These populations are a wonderful example of the speciation process, but the birds' behavior in contact shows that they fit the concept of subspecies rather than the closer-to-evolutionary-independence we expect from full biological species. In sum, I do not consider there to be enough reproductive isolation yet established to make these anything more than a subspecies pair headed perhaps at some distant date to become (nearly) fully reproductively isolated. Saying that they are so now (biological species) suggests that we’re guessing a long way into the future, and that the substantial levels of gene flow occurring now are somehow not consequential. They may be genomically diagnosable, but they are far from genomically independent, given levels of gene flow.
Genetic differentiation of goldmani is expected for an isolated population smaller than the others, simply through drift (as Toews et al. 2016:706 noted). So genetic distinctiveness and isolation are not good metrics of limits of biological species, in my view. Phenotype needs to be more rigorously assessed in relation to other closely related members, and coronata and auduboni suggest well-differentiated subspecies are still not reproductively isolated. So as to whether goldmani is a species, I think we will want to know a great deal more.
NO. Maintain as one species, for now. I'm sorry, but I just can't get past the issue "of little assortative mating in the hybrid zone." If you believe in the BSC as I do, that's pretty much it. And I'm not sure what the "indirect evidence for selection against hybrids in the contact zone" means. I can readily identify these two ssp. groups. They not only look different, both in alternate and basic plumage, their call notes sound different. I think songs differ too, but both have a variety of songs. Here in the West, "Myrtles" prefer more mesic habitats. The motion alludes to the NACC having merged various taxa in this complex, notably hooveri with nominate coronata and memorablis with auduboni. I don’t think the NACC has taken any position on ssp. since 1957. I believe memorablis is mainly a size ssp. (larger), but plumage differences have been described from hooveri, especially in basic plumage.
I look at lots of Yellow-rumped Warblers here in the West, and have only a few times been pretty sure of hybrids. On the other hand, I don't look that carefully at every bird, and identifying a basic plumaged bird would be pretty problematical. I did see several hybrids in summer along the Stikine River, southeast Alaska, and I believe there are pretty much all hybrids along one river, I think in northern BC.
One thing that interests me is the disgestive system of this species. "Myrtles" are well-studied and they are able to digest bayberries, wax myrtle berries, poison ivy and poison oak berries, something that other wood warblers can't do. That's why "Myrtles" winter so far north, as far north as the southern Great Lakes and Nova Scotia and they can be abundant in mid-winter on the Mid-Atlantic coast. Are Audubon's able to digest these berries as easily with comparable plants in the West?
Anyway, for now, I'm comfortable with a one species concept. As for nigrifrons I would be very surprised that they merit being treated as a separate species. I've seen them in Chihuahua and yes they did look blacker, but they sounded like "Audubon's" farther north. The distance isn't that far from the Sky Islands of the Southwest, where intergrades have been noted in southwest New Mexico and southeast Arizona. As for goldmani this is an interesting case that merits further study. I'm told that folks seeing them in Guatemala report them giving very different songs, but don't know if there are recordings (maybe some put on a web site?). I did not see them on the hike for the Horned Guans in southwest Chiapas, so guess they occur elsewhere in Chiapas. The BNA account (Hunt and Flaspohler 1998) state: "In this subspecies, Alternate and Basic plumages of adult males nearly identical; there may be no Prealternate molt (Hubbard 1970, 1980)."  If that's true, it certainly is suggestive for separate species status.
Hunt, P.D., and D.J. Flaspohler. 1998. Yellow-rumped Warbler (Dendroica coronate). In The Birds of North America, No. 376 (A. Poole and F. Gill, eds.).  The Birds of North America, Inc., Philadelphia, PA.
NO. At the outset, I would like to make it clear that I have always "disliked" the Myrtle-Audubon’s lump because in my tidy little worldview, if I can identify two taxa by call note as far away as I can see them, they "have to be" species.  In fact, to this day, I use "Myrtle" and "Audubon’s" in my field notes etc. Also at the outset, I find these genetic data interesting and important to understanding the history and process of diversification, and I applaud the authors of the recent papers for making substantial progress. But application of my tidy little worldview to real world situations is, predictably, not always tidy, and application of genetic data to taxonomy is not always straightforward.
