Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Who’s ready for a brief wood-warbler quiz?

It’s the Q and A portion of the day, so feel free to satisfy your wonderment with the following questions (answers appear far below):

1. To which family do some taxonomists believe is most closely related to wood-warblers?

2. If you include North, Central, and South America, and the West Indies, how many wood-warblers exist?

3. Although most wood-warblers possess small bills, which two species have more robust ones?

4. Which common wood-warbler has rictal bristles (like flycatchers) to help it sense prey while pursuing insects?

5. Although most songbirds have ten functional primary flight feathers on each wing, how many do wood-warblers possess?

6. Among the 53 typical annual breeding North American wood-warblers, what’s typical about their breeding behavior in contrast to Central and South American wood-warbler species?


1. Some taxonomists place wood-warblers closest in relation to the tanager family, Thraupidae (sometimes treated as a subfamily, Thraupinae, of Emberizidae). Other researchers believe they are nearest to the New World finches family, Emberizidae.

2. 126 species amidst 28 genera.

3. Yellow-breasted Chat and Yellow-Rumped Warbler.

4. American Redstart.

5. Nine.

6. North American wood warblers remain monogamous for the breeding season, while Central and South American pairs may persist together for longer periods.

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Wilson’s Warbler: Abundant, Yet Vulnerable

You might think the Wilson’s Warbler is one of the most abundant warbler species while traveling through Alaska, most of Canada, and south through the western USA to southern California and New Mexico. Your supposition would largely be correct.

But long-term trend analysis indicate recent population declines, especially in the western portion of the species’ range. The most likely problem is large-scale destruction of riparian habitat.

Nesting on or near the ground at elevations that vary from sea level to the alpine zone, the three subspecies of Wilson’s Warbler encompass a wide geographical area that spans from eastern Canada to Alaska and portions south into Utah, New Mexico and central California.

Interestingly, the subspecies may occur together in non-breeding range, with all three subspecies possible in Panama.

Although it shares its genus name – Wilsonia -- with other wood-warbler species – (Canada and Hooded), Wilson’s is by far the most common. All three species possess rectal bristles (small , highly-sensitive feathers at the base of the bill) that are utilized during “flycatching,” a foraging behavior that can sometimes help with field identification.