Wednesday, May 27, 2020

Warbler Guy, where are the most different kinds of warblers found? How many types or species of warblers exist? Are all warblers migratory or do some stay “close to home”...?

New World wood-warblers (that are not closely related to the various Old World warblers in the Eastern Hemisphere (e.g., Europe, Asia) are often identified to number as 112-115 species, occurring among 24-26 genera. The centers (or “epicenters”) of their breeding areas occur in eastern North America, the West Indies, Mexico and Central America, and Andean South America.

The majority of northern-latitude breeding species migrate, but many island and tropical species are sedentary. Many of these latter species remain close to their birthing areas or perform short-distance, post-breeding altitudinal/elevation migrations. As for myself, I often see 20-30 wood-warbler species during early May when I return to homecoming birding forays in the Midwest (and, concurrently, attend the annual Wisconsin Society For Ornithology conference).

Last year, for example, I was lucky to visit Wisconsin to attend the conference during the peak of neotropical songbird migration, so I tallied more than 25 wood-warbler species. Then, when I returned in August, I began seeing southbound migrants in the northern portion of the state. Milwaukee County (in s. WI) was nearly devoid of warbler detections, except for probable nesting species such as American Redstart and Yellow Warbler.

In contrast, my n. CA residency, yields more warbler species during the breeding season — a result that surprises many people because the West is thought to host far fewer warbler species. For example, in Marin County (Bay Area) where I live, I often detect at least eight warbler species annually and, in the Sierra Nevada Mountains (near Yuba Pass and/or amid the Gold Lakes country off of Highway 49 near Bassetts), I sometimes successfully sleuth out nine warbler species.

Wednesday, May 6, 2020

Does Connecticut Warbler return by late May? Is Connecticut Warbler rare?

Although Connecticut Warbler is not rare, its habit of being a stealthy, skulking, "shy" species results it in being heard more often than seen. In addition, it breeds in habitats that are often inaccessible to birders, including spruce-tamarack bogs and muskeg (as well as poplar woodlands and moist deciduous forests) in northern Minnesota, Wisconsin, Michigan, and central Canada. Individuals return as early as early May to, for example, southern Wisconsin, but it's been known to arrive as late as early June in irregular years. 

In general, as returning migrant, this species is considered a "late" arriving member of the wood-warbler family. Did you know this warbler was not described until Alexander Wilson did so in 1812? A nest for this species was not discovered until 1883, more than 70 years after Wilson's description. Even today, there are few to no rigorous, experimental studies of its general biology from the breeding or wintering ranges.