Specifically, as confirmed by these recent papers, there is no evidence for assortative mating at the Audubon’s-Myrtle contact zone. Hubbard's original results based on phenotype are confirmed by genetic analyses. Despite the call note differences and fairly conspicuous plumage differences, they are not isolating mechanisms – the two taxa treat each other as "same" where given the chance to show us the relevance of these characters --- these differences evidently make no difference when it comes to mate choice. So, if these two taxa don’t treat each other as different species (my version of BSC), why should we? Perhaps rescuing my tidy worldview is that as far as is known songs of Audubon's and Myrtle are not readily distinguishable, although I don't think this has been adequately studied. Thus, perhaps it isn't a surprise that the two are not reproductively isolated. Toews et al. (2016) used song playback to capture individuals, and I wish they had reported on the details of this, i.e. whether responses were equivalent, etc.
The authors found evidence for selection against hybrids away from the contact zone and interpret that as evidence for reproductive isolation. This is the same interpretation of the BSC that, unfortunately, allowed the Scrub Jay split to pass, a result with which I strongly disagree. Neglected in this interpretation of the BSC is that there is presumably selection against intergrades away from the contact zone in EVERY parapatric subspecies pair. Otherwise, there would be a smooth cline between subspecies taxa and thus  …. they would not be treated as valid subspecies. Presumably natural selection favors the phenotype-genotype combination that characterizes the populations of diagnosable subspecies away from zones of intergradation. The only "escape clause" from this conclusion is that the situation is not in equilibrium. However, because most subspecies follow biogeographic patterns, selection favoring those phenotype-genotype plateaus is implied. Therefore, the phenotypic and genetic results of the recent studies favor ranking them as subspecies, not species, opposite of their published recommendations and those of the proposal. In other words, if Myrtle and Audubon’s are ranked as species under this interpretation of the BSC, then all parapatric, diagnosable subspecies with zones of introgression should also be elevated to species rank.
As for ranking the allotaxa goldmani and nigrifrons as separate species, this would require showing that these taxa have diverged from coronata and each other in song more so than coronata and auduboni have, preferably also with playback trials. Such trials and comparative analyses of vocalizations have obvious problems in interpretation … but so does every set of criteria for species delimitation. What song and playback trials have going for them is that they consistently predict absence or presence of free gene flow between parapatric and sympatric taxa --- thus, they work, empirically, for predicting the all-important process of gene flow (as in the Toews-Irwin study of Winter vs. Pacific wrens). As for the problems with use of song in oscines because it is "learned," this oversimplification should not be perpetuated. First, oscines are genetically hard-wired to learn there "own" songs --- otherwise, for example, in areas where multiple wood-warblers are syntopic, they would all just sing the same Esperanto song. Second, experiments show that some components of song are genetically determined: genetics constrains which components of song are learned vs. inherited. I look forward to seeing published results on song differences (as hinted in the proposal).
I end with a string of minor comments on the evidence. (1) Because as far as I can tell, no specimens were collected, all interpretations of phenotype are evidently based on in-hand inspection in the field; perhaps digging into some of the background studies would reveal that there are archived photos for each individual? (2) As for the finding that nigrifrons and goldmani are reciprocally monophyletic, although this has an awesome ring to it, keep in mind that it is based on a limited N of individuals and loci, and so in any such statements, one additional sample might erase such proclamations, i.e. all such proclamations should be accompanied with the qualifier "based on N individuals and loci." (3) As for the general finding that all four taxa are genetically defined, we "already know this" assuming that the plumage characters that define the four taxa have a genetic basis. That neutral loci also reflect the genetic differences underlying the phenotypic differences is interesting but taxonomically not particularly relevant. (4) That there is no gene flow between auduboni and nigrifrons despite nonbreeding sympatry is expected; the only wintering audubonithat might remain in the range of nigrifrons during the breeding season are probably defective individuals that would be unlikely to breed, and even if they did, the rarity of those events might make them difficult to detect without much larger N. (5) I really look forward to studies of the potential contact zones between auduboni and nigrifrons.
NO. After reading the commentary from both the pro-split and pro-lump camps, I think that leaving these taxa together best represents the admittedly complex and somewhat intermediate situation that these taxa represent. I am open to being persuaded otherwise, however.
NO. Like the other "No" votes here, I think that the lack of assortative mating in the contact zone between coronata and auduboni argues against recognizing them as biological species - along with the lack of known song differences. It's unfortunate that the genomic data didn't include sampling in/near the contact zone. I wonder why those samples were not included? I could possibly be convinced to split goldmani given genetic and morphologic differences, but would like to see the unpublished data on vocal differences.

