Warbler FAQs

We're celebrating warblers this week! Today we're sharing a few FAQs about this family of birds.

What is a warbler?
The name warbler is used to describe several different, unrelated, families of birds. So far, for Warbler Week, we have been talking about New World warblers, a group of small, often colorful, songbirds native to the New World (the Americas and nearby islands). New World warblers are in the taxonomic family Parulidae and there are just over 100 recognized species (Birdorable has 28).

What is a warbler?

The term Old World generally refers to Africa, Asia, and Europe together. Old World warblers make up a very large group of songbirds with a complicated taxonomy. There are over 400 species of Old World warbler, and most of them have a fairly undistinguished, often drab or plain appearance. Among some groups, field identification is a challenge. Birdorable has two closely related species of Old World warbler: the Sardinian Warbler and the Cyprus Warbler.

Compare old and new world warblers

A third family of birds is known as the Australasian Warblers. There are over 60 species in this family, Acanthizidae, split into two subfamilies. Birds in this group include the Peep-warblers, the Mountain Mouse-warbler, and the Weebill, Australia's smallest bird.

What do warblers eat?
Most New World warblers are insectivores, meaning they eat insects. The different species have various hunting methods for catching prey. Many warblers glean insects from foliage. Some hunt by hovering or fly-catching on the wing. American Redstarts feed almost exclusively on the wing, flashing their tails to startle prey into flight. The Black-and-White Warbler hunts like a nuthatch, moving up and down trunks and branches of trees in search of food. While most warblers forage in trees, some species hunt for prey on the ground. Connecticut Warblers and Ovenbirds forage among dead leaves on the ground for insects and spiders to eat.

Many species of warbler will supplement their diet with vegetable matter, like berries, seeds, or nectar, especially on their wintering grounds. The Cape May Warbler has a tubular tongue that it uses to feed on berry juice and nectar.

Why are they called warblers?
A warbler is one who warbles. The word warble comes from werbler, an Old French word meaning "to sing with trills and quavers". The Old World family of birds was first called "warblers", the name being given sometime around 1773. Old World warblers may look a bit drab, but they sure can sing. The New World warblers were given their family name due to their resemblance in size and shape to the Old World family.

What is the collective noun for warblers?
Like a flock of birds or a murder of crows, collective nouns are used to name a group of birds. A group of warblers is called a bouquet, a confusion, a fall, or a wrench of warblers. We also say there is a cord of wood-warblers.

In addition, there are several collective nouns for specific warbler species:

Corsage of Magnolia Warblers

Several warblers are named for their beautiful plumage, like the Black-throated Blue Warbler, Golden-winged Warbler, and Chestnut-sided Warbler. But many warblers are named for other traits, including habitat types and physical locations, which may or may not be accurate. Others are named for the naturalists who first discovered them or described them for science. Here are some stories behind the names of some New World warblers.

Sometimes it's not obvious that a warbler is named for its plumage. Cerulean Warblers are named for their color - cerulean blue is close in shade to azure and sky blue. Several other birds are named for this color, including the Cerulean Kingfisher of Indonesia and the Cerulean-capped Manakin of Peru. The Flavescent Warbler is named for its yellowish, flavescent, color. The Prothonotary Warbler is supposedly named for the golden robes worn by prothonotaries, high-ranking clergy in the Roman Catholic Church. The Mourning Warbler is named for the male's dark hood, which was thought to resemble a mourning veil. And earlier on the blog, in a separate post, we told you the story behind the name of the American Redstart.

The Blackburnian Warbler was named for the English botanist and naturalist Anna Blackburne. The Blackburnian Warbler was actually first classified by the German zoologist Philipp Ludwig Statius Mueller, who named the warbler in Anna Blackburne's honor. Blackburne also has a species of beetle named in her honor.

Kirtland's Warbler is named for the amateur naturalist Jared P. Kirtland, a doctor and politician from Ohio. Kirtland was interested in natural history and was involved in the first geological survey of Ohio. Besides the endangered warbler, Kirtland also has two species of snake named after him.

Kirtland's Warbler named after Jared P. Kirtland

The Worm-eating Warbler, like most species of warbler, feeds on a variety of different insect prey items, including worm-like larvae. They are not unique in this diet and feeding strategy, and they rarely or possibly never eat earthworms.

