Thursday, March 27, 2008

Which species are the earliest arriving wood-warblers to northern IL in the spring?

- Mary Annette, Lake Bluff, IL

Answer: The answer to your question varies from one USA location to another*.

But if you’re in IL, then you would typically expect to see during the majority of spring seasons the following arrivals and transients (transient individuals pass through an area during migration, but do not stay to nest where they are seen) as the calendar progresses from now through early May when the peak of migration occurs:

(* = Note #1 and #2, below, are often reliable as the initial two arrival species in IL (and the upper Midwest), though these two may periodically over-winter in small numbers as far south as s. WI, especially through November/December. After #1 -#3, below, the arrival selection for #s 4 and beyond become more difficult to accurately predict.

Instead, it's best to consider my suggested bird species corresponding to #4 and beyond (BELOW) are idealized, in terms of arrival "trends" based on many years of monitoring. That is to say, consider #4-#9 a general arrival sequence that may occur for observers during some spring birding seasons, and change for others.)

ARRIVAL ORDER (see above paragraphs for qualification)

1. Yellow-rumped Warbler (transients join any winter residents; all individuals of this species leave IL to nest farther north, with the n. WI the closest breeding location from IL) (Myrtle subspecies) (Overwintering has occurred in n. IL)

2. Pine Warbler (migrant; transient) (Overwintering has occurred in n. IL)

3. Palm Warbler (migrant; transient) (Some Christmas Bird Count seasons yield this species)

4. LA Waterthrush

5. Black and White Warbler

6. Black-throated Green Warbler

7. Tennessee Warbler

8. Nashville Warbler

9. Magnolia Warbler

10. Next arrival candidates (order of arrival is not as easily defined by chronological progression on the calendar, so the following species are grouped together): Wilson's, Yellow Warbler, Ovenbird, Blackburnian, and American Redstart. (Other arrivals may include increased populations of Yellow and Common Yellowthroat. Note: In parts of n. IL, it's possible that Yellow and Common Yellowthroat remain after arriving on migration and breed in suitable habitat.)

Final arrival candidates often (but not always) include Blackpoll, Mourning Warbler and Connecticut Warbler.

Sunday, March 16, 2008

Kirtland’s Warbler On Your Life List To Find?

……here’s some tips to finding it when you’re in Michigan during May, June and early July

1. Go to the following Web site:

It lists answers to typical questions that Kirtland’s chasers probably need to know.

2. Consider attending the Kirtland’s Warbler Festival on May 17, 2008 at Kirtland Community College in
Roscommon, Michigan (central Michigan).


At the Festival, guided tours with expert birders not only give you access to known breeding sights, but you’ll also learn more about this species and the other birds you detect while pursuing the Kirtland’s Warbler.

3. When I was lucky enough to be an invited speaker at two recent Kirtland's Warbler Festivals, I was shown during guided tours where these birds breed.

Then I went back to these areas 20 minutes outside of Roscommon, MI on my own time and followed the rules of NOT leaving the road areas (whereby tromping through their sensitive habitat could impact this species and/or other birds/wildlife/plants). In so doing, I heard the Kirtland's singing and calling -- and even caught fleeting glimpses of both male and female individuals during the rare times they flew amidst the short Jack Pines where they occur throughout the breeding season before dispersing and/or migrating by no later than mid-summer.

Lastly, I was given the treat of seeing a male Kirtland's outside the 10 MI counties where this species typically breeds annually.

The place was OUTSIDE the usual MI breeding areas: near Traverse City along Lake Michigan. It was mid-May, 2000, and I was looking for other neotropical songbird migrants during the Prime Time window of opportunity for seeing diverse species.

Suddenly, a flash of yellow appeared at eye level from 100' away.

My jaw almost dropped as I noticed the characteristic field marks of the Kirtland's in my view finder.

It looked exactly like the photo on the cover of the "Warblers" field guide (Dunn & Garrett, Peterson Field Guide Series, 1997).

After I pinched myself to confirm that I was NOT dreaming, the rest of the day was a relaxed glowing feeling of delightful euphoria. Truly, I was the Chosen Lucky birder of the day.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

(Brief) Wood-Warbler Quiz*

1. Which is the largest wood-warbler species in size within North America?

A: Yellow-Breasted Chat (7 inches, compared to the relatively diminutive 4.25 inches of the N. Parula)

2. Which wood-warbler species’ breeding area is the largest in geographical range?

A: Yellow Warbler (among 46 described subspecies in the species, they breed within N., S., and Central America)

3. Fill in the XXX in the following sentence:

Myrtle, Audubon and XXX constitute the six described subspecies within the Yellow-Rumped Warbler species

A: Goldman’s

{i.e., Three Audubon subspecies exist and a fourth Audubon subspecies carries the common name of "Goldman's," while two other subspecies are considered "Myrtle" -- with all of the six subspecies living in defined geographic areas (Dunn & Garrett, "Wood-Warblers," Houghton Mifflin, 1997) }

4. Two species of wood-warblers whose foraging behavior most resembles a nuthatch’s:

a. Yellow and N. Parula
b. Yellow-throated and Black and White
c. Swainson’s and Worm-eating

A: b

5. The following eastern USA wood-warbler species whose populations have most decreased in recent years (according to ongoing monitoring studies, including the Breeding Bird Survey):

a. Yellow
b. Cerulean
c. Black and White

A: Cerulean

* = award yourself 1 point for each correct question; then feel free to check back again for the next quiz in April, 2008. As the months progress, you might enjoy adding your quiz totals from one month to the next. At the end of 2008, I’ll be glad to list the winning quiz taker whose average number of correct answers is among the highest among all quiz takers who submit their 2008 total to me.

If you have missed a quiz in 2008 or do so in the next few months, no worries.

Remember, I’m considering the “average” score per person, so it won’t matter that one quiz winning candidate may have taken every quiz from March, 2008 – December, 2008 while another may have, for example, discovered this blog site beginning in June, 2008.