Friday, July 21, 2017

Warbler Guy, which warbler species are the most confusing to identify because they look like other ones? 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 Summer, Daniel



Wednesday, July 5, 2017

Warbler Guy, what's one quick tip to improve my birding by ear? Bird song memory is hard! -- so tips to learning bird songs and bird calls would be appreciated.

Here's a fast relief pill to take online for learning wood-warbler songs:

Go to the following web site that's associated with the excellent new book titled
The Warbler Guide (by Scott Whittle and Tom Stephenson):


You may also wish to view:


and click on the "Companion Guide" button on the right side......Excellent information (!)

Otherwise, feel free to see my web site's home page and the "Birding Links" tab pulldown menu where a free handout titled "Top 10 Tips To Improving Your Birding By Ear" appears.

Happy warbler hunting to all, Daniel

Birding Guide

(features my "Birding Tours" section for the northern/central CA area where I typically lead tours)


Saturday, June 24, 2017

Warbler Guy, which bird apps are the best to buy? There's a warbler app? Best bird app or best bird apps to buy?

Excellent idea, Joannie.

1. I suggest you purchase the fine wood-warbler-centric app that corresponds to The Warbler Guide:

It's found at the iTunes store or at the Google Plus store

Buying the book is also a good idea, if you wish a nice resource to complement the classic Warbler field guide in the Peterson Guide Series (Peterson Guide To Warblers, Jon Dunn & Kimball Garrett, 1997, Houghton Mifflin).

2. I also use:

iBird Pro

Sibley Birds

Both of these apps are EXCELLENT

I especially like the sonogram expression on the iBird Pro whereupon a song plays and I see the sonogram represented as the song progresses.

As for a GREAT Sibley Birds feature: the gull section is wonderful, given each age class phase (First Cycle through definitive plumage) is shown for each gull species.

So, for example, seeing the different age class phases/cycles of the Western Gull vs. the Glaucous-winged Gull is important because these two can hybridize and/or the 1st and 2nd cycle phases are sometimes challenging to distinguish in the field.

Sibley's app ALSO features different songs from various USA areas that are different song versions than those found in iBird Pro.....hence, both of these apps are complementary....and, as a result, I use each one often, especially on my bird tours that I regularly conduct for birders that hire me.

In other words, I like to let them listen to the songs of the bird species we are pursuing, especially if a birder is NOT familiar with the songs of the species we are seeking during a foray.

Regards and happy summer, Daniel

warblerwatch.com (features my "Bird Tours" area & my resume)

warblerwatch.blogspot.com (# for this blog...which is now nine years old...)

Friday, June 9, 2017

Warbler Guy: What “strange” common names were previously designated for some of our wood-warblers?

(The above Black-Throated Blue female's vastly different appearance in comparison to a definitive male of the species is suggested to be the reason John James Audubon named it a different common name, the Pine Swamp Warbler.)

Common Yellowthroat was once often referred to as Maryland Yellowthroat. John James Audubon mistakenly named two Yellow Warblers as Children’s Warbler. In another instance, Audubon misnamed two juvenile Yellow Warblers as Rathbone’s Warbler.

Audubon was not alone in his naming confusion. Beyond Audubon, naturalist/painter Alexander Wilson also made his share of identification mistakes. Both of these luminaries – as well as other contemporary birding experts in bygone eras – are to be excused because during their tenures little was known about the relationship between plumage changes and corresponding definitive field characteristics.

Audubon’s failed nomenclature decisions periodically continued to surface as he gathered specimens for his paintings. Originally calling a bird specimen he collected in Pennsylvania the Pine Swamp Warbler, he later realized his subject was truly a Black-Throated Blue Warbler.

Later, Audubon was misled by Wilson’s naming procedure into thinking a Blackburnian Warbler was worthy of being designated a new species, the Hemlock Warbler. Audubon, in fact, was never able to correct this misnaming mistake. Another misplay hearkens to May 1812, when Audubon caught a wood-warbler specimen that he named Vigor’s Warbler in honor of Nicholas Vigor, an English naturalist. More correctly, Audubon’s find was an immature Pine Warbler. His confusion was probably the result of the collected individual being in vastly different habitat than its usual pine/needle tree haunts.

