Monday, November 27, 2017

Warbler Guy, which West Coast warbler vagrants are the most common ones to see? Do vagrant warblers also appear on the East Coast?

Good question, Hogie (in Portland).


On the West Coast, say, on the Outer Point of Point Reyes in N. CA, the most typical East Coast vagrants to see in the fall include Palm, Blackburnian and Blackpoll. Other species that often appear annually: Black-throated Blue, Black-and-white, Magnolia, and Chestnut-sided Warbler.

(Blackpoll Warbler, shown above.)

One reason relates to the orientation error displayed by migrating warblers. For many vagrants seen on the West Coast, the cause is due to first-year individual having an innate faulty brain, causing them to navigate south, then west — instead of south and, then, east toward Latin American expanses.
In traveling west by mistake, these newborn warblers continue as far as the land will take them — such as to the far western extreme of Point Reyes National Seashore. Unfortunately, these vagrants meet an unfortunate fate as they eventually continue moving west over the ocean.

In regard to West Coast vagrant warbler species, ongoing discussion is whether Blackpoll is truly a vagrant? -- given it's annually seen on the West Coast after the breeding season. It's possible these observed individuals nested in Alaska and, hence, migrated directly south after breeding.

In turn, the question then is whether these few sightings of Blackpoll should be termed vagrants, given many birders believe the term denotes disoriented individuals who have an in-born abnormality in their navigational abilities.

Consequently, the term vagrant remains an open question for birders wishing to debate the answer.

Perhaps the best solution is to simply use a different status identification as to whether a warbler sighting for one area deemed, for example, uncommon, unexpected and/or rare — and, thus, avoid the using the term "vagrant."

Meanwhile, consider rare sightings of warbler species on the East Coast and in the Midwest.

In these regions, it's not as common during the non-breeding season to have West Coast warbler species show up, but it does occur.

For example, in my home state of Wisconsin, it's a "big deal" for birders to see a Townsend's Warbler — which is one of the most common non-breeding season warbler species in the SF Bay Area (where I primarily live now).

A good site to check for vagrant warbler sightings throughout the USA:

A 2006 sighting of Townsend's at Sheridan Park in the Milwaukee area coaxed oodles of birders to view this vagrant. Go to the following ebird link:

to see evidence of this Townsend's surprise visit to Wisconsin.

Thursday, November 9, 2017

Warbler Guy, what's a good web site to tell warblers from one another? Here's some warbler photos that perplex me for the ID of warblers.

Jessie, try looking at:

As for your warbler photos, below, here's my opinion as to their identities (from top to bottom):

Orange-crowned, Nashville, Orange-crowned, Yellow-breasted Chat

As for apps: iBird Pro (wonderful!)....Sibley Birds (equally excellent, and especially for gull species because the age class for each "cycle" is visually expressed well).

The Warbler Guide app is OK and is complementary to the field guide with the same name....but its breadth and depth is not as advanced as iBird Pro and Sibley Birds. There are several other FINE bird apps, so I don't wish to suggest this communique is comprehensive.

Enjoy the wood-warblers and birding fun, hosts my "Birding Tours" information.....and feature my current "Raptors of San Francisco Bay" college class that continues through 11/12/17.

Saturday, November 4, 2017

Warbler Guy, I wonder what the "alula" feathers are on a bird? Do warblers have alula feathers? What function do alula feathers do?

Sherry (in Helena, MT):

Great question (but NOT always one I receive....).

Here's a photo (BELOw) of a bird — a Common Pigeon — that highlights its alula feathers and notes their function: (Wood-warbler family members ALSO possess alula feathers, but they are more challenging to see....and best seen via museum specimens and/or in the hand when banding birds at a mist net station.)

Three to five feathers in wrist of the wing that are used in slow flight or landing, much as slots on an airplane.

As for the source of this photo, I thank Vireo and R. Curtis....and feel free to see more bird terms and vocabulary at:

Enjoy the birds and don't forget to lean over and fall back tonight one hour: Daylight savings ends, I'm sorry to say....Imminently, there's one fewer hour of birding to do in the afternoon (!) 

Daniel, with 
(hosts my "Birding Tours" information for the northern and central CA area....including the SF Bay Area birding tours I regularly lead....including today, when I'll bring my "Raptors of the San Francisco Bay Area" Merritt College class to Hawk Hill in Sausalito (Golden Gate Raptor Observatory) ).

Rock Pigeon      Columba livia