Monday, May 17, 2010

Warbler Migration

By Susan Benson,
CNHM Director of Education

May is the best time for seeing some of the most beautiful birds, the warblers. These small birds are on their way back from Central and South America, nearing the completion of their thousand mile or more journey to their northern breeding grounds. These mostly insectivorous insects are nocturnal migrants, flying almost non-stop trips, or stopping for several days along the route to refuel their bodies for the next flight. Warblers fly in flock or waves, bringing a bright spot of color to our lives. Many male warblers also sing their beautiful songs, making them even more noticeable. On a good day after a warbler wave has arrived, a birder can see or hear over a dozen species of warblers. Here are some special warblers to keep an eye or ear out for:

Yellow-rumped Warbler: Named after its most distinctive yellow patch above its tail, this is a commonly seen warbler in spring. The brighter males forage higher in the trees than most other warblers. They are also the warbler that is most likely seen darting out from a tree to catch an insect. Their preferred habitat includes mature coniferous and mixed coniferous-deciduous woodlands. Their song is a variable trill.

Black-and-white Warbler: With its distinctive black and white plumage, it forages for insects while creeping along the trunks and branches of trees like a nuthatch. It is one of the earliest migrating warblers and prefers mature or second-growth deciduous or mixed forests. Its sweet sound is a “wheezy, wheezy, wheezy, wheezy”

Black-throated Green Warbler: As its name suggests, the male has a black throat, and is also noticeable with its yellow face. This bird is often heard rather than seen, as it prefers conifer trees, and usually is hiding deep within one. Its "zee zee zee zoo zee" song is very distinctive, and as this bird chooses to stop for its breeding season in northern Wisconsin, we continue to hear it throughout May into very early June.

These are just three of maybe fifteen easier seen or heard warblers in the north woods. Look for warblers near you by finding their preferred habitats. Forest edges and near waterways are also good places to look or listen for warblers. It is also worthwhile to listen to a bird songs CD to learn more about warbler song identification. Grab your binoculars and your field guide to enjoy the color and song show!

Nature Watch is brought to you by the Cable Natural History Museum. For 40 years, the Museum has served as a guide and mentor to generations of visitors and residents interested in learning to better appreciate and care for the extraordinary natural resources of the region. The Museum invites you to visit its facility and new exhibit, On Lake Owen: The Art of Walter Bohl, in Cable at 13470 County Highway M or on the web at to learn more about exhibits and programs.

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