Even the Canada Warbler was originally misnamed by Audubon. When he first drew the bird as it perched on the fruiting branch of a magnolia, Audubon suggested it be named the Cypress Swamp Flycatcher. Later he changed his mind, renaming the bird as Bonaparte’s Flycatcher only to again change its designation to Bonaparte’s Flycatching Warbler.

Eventually, it was confirmed that Audubon’s specimen was instead a young female Canada Warbler. Eight years later, Audubon painted the same species and mistakenly called it a Canada Flycatcher.

Monday, May 29, 2017

Answer To Quiz: "Which wood-warbler females are known to sing?"

Good news, Quiz Takers...(far right side column): Most of you are correct....as female Yellow Warbler and American Redstart are known to occasionally sing, per my reading of the Warbler Field Guide (Jon Dunn & Kimball Garrett, Houghton Mifflin, 1997).

That's not to say other wood-warbler females are not periodic singers, especially because the aforementioned resource has NOT been updated since 1997.

Since that time, it's possible additional field studies have added one or more female wood-warbler species as documented singers....though, I have to admit, either I have not read an update in popular or scientific literature....or, equally possible, I have not accessed the best, strategic sources to learn
about newly-"discovered" female wood-warbler singers beyond the Yellow Warbler and American Redstart.

Perhaps one of my blog readers has insight to share, please?

Feel free to email me at

danieledelstein at att dot net

Best wishes to all my warbler fans....and feel free to see the May accounts related to birds
and wildlife at my web site's "Daniel's (Phenology) Nature Calendar" (via warblerwatch.com.....then click
on "Birding Links," and access the nature calendar where terrestrial and sky events for each month of the year are highlighted for the northern CA/central CA region).

(In addition, my new, upcoming "Raptors of the SF Bay Area" is now "live" at peralta.edu given I teach as an Adjunct Faculty Member in the Biology Dept. at Merritt College in Oakland, CA. The class begins in Sept., 2017 and goes through mid-November and spotlights the ecology, life cycle, migration and field identification of raptors......(i.e., two slide show classes....and five all-day Saturday field trips.) (See BIOL 80A via peralta.edu for more information/registration and/or email me for a color flyer....especially because I'd appreciate any Sharing & Telling that you'd wish to do on my behalf, please......as the class must attract 25 registrants for it to "go" and avoid cancellation.)

Monday, May 15, 2017

Warbler Guy, what's one quick tip to improve my birding by ear for warblers? Birding by ear tips you suggest to learn bird songs and bird calls?

Here's a fast relief pill to take online for learning wood-warbler songs:

Go to the following web site that's associated with the excellent new book titled
The Warbler Guide (by Scott Whittle and Tom Stephenson):


You may also wish to view:


and click on the "Companion Guide" button on the right side......Excellent information (!)

Otherwise, feel free to see my web site's home page and the "Birding Links" tab pulldown menu where a free handout titled "Top 10 Tips To Improving Your Birding By Ear" appears.

Happy spring and warbler hunting to all, Daniel



Monday, May 1, 2017

Warbler Guy, I heard International Migratory Bird Day is happening soon? Which date? Where in your area?

Tony, I think the best venue for our SF Bay area events related to this important day is the following:

International Migratory Bird Day is
Saturday, May 13....

Celebrate with us!!

Whether your favorite migrant is a tiny Rufous Hummingbird or a giant Sandhill Crane, we share your love!

Join us at the 2017 Birdathon Awards Celebration and raise a glass to all your favorite migrants.
(And heck, to our wonderful year-round resident birds too.)

Registration deadline is tomorrow, Tuesday, at midnight.

Saturday, May 13
3 to 6 p.m.
Oakland Hills

This is a wonderful afternoon for everyone, whether or not you went on a Birdathon trip. Meet rehabiliatrated raptors from Native Bird Connections; listen to live jazz by Berkeley High School musicians; view bird art; enjoy gourmet appetizers and boutique wines; mingle with old and new birding friends; cheer the winners of Birdathon 2017; and take home a special bird-themed gift! 

All in a stunning private garden with views across the Oakland Hills.
You have the option of supporting GGAS at a level of your choice, with ticket prices starting at $35. Ticket payments above $25 are considered a tax-deductible donation to Golden Gate Audubon Society.