Worm-eating Warbler about to eat a non-worm. Photo (c) Melissa McMasters, shared via Creative Commons (CC BY 2.0)

The Ovenbird is named for the shape of its nest. Ovenbirds make a domed structure, known as an "oven", on the ground. The dome is made of woven vegetation and has a side entrance.

Wilson's Warbler was first described for science in 1811 by Alexander Wilson. Wilson has been called the "Father of American Ornithology." He published a nine-volume study of American birds between 1808 and 1814, describing at least 26 new species. Several other species are named for Wilson, including a plover, a snipe, and a phalarope.

Wilson's Warbler named after Alexander Wilson

Sometimes a warbler's name doesn't make a lot of sense. For instance, the Magnolia Warbler is named for a type of tree it only encounters for a short time, if at all, each year. The ornithologist Alexander Wilson first saw this species of bird in a Magnolia tree in Mississippi during migration. The type of tree was likely Magnolia grandiflora, a species native to the southeastern United States. Magnolia Warblers only pass through this range while migrating between their northern breeding grounds and their wintering grounds in the Caribbean and Central America.

Similarly, the range of the Nashville Warbler only brings them around Nashville, Tennessee, during migration. It's the same story for the Tennessee Warbler, which was named from a specimen collected in Tennessee during migration. At least the Kentucky Warbler breeds in Kentucky, though its breeding range extends further afield.

Whether the name makes sense or not, we love all warblers! Thanks for following all during our Warbler Week, and stay tuned for more warbler fun in the coming days.

Birdorable warblers

We're celebrating warblers this week on the Birdorable blog! We're starting off this Warbler Week with the introduction of four new Birdorable warblers!

The Mourning Warbler is a small warbler with a chunky appearance. They can be recognized by their grey heads, olive backs, and yellow underparts. They also have a black chest patch. Our Birdorable bird is an adult male; females have a similar color scheme but with more muted tones.

The Yellow-throated Warbler breeds mainly in the east and southeast of the United States. These migratory birds can be recognized by their grey, black, and white plumage highlighted by a bright yellow throat and breast.

The Kentucky Warbler migrates between breeding grounds in the southeast United States and winter territory through parts of Central America. They have olive upperparts and yellow underparts and a contrasting black and yellow pattern on the face. Their song sounds like "p-chee, p-chee, p-chee."

The Pink-headed Warbler is a New World species that is a year-round resident in its range through parts of Guatemala and Mexico. The live in highland habitat. Pink-headed Warblers are appropriately named; they can be recognized by their beautiful red body plumage and pretty light pink heads.

These four New World warbler species join 24 other Birdorable warblers, bringing our total to 28. Thanks for joining us as we celebrate warblers this week! Come back tomorrow for more warbler fun.

New Birdorable Warbler Apparel

Did you know that May is Warbler Neck Awareness Month?

Some New World warblers migrate between winter grounds in South and Central America to their breeding grounds across North America, and the peak of their migration in central and northern parts of the United States occurs for the most part during May. Warbler Neck is an affliction birdwatchers may suffer as they search, looking up, for these visiting feathered gems.

While we may be getting over our Warbler Neck as the warblers are reaching their breeding grounds, we thought this is a great time to celebrate these amazing birds. Welcome to Warbler Week! We'll be focused on New World warblers for this celebration. There are over 100 recognzied species of New World Warbler. Here at Birdorable we have 24 species, and this week we'll reveal four more.

To kick off our celebratory week, let's have a look at featured Birdorable warbler blog posts of the past:

We hope you'll join us this week as we celebrate warblers on the Birdorable blog!

Of the 15 species of crane in the world, six of them have a color in part of the name: black, grey, white, red, or blue. This Crane Week we've added four new crane coloring pages to our free downloads collection. You can get creative with our new additions:

Birdorable crane coloring pages

Direct links to the coloring pages:

All of our coloring pages are free to download and are perfect for schools, nature centers, zoos, and other environmental education locations.

Thanks for following along as we celebrated cranes this week on the Birdorable blog!

Baby Sandhill Crane with parent

We're celebrating cranes on the Birdorable blog this week! Today we'd like to share a bird term that relates to cranes and other birds. Let's learn about what it means to be precocial!

