Blog Archive: Warblers

Birdorable American Redstart

New Coloring Pages for Warbler Week

New World warblers are famous for their fabulous colors, especially during spring migration when the birds have their fresh breeding plumage. For Warbler Week we've added five new warbler coloring pages to our free downloads collection:

Birdorable Warbler Coloring Pages

Direct link 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 warblers this week on the Birdorable blog!

Birdorable Common Yellowthroat

Warbler Week Extremes

May 25th, 2018 in Avian Extreme, Fun Facts, Warblers No comments

We're celebrating New World warblers! This diverse family has over 100 recognized species. Here are some extreme facts about these amazing feathered friends.

Smallest Warbler Species
The smallest New World warbler is Lucy's Warbler, which averages just 4.2 inches tall.

Lucy's Warbler
Lucy's Warbler by Bettina Arrigoni (CC BY 2.0)

Largest Warbler Species
The largest species of New World warbler is a tie between a few different birds. The Ovenbird, Russet-crowned Warbler, and Semper's Warbler, may all measure over 5.9 inches tall. The Yellow-breasted Chat, which is sometimes considered to be a New World Warbler, measures a whopping 7.2 inches tall.

Longest Migration
The Blackpoll Warbler has the longest migration of any of the New World warbler species. During fall migration, many Blackpoll Warblers fly from their breeding grounds in northeastern North America over the Atlantic Ocean to their wintering grounds. This route averages nearly 2000 miles flown over water, potentially non-stop.

Extremely Early Migrant
When warblers migrate depends on their breeding strategy and availablilty of food diet. The Louisiana Waterthrush is an extremely early neotropical migrant, usually arriving on breeding ground by early April, nearly two months before most other longer warbler migrants reach their summer breeding destination. After breeding, some Louisiana Waterthrushes depart as soon as early July.

Louisiana Waterthrush
Louisiana Waterthrush by Bettina Arrigoni (CC BY 2.0)

Long-living Warblers
Life in the wild as a little migratory bird is tough. Before reaching adulthood, warblers have to survive nest predation from a variety of different sources, including squirrels and chipmunks, snakes, and domestic cats. Other birds also feed on the eggs and nestling of small birds. If a baby migratory warbler survives to fledge, it has to make two migration journeys, dodging weather and more predators and unfamiliar surroundings and other hazards before it can even breed.

A lifespan of around five years is common among many warbler species. Several species boast longevity records up to 9 years, but very few species have a recorded longevity record of more than 10 years. These include the following.

A female Audubon's Warbler (on-again / off-again subspecies of the Yellow-rumped Warbler) banded and recaptured in Wyoming was at least 10 years old. On her recapture the band was removed.

Several individual warblers are known to have survived at least 11 years in the wild: a female Yellow Warbler banded and recaptured in New York; a Common Yellowthroat banded and recaptured in Massachusetts; and an Ovenbird banded and recaptured in Connecticut.

A female Black-and-white Warbler was banded in North Carolina in 1957 and found dead in Pennsylvania in 1968. She lived to be at least 11 years and 3 months old.

The all-time longevity record among warblers goes to the Louisiana Waterthrush. A male Louisiana Waterthrush banded in New Jersey in 1995 was refound in 2006, making the bird at least 11 years and 11 months old.

Singing Common Yellowthroat
Common Yellowthroat by Amy Evenstad (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0)
Birdorable Ovenbird

All About Warbler Nests

May 24th, 2018 in Fun Facts, Warblers No comments

The different New World warbler species have a lot in common with each other. They mostly feed on insects, they sing, they raise their young. But the nests they use have some variety. Some nest in trees, and some nest on or near the ground. They build cups, pendulums, and even ovens! Here are some different examples of New World warbler nests.

Many warblers nest in trees. Yellow Warblers build a cup out of vegetation in the fork of a tree or bush. The inside of the nest is lined with soft material like hair and feathers. Black-throated Gray Warblers also nest in trees, often building their cup nest on a horizontal branch.

Yellow Warbler nest
Yellow Warbler nest by ilouque (CC BY 2.0)
Male Black-throated Gray Warbler on nest
Male Black-throated Gray Warbler on nest by Bettina Arrigoni (CC BY 2.0)

Some warblers nest on the ground. Kirtland's Warblers, for example, build an open cup in a depression on the ground.

Kirtland's Warbler nest
Female Kirtland's Warbler on nest by U.S. Department of Agriculture (CC BY 2.0)

Common Yellowthroats build their nests in reeds, cattails, sedges, and other low plants, often by water or in marshy habitat.

Common Yellowthroat on nest
Common Yellowthroat nest by Charlie

Ovenbirds nest on the ground. They are actually named for their nest, an oven-like dome made of woven grasses with a side-entrance.

Ovenbird nest
Ovenbird nest by Charlie

The Northern Parula constructs a pendulum nest in hanging vegetation like Spanish moss.

Northern Parula nest
Fallen Northern Parula nest by Amy Evenstad (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0)

The Prothonotary Warbler is the only eastern New World warbler to use cavities for nesting. They will use old Downy Woodpecker holes or other natural cavities, and will also readily use artificial nest boxes. The other warbler species to nest in cavities is Lucy's Warbler of the west. They use holes made by woodpeckers or other birds in tree trunks or cactus plants. They will also use artificial nesting cavities.

Prothonotary Warbler nest in tree
Prothonotary Warbler nest in tree by Andy Reago & Chrissy McClarren (CC BY 2.0)
Birdorable Blue-winged Warbler

Warbler FAQs

May 23rd, 2018 in Fun Facts, Warblers No comments

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
Birdorable Worm-eating Warbler

Warbler Week: The Stories Behind the Names

May 22nd, 2018 in Warblers No comments

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 Mourning Warbler

Warbler Week: Four New Birdorable Warblers

May 21st, 2018 in Warblers No comments
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.