Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Warbler Guy: Is the Yellow-Breasted Chat still a wood-warbler? Or did it get “kicked out” of its family? Why is the chat a wood-warbler?

Yes, Earl (in Tacoma, WA): No ex-communication for the black sheep of the wood-warbler family….Per the upcoming AOU (American Ornithological Union) “check-list committee,” the Yellow-breasted Chat will remain classified as a wood-warbler in the family Parulidae. This information is courtesy of the ABA’s Paul Hess.

Mr. Hess also wrote in the ABA’s blog recently that “the annual check-list supplement to be published in July will merely point to recent mitochondrial DNA analyses indicating that the chat's genus (Icteria) represents an old (evolutionary) lineage of uncertain affinities, probably related to the Parulidae, Icteridae, or Emberizidae (families).

He concludes: “In retrospect, I suppose the status quo shouldn't be surprising.” (i.e., that the chat is NOT yet ejected from its family, given the more than two-inch size difference and larger bill size it possesses in comparison to the other 106 wood-warblers).

“After all, the (check-list) committee did not receive a formal proposal in the past year that explicitly recommended moving the chat out of the Parulidae.”

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Yellow-rumped Warbler Split?: No

. . . American Ornithological Union (AOU) update:

It votes down (in 2011) splitting Yellow-Rumped Warbler into two, three or four species

(Audubon's Yellow-rumped subspecies appears in photo.)

As many of you already know, the Yellow-rumped Warbler currently occurs as four subspecies, according to many researchers: the “Myrtle” group (coronata), and the “Audubon’s” group (auduboni), “Black-fronted” (nigrifrons), and “Goldman’s” (goldmani)

The taxonomy of these Yellow-rumped Warbler subspecies was under consideration for change by a committee in the American Ornithologist Union (AOU).

(NOTE  #1: In the N.A. Birds Online account for this species, the following additional subspecies is described in the "Myrtle group":  Yellow-rumped Warbler subspecies: D. c. hooveri (McGregor, 1899). This subspecies breeds in central and s.-central Alaska, se. Alaska, Yukon Territory, Mackenzie, and nw. British Columbia; intergrades with auduboni known from Stikine River, AK (Gibson and Kessel 1997). Like nominate coronata, slightly larger, with longer wing (minimum wing length 73.5 mm in females, 75.5 mm in first-year males, and 78.0 mm in adult males); more streaked below (Alternate-plumaged males) or paler brown (females). Characters broadly clinal where range meets that of nominate coronata; for this reason, hooveri not recognized by Hubbard (1970). More recently, hooverimaintained as valid (Godfrey 1986Gibson and Kessel 1997, R. Dickerman and P. Unitt pers. comment.

NOTE #2: The International Ornithogical Council (IOC) splits the subspecies and recognizes Audubon's and Myrtle as two species)

Now the vote is in from the AOU (from 2011).

No hanging chads here.

The vote was 7–4 against any divisions of the Yellow-rumped complex. The committee members suggested the need for further genetic analysis and determination of the extent of interbreeding in the subspecies’ contact zones where the “Myrtle” group (coronata), and the “Audubon’s” group (auduboni) mix in western Canada. The status of two other subspecies — “Black-fronted” (nigrifrons), and “Goldman’s” (goldmani) remain unchanged.

Black-fronted is a resident in Mexico, and Goldman’s occurs only in southernmost Mexico and Guatemala. Neither of these two subspecies has been observed in the American Birding Association geographical area.

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Five & Counting: Wisconsin Kirtland's Warbler Nests For Fifth Consecutive Year in the State

Wisconsin Kirtland's Warbler Update *

(* = 2011 Kirtland's Warbler Nesting Success in Wisconsin; photo courtesy of Joel Trick)

Go to the following web site if you'd like to find out more about the 2011 Kirtland's Warbler nesting success for the current breeding season:


Given the amazing comeback of this federally endangered species, it's safe to suggest (with tongue firmly planted in tongue of cheek) that the Kirtland's wins the Comeback Bird of the Decade for its rebound to more than 1,800 males among the nesters occurring in Wisconsin, Michigan and Ontario (where in the latter place one location appears to annually host a breeding population).

For Wisconsin, the above the fold headline is already exclaimed above:
It's the FIFTH year in a row that Kirtland's has nested in the Bucky Badger state.

That's an unprecedented development for the species, which, as you may know, was thought until its discovery as a nester in Wisconsin in 2007 to ONLY
annually breed in Michigan.

There it was previously considered to be an endemic, with the entire population migrating to the Bahamas for the "winter."


Plenty of thanks should be extended to volunteers who monitor the federally endangered Kirtland's Warbler.

It's their efforts that continue to daily monitor the Kirtland's in Wisconsin as you read this item.....with the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service's Joel Trick leading the crew.
Kudos to Joel Trick for helping an endangered species widen its territory as new habitat was found by Mr. & Mrs. Kirtland's arriving from the Bahamas each May (ostensbily, Jack Pine groves with an assist from Pinus cousin rubra, Red Pine, where the species is also found in WI)