  • Fledgling (under age 21) – $20
  • Great Horned Owl – $35  (you are GREAT for supporting Birdathon!)
  • Passionate Plover – $50
  • Outstanding Oystercatcher – $100
  • Marvelous Merganser – $250
  • Awesome Osprey – $500
All attendees will enjoy the same great food, wine, and entertainment at the Celebration. But the higher ticket categories provide the satisfaction of knowing you have flown the extra mile to support Bay Area birds and Golden Gate Audubon!

Questions? Email Ilana at idebare@goldengateaudubon.org

Golden Gate Audubon Society
2530 San Pablo Avenue, Suite G
Berkeley, CA 94702
(510) 843-2222

Sunday, April 23, 2017

Our Field Trip Photos (BIOL 80B, "Bird Song Ecology"), 4/22/17 (Thanks To Ken Twain, photos, below)

Note the names of bird species on the following photos include an overhead flight of

- Double-crested Cormorant (via Leona Canyon flyover) (status: year-round resident)

- a perching Wilson's Warbler (Leona Canyon nesting species; status: breeding season presence only; a few remain for Christmas Bird Counts (CBC), annually in Alameda Co.);

- a perched female Western Tanager at Parking Lot # on campus (breeding season presence only; a few remain for Christmas Bird Counts (CBC), annually in Alameda Co.)

- and a Band-tailed Pigeon (year round resident) (on Leona Canyon Trail)

- invasive amphibian species joined our party and crashed it? Yes, the intriguing frog at the bridge (where we brunched and lunched): an American Bullfrog (and NOT a CA Red-legged Frog)....with the bullfrog a non-native, INVASIVE species on the West Coast and throughout Alameda Co. in unwanted places....though in Manhattan restaurants it's absolutely wanted (and ordered!)

- Our group of 31 students showed a fine expression of attendance as here's a photo, below, of a portion of the group that appeared during the field trip (and, thus, notice their fine expressions of attention on the trail (!) :-).....)

- As for the lupine photo, I'm not sure of the common name/scientific name and don't have
my Jepson field guide near me now where I'm doing a bird survey and taking a break to ensure the FINE photos get uploaded promptly.

Saturday, April 22, 2017

Update: Bird Songing (via Bernie Krause's insights &, yes, Daniel noted in article)

...via the following 4/20/17 Santa Rosa Press Democratic article by Stephen Nett (a fine journalist, by the way), feel free to see the following link, below....after the XX

I think warbler watchers who ID many of this family's species by song and call will be intrigued with the information in the article.....so I'm not wishing to bugle my cameo appearance in the article as much as inform you that Bird Song Ecology is a fascinating aspect of warbler fun (....and, this latter theme, of course, is the focus of this blog: warbler ID, warbler quizzes, and warbler information....)

Regards, Daniel Edelstein

Birding Guide
Consulting Biologist (bird surveys, wildlife permitting, & wildlife regulatory services since 1998)



Saturday, April 15, 2017

Warbler Guy, given you're in the SF Bay Area (and so am I), do you teach adult classes? If so, where? Thanx

Thanks Devon...."Yes," please note my current "Bird Songing: The Ecology Of Birds' Songs & Identifying Them By Ear" is attended by 30 students at Merritt College (peralta.edu.....or merritt.edu).

In fact, I'm hosting another field trip today, so need to soon scoot.

Warblers we will pursue and are most likely to see?:

- Yellow-rumped (some still remain, perhaps, though abundance level is reduced; most of the plentiful non-breeding season individuals have left for breeding territory)

- Wilson's (abundant in riparian/bottomland areas) on territory and, also, some as transients moving toward breeding territory but "laying over" during the day to forage

- Townsend's (ala Yellow-rumped, some still remain, but most have left for breeding territory elsewhwere)

- Common Yellowthroat (locally common in suitable moist and/or marsh-like habitat)

- Black-throated Gray (often present amid drier habitat, if in breeding territory)

- Nashville (a transient is possible)

- Hermit (recent arrivals are now here in the SF Bay Area)

Tuesday, April 4, 2017

Warbler Guy, which wood-warbler species typically arrive initially in spring on the East Coast? First-arriving warblers are which ones? Returning migrant warblers are easy to find?

