Thursday, March 24, 2011

Sweet Tweet By Me: Utilizing Warblers' Undertail Covert Patterns For ID

Here's my latest tweet via Twitter relating to the above title/subject:

Spring Fever Cure: Helpful, Sometimes Diagnostic Wood-Warbler Feature = Undertail Patterns/Undertail Coverts: see pgs. 104-106 in “Warblers” (Dunn & Garrett, 1997).

(CLICK ON THE nearby illustration of the bird to see a closer view of its "undertail covert region." More specific, undertail marks on the bottom (ventral) side of the tail feathers (rectrices) are a diagnostic field mark in some species of New World wood-warblers (e.g., Magnolia Warbler, shown here, with abrupt demarcation/border of white-black)


PLEASE note you can follow me on Twitter at:
(but who has the time or the interest? I'd rather watch birds than tweets, correct!? So I'm off to bird and find the latest returning neotropical migrants to our Marin Co. area.)

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Latest Quiz Answers (right side of page and scrolling down)

....are the following (and corresponding to the second most recent quiz on the right side of this article and scrolling down to older quizzes):

By the first week of March, which returning wood-warbler is the second or third most abundant wood-warbler species in the USA?

Answer: Orange-crowned Warbler. Why? Given the first week of March is too early for the bulk of returning Yellow Warbler and Louisiana Waterthrush to breeding sites, and given Yellow-breasted Chat is typically only common in localized areas (and rare to uncommon throughout much of its formerly larger breeding range), Orange-crowned’s begin appearing in portions of its breeding range by late February/early March. Note these returning breeding Orange-crowned are true migrants beyond the small population of this species that appear to overwinter during the non-breeding season. (Note #2: One Orange-crowned subspecies is a resident in the central CA coast, so it’s not intended to be included in this quiz question dynamic.)

“Second or third most abundant wood-warbler species in the USA” as the quiz question accounts for the more abundant numbers of Yellow-rumped Warbler and Common Yellowthroat in the USA during the initial portion of March, if only the USA is considered.


Which subspecies' breeding range is larger?: Audubon's Yellow-rumped or Myrtle Yellow-rumped Warbler?

Answer: Myrtle. See any range map for this species (e.g., "Warblers," Jon Dunn/Kimball Garrett, Houghton Mifflin, 1997). Note the vast area
throughout most of Canada and ALL of Alaska where Myrtle breeds.


Can you identify the correct order (top to bottom) of wood-warblers in the five photos on the left from the 11/10/10 posting?

Answer: Black-Th. Gray, Canada, Palm, Orange-crowned, Cape May.


In how many states does Kirtland's Warbler regularly nest?

Answer: Michigan and Wisconsin, with the Badger state now hosting breeding Kirtland’s during the last four consecutive breeding seasons. Previously, Michigan was thought to be the only state hosting annually occurring breeding populations for this species.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Warbler Guy, which books show warbler feathers and reveal warbler molt strategies?

Great question, Harold C. (Fargo, ND).

Finding stray birds' feathers is often both a pleasant and vexing discovery. It's pleasant because finding a feather is a nice treasure to stumble upon on the trail. But then the question often beckons upon examining your find: To which species does this feather belong? Let the identification bidding begin: Do I hear W. Scrub Jay? Stellars Jay? Over here in this corner: W. Bluebird? many choices for blue-appearing feathers alone.

What's one to do?

The second citation, below, is one remedy.

Another helpful guide to identifying birds when finding feathers or, in general, expanding your understanding of bird biology/birds' life cycle is the initial reference book, below.

Here's their citations (as they've helped me often recently as I continue reading and utilizing them regularly for my work):

1. Peterson Reference Guide to Molt in North American Birds. 2010. Steve N.G. Howell. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. New York, NY 10003 (

2. Bird Feathers: A Guide to North American Species. 2010. S. David Scott & Casey McFarland. Stackpole Books. Mechanicsburg, PA 17005 (

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Warbler Guy, which warbler DVD is excellent to watch so that I can identify warblers (and use as warbler identification media)?

Thanks to Eric Salzman, the answer is in a recent “Winging It” newsletter (June, 2010) where Eric highlights two EXCELLENT warbler DVDs:

“Watching Warblers” (Judy Feith & Michael Male, Blue Earth Films,, $35) and “Watching Warblers West” (same people/source as the line above, $35).

Both titles are awe-inspiring. Synthesizing thousands of hours in the field with their cameras, Feith and Male are consummate filmakers that add an exquisite dash of splendor with images of warblers feeding, nesting, bathing, etc. Jaw-dropping warbler scenes are all "G rated" for my adult students to enjoy, especially on a rainy day when my workshop/class is forced to remain sequestered indoors in lieu of sleuthing for warblers outdoors.

A cool element on both DVDs: each contains “extra” features, including running clips of single males belting out their songs in mini-episodes called “Fun With Songs.”

Summary: Thumbs up. Way up.

Enjoy spring’s beginnings. Recrudescence ho….Warblers, start your flying engines.

Monday, March 7, 2011

CORRECT Yellow-Rumped Warbler Species Name Update....

....and given recent changes, please note some of this blog's past Yellow-rumped Warbler
articles are either now wrong and/or out of date.

So, please note the most current, accurate Yellow-rumped Warbler nomenclature
appears at the 1/26/11 article, below.

Past articles about this species from 10/10/09, 10/5/09, and 7/8/09 are no longer necessarily
correct, in terms of the subspecies names associated with the Yellow-rumped Warbler species.

Please read the 1/26/11 article for more precise direction you can take to learn more.

Now back to your wood-warbler questions, with many to answer after I go birding.....Cheers, Daniel