The term precocial comes from the Latin praecocia, which refers to "places where fruits ripen early." A precocial species is one in which the newly hatched or born young are relatively mature. In birds, this means the baby is usually covered in downy feathers and is able to walk and even feed itself within a short time of hatching. This adaptation is found in most ground-nesting birds as a strategy to evade predators when the nest offers little shelter.

Cranes have precocial young, as do many other birds, including ducks and geese, chickens, and rails. Malleefowl chicks can even already fly within a day of hatching. There are some mammals born precocial, like the Hartebeest, whose calves can stand and walk within hours of being born.

On the other end of the development spectrum are altricial babies. In birds, this usually means at the time of hatching the chick is naked (without feathers), has its eyes shut, and is completely helpless and dependent on its parents for care all of its needs.

Two other terms related to precocial and altricial are nidifugous and nidicolous. Nidifugous species leave the nest site shortly after hatching; all nidifugous species are precocial but not all precocial species are nidifugous. Precocial birds that remain in the nest for a period are called nidicolous.

It's Crane Week, so how about a crane edition of our Baby Birdorable series to celebrate?

If you think our Birdorable birds are cute as adults, what about when they are babies? Wattled Cranes are found in Africa, south of the Sahara. They raise their chicks near wetlands or marsh habitat, where they may reuse a goose nest or make their own sloppy grass nest. The average clutch size for Wattled Cranes is 1.6 eggs, the smallest of all the crane species. The incubation period of 33-36 days is the longest of all the cranes. Fledging takes another 100 to 150 days, another crane extreme.

Here are some adorable baby Wattled Crane photos taken at the Jacksonville Zoo by photographer Rob Bixby, shared here via Creative Commons (CC by 2.0). Can you spot the cute little baby wattle visible in some of the photos?

Photo of baby Wattled Crane
Photo of baby Wattled Crane
Photo of baby Wattled Crane
Photo of baby Wattled Crane
Photo of baby Wattled Crane
Photo of baby Wattled Crane
Photo of baby Wattled Crane
Photo of baby Wattled Crane

Crane Festivals

Sandhill Cranes in flight

It's Crane Week! You may be wondering where you can find cranes. There are cranes on every continent except for South America and Antarctica. With their elaborate mating dances, haunting calls, impressive size, and epic migrations, cranes are celebrated all around the world. You can join other crane enthusiasts at various crane festivals around the United States and beyond.

The Whooping Crane Festival in Port Aransas, Texas This huge annual festival celebrated its 22nd year in 2018. The fest takes place at the end of February each year and features field trips, speakers, workshops, a trade show, and more.

Crane Festival in Kearney, Nebraska This annual festival takes place in late March. Birding field trips, information sessions, and other activities are offered for participants.

Monte Vista Crane Festival in the San Luis Valley of Colorado This festival takes place in March each year. Visitors enjoy viewing spectacular flocks of cranes, ducks, and geese in a beautiful mountain setting.

Chrissiesmeer Crane Festival in Chrissiesmeer, South Africa This annual festival takes place in July. Visitors can see South Africa's national bird, the Blue Crane, as well as the spectacular Grey Crowned-Crane.

Cranes of the World Festival at the International Crane Foundation in Baraboo, Wisconsin This family-friendly event will next take place on August 4, 2018.

Tanana Valley Sandhill Crane Festival in Alaska This annual festival will next take place August 24-26 2018.

Yampa Valley Crane Festival in northwest Colorado This festival from the Colorado Crane Conservation Coalition will next take place starting August 30, 2018. The fest features guided bird viewings, live raptor presentations, photography workshops, and much more.

Whooping Crane Festival in Princeton, Wisconsin This annual one-day festival includes activities like a pancake breakfast, vendors, triva, and guided tours.

CraneFest in Bellevue, Michigan This combined crane and art festival will next take place October 13-14, 2018. Each day the festival features artists, food vendors, and conservation-related information and activities. Stay for the spectacular evening fly-in of cranes that takes place in the hours before dusk.

Sandhill Crane Festival in Lodi, California This festival will next take place November 2-4, 2018. The event celebrates the return of the cranes for the winter and features related presentations and workshops for participants.