Lori, those are great questions.

Brief and oversimplified answer:

Look for the following wood-warbler species to initially appear as true returning migrants on the East Coast from the Mid-Atlantic north:

- Louisiana Waterthrush
- Palm Warbler (some "over-winter" in small numbers, though not every year, but Christmas Bird Count surveys may yield this species)
- Common Yellowthroat (some "over-winter" in small numbers, especially in the mid-Atlantic region, though not every year, but Christmas Bird Count surveys may yield this species....)
- Yellow-rumped Warbler (some "over-winter" in small to large numbers....It's locally present and, even, common in the mid-Atlantic in this region with many Christmas Bird Count surveys yielding this species)

For the West Coast, it's even more simplified:

- Orange-crowned Warbler (photo shown here) is often the most common returning nesting species, typically arriving in February to early March, if you're in the San Francisco Bay Area where I live.

March 6 is the mean annual arrival date for this species on the coast in W. Marin Co. at the Palomarin (near Bolinas) bird banding station, based on 1967-1989 records. The earliest return date in this span is 2/27 and 3/16 was the latest.

Palm, Wilson's, and Yellow Warbler may also be early returnees on the West Coast, though it's challenging to definitively determine if sightings of these species are true migrants or "over-wintering" individuals.

Some Orange-crowned individuals in the Bay Area also may "over-winter," as Christmas Bird Count surveys in the San Francisco Bay Area often record this species and rare to periodic reports for this species persist throughout the winter during most years from Bay Area counties. In this case, if I hear an associated Orange-crowned song in February or March, then I usually deem the aria a returning migrant individual.

Happy birding, Daniel
danieledelstein at att dot net
warblerwatch dot com

Sunday, March 12, 2017

Warbler Guy, are there an pending bird name/classification changes via the North American Classification Committee (NACC)? Any current proposals could change warbler names?

Good question, Irvin (in Spokane, WA).

1. Current avian classification and pending name changes under consideration by American Ornithologists’ Union committee and previous years' proposal are listed at:


2. The most RECENT proposal decisions that have been adopted are present at:


3. Please note a proposal is considered for a vote, then it must first be submitted. 

This process is explained via: http://www.gizard.org/nacc/proposal_guidelines.html

The North American Classification Committee (NACC), formally known as the Committee on Classification and Nomenclature of North and Middle American Birds, is charged with keeping abreast of the systematics and distribution of birds in this region, with the purpose of creating a standard classification and nomenclature. 

The committee votes "yes" or "no" on proposals and the results are typically listed at the American Ornithologists' Union web site (aou.org) by July each year.

4. As for potential warbler name changes via current proposals the NACC is considering, none are pending decision by this committee. 

5. Lastly:

In other words, status quo shall reign, meaning, "yes," the Yellow-breasted Chat shall again
evade ejection from the warbler family. But that's a whole another question to debate and answer. (i.e., Feel free to search at this blog for a past post or two I have featured at this blog in prior years to 2017.)

Regards, Daniel Edelstein

Birding Guide,
Consulting Biologist,
Certified Wildlife Biologist (associate)

warblerwatch.com (hosts my resume and birding information)

Saturday, March 4, 2017

Warbler Guy, are you teaching any local adult birding classes soon? Your "Bird Songing: The Ecology Of Birds Songs & Learning Them By Ear" Is Happening Soon Again?

...and good day, Bryce (in Hayward, CA). . .and please feel free to learn more about my upcoming 3/22 - 5/6/17 Merritt College class that you queried about in the subject line, above, via:


OR: I'm able to send you a color flyer with details about the class if you send me an email
note at:


.....or, as noted, see the pathway to learn registration/information about the class through peralta.edu, below....)

At the peralta.edu home page:

Click on the "Apply & Enroll" pull-down menu, then click on "Class Schedule."

You will see a pdf file of the entire Spring, 2017 class schedule. In turn, scroll to the Biology section, then
look for class under Biology 80B: "Bird Songing/Birding By Ear in the SF Bay Area"

Questions? Problems in enrolling? Please email me at danieledelstein@att.net

Meanwhile, please feel free to visit my web site — warblerwatch.com — where my
"Birding Tours" features information about small and large group birding outings I regularly
lead as a Marin County birding guide, Sonoma County birding guide, and San Francisco birding guide.

My popular eight-year-old wood-warbler blog — http://warblerwatch.blogspot.com — may also interest you.

Here, ask "Warbler Guy" any question you wish about wood-warblers and he'll be your Answer Man.

My blog also features:

1) wood-warbler articles (for which you can search through eight years of
articles that have appeared at my blog);

2) photo ID quizzes; and

3) one-click, think-quick quizzes

Enjoy the birding....feel free to contact me with your questions: danieledelstein@att.net

Sunday, February 19, 2017

Warbler Guy, a web site for Rare Bird Alert exists for early returning migrants? Early spring arrivals are noted at a web site? Bird migration arrival sightings would be great to know about...thank you.

Sharlene (in New York), feel free to see:


I often use this site when traveling and wish to stay abreast of uncommon/rare bird sightings....in addition to knowing where and when migrants (such as wood-warblers) are being seen.

Tuesday, February 7, 2017

Warbler Guy: What's a good web site for warbler songs? Songs of warblers are best heard on the web and who explains warbler calls and songs?

Here's where you should know about, James (in Vancouver):


GR8 web site...Type in the name of the bird species you wish to hear and, amazingly, dozens of different recordings from acoustic birders appear. Explore the list by scrolling down to read descriptions of each recording, then click on the ones you wish to hear.

A fantastic online site related to bird song ecology and excellent articles is:


Here, Nathan Pieplow, professional sound recordist and birder extraordinaire, features incisive accounts related to bird songs and calls.

One of his posts from 2/28/14 notes excellent news with the announcement that the Florida Museum of Natural History now allows users access to is large collection of bird sound recordings. To find it, go to:


To read more about bird song ecology, I recommend Dr. Donald Kroodsma's book The Singing Life of Birds. 

Lastly: I own a dozen or more other texts related to bird song ecology — some of which host peer-reviewed research articles and others that are intended for popular audiences. Please feel free to contact me at the following email # and I'll share a "resource" list of publications with you: danieledelstein@att.net

(features several bird-related articles, including my "Birding Tours" information in relation to guided trips I have led since the 1980s)

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Warbler Guy, how do I know if warbler migration is strong? Migrating warblers are more dense on some spring days than other ones?

One that is good: Birdcast



At this link, you'll read about the current week's presence of migrators and predictions.

It is a great resource, given the BirdCast forecast highlights migrant species that you can expect to see in each of several regions: Upper Midwest and Northeast; Gulf Coast and Southeast; Great Plains; and West. 

Saturday, January 7, 2017

Warbler Guy, what’s an example of a “superspecies” in the wood-warbler family?

What’s an example of a “superspecies” in the wood-warbler family?

(The Black-Throated Gray Warbler in the above photo is one of five species within the Black-Throated Green superspecies group.)

Thanks for the query, Ms. Jones (in Santa Barbara, CA).

Think of a superspecies as a group of related species that evolved from a common ancestor, but live in distinct ranges apart from each other. A good example of a superspecies is the Black-Throated Green Warbler group that includes this species as well as Townsend’s, Hermit, Golden-Cheeked, and Black-Throated Gray Warblers.

Each of the latter four species in the above group is thought to have evolved from its Black-Throated Green ancestor. As this species expanded from its southeastern USA deciduous forest territory into coniferous forest created by the most recent glacial advances, isolation occurred among populations. As generations of separated populations slowly spread west and north throughout lower North America, each population became a divergent “island.” Gene flow ceased as reproductive isolation caused speciation to occur over eons. The resulting five species share various field marks, but also express their own unique characteristics.

Nonetheless, despite their status as species, hybridization sometimes occurs among species within a superspecies, including the Black-Throated Green superspecies wherein populations of Townsend’s and Hermit hybridize in Oregon and Washington. To simplify, where both species occur, over time Townsend’s appear to usually dominate and increase in number.

More technical, the five species within the Black-Throated Green superspecies have parapatric distributions. That is to say, each of the five species has ranges that do not significantly overlap but are immediately adjacent to each other (and/or occur together in a narrow contact zone, with the aforementioned reference to Townsend’s and Hermit Warbler hybridization a scenario where overlapping occurs).

To learn more about this subject, read a classic article by R.M. Mengel titled “The probable history of species formation in some northern wood warblers.” One source where this article appears is in a 1964 edition of “Living Bird” (page 943).