Black-necked Crane Festival in the Phobjikha Valley of Bhutan This celebration takes place in mid-November, when the cranes return to Bhutan. The fest highlights the importance of preserving and appreciating the endangered crane.

Festival of the Cranes in Bosque del Apache NWR, New Mexico This huge six-day festival takes place in November at the Bosque del Apache National Wildlife Refuge and offers over a hundred activities like photography sessions, birding trips, and more.

For T-Shirt Tuesday [Crane Edition] we're unveiling several new t-shirt designs inspired by cranes that are honored as avian emblems in several different places around the world. These cute crane t-shirts are available from our Birdorable store on Amazon. Click a design to view the t-shirt on Amazon.

The Black Crowned-Crane is the National Bird of Nigeria. In this t-shirt design our cartoon bird stands proudly before the Nigerian national flag.

Birdorable Black Crowned-Crane with Nigeria Flag T-Shrit

The Black-necked Crane is the official state bird of Jammu and Kashmir in India. A stylized image of the crane is featured on the state flag, which is part of our t-shirt design.

State Bird of Jammu & Kashmir India Black-necked Crane

The Blue Crane is the National Bird of South Africa. It is featured in a collegiate style on our t-shirt.

National Bird of South Africa Cute Cartoon Blue Crane Shirt
Blue Crane of South Africa Cute National Bird T-Shirt

The Red-crowned Crane is the unofficial National Bird of China. The bird features prominently in Chinese culture; it is shown along with a map of China in our t-shirt design.

Cute Cartoon Bird Red-crowned Crane of China from Birdorable

The Grey Crowned-Crane is the National Bird of Uganda. Here, too, the bird is featured stylized on the flag, and on our shirt as well.

Uganda National Bird Grey Crowned-Crane Cute Cartoon T-Shirt

These shirts are all available via our Amazon page.

Continue to follow Birdorable here and on Facebook as we celebrate Crane Week!

Almost anywhere you can find cranes living in the wild, you can find cranes in human mythology and popular culture. They are often symbols of happiness, youth, good luck, and/or peace.

In Japan, as in many other parts of Asia, cranes are regarded as symbols of good fortune, peace, and youth. Japanese legend tells that anyone who folds a thousand origami cranes will be granted one wish.

Crane origami
Crane origami by Japanexpterterna.se (CC BY-SA 2.0)

In China, the Red-crowned Crane is prevalent in mythology. It is a symbol of nobility, as well as youth, longevity, and immortality.

Pine, Plum and Cranes (1759) by Shen Quan from the Palace Museum in Beijing, China

In heraldry or coats of arms, a crane is often shown holding a rock with its foot. The symbolism comes from a legend attributed to Pliny the Elder. He wrote that a group of cranes under attack put one bird on watch. The bird on guard duty would hold a rock; if the crane accidentally fell asleep, the sound of the falling rock would awaken the bird.

Crane coat of arms
Image by Christer Sundin (CC BY-SA 3.0)

The elaborate mating and pair-bonding dances performed by cranes are noted in several cultures. The Blue Crane is prominent in the culture of the Xhosa of southern Africa. Feathers from the bird are used in ceremonies to decorate distinguished men.

In native Siberian culture, the Siberian Crane is sacred, a symbol associated with the sun and spring time.

In Germany, there is a museum devoted entirely to the natural history of the Common Crane! The Kranich Museum is in a renovated manor house in Mecklenburg-Vorpommern. There are displays of various pieces of artwork related to the birds, including video, murals, costumes, and other media.

The Sarus Crane is considered sacred in several Indian cultures. They are known as symbols of marital virtue because they mate for life. When a Sarus Crane dies, its mate was believed to starve to death in sorrow.

Cranes are featured in a few of Aesop's fables. In The Geese and the Cranes, a mixed flock of geese and cranes were feeding in a meadow. A birdcatcher came to ensnare them in his nets. The cranes, being light of wing, fled away at his approach; while the geese, being slower of flight and heavier in their bodies, were captured. The moral of this story is that those who are caught are not always the most guilty. Other fables attributed to Aesop that include cranes are The Wolf and the Crane and The Peacock and the Crane.

Illustration from 1909 of the fable of the geese and cranes from Aesop's Fables