Warblers IV: A blacker theme

[This is my last prepared warbler post. Good timing, because in a few weeks they will be coming through on their way North, and I might get lucky and see some of the ones I’ve never seen.]

I’m moving on from yellow, or indeed buff or brown, to a darker hue. That said, my first candidate today is rather yellow, but its name qualifies it for this post. The Blackburnian Warbler, Setophaga fusca, is called after Anna Blackburne, an 18th century English naturalist, whose brother Ashton had moved to America and sent her bird specimens. (Not enough birds are named after woman scientists; good for her.) We are at the southern edge of its breeding range, and this looks like a singing female, which is unlikely but not impossible; there is growing evidence that some female warblers do indeed sing, and I hope Anna Blackburne’s namesake is one of them.

Here it is posing politely for its headshot.

The throat of the male is almost orange, something my photos fail to show.

Finally, I turn to warblers with no trace of yellow! The Black-and-White warbler, Mniotilta varia, is a dapper little bird.

It behaves like a nuthatch, hanging upside down as it feeds on creeping insects:

All these warblers frequent the deep woods, and that makes catching a photo tricky. The following photos are pretty awful, but for those of you who like lists (me too) I’m including them anyway.

This is a male Black-throated Green Warbler, Setophaga virens, which, I’ve just realized, really belongs back in the “something yellow” category. Oh well.

And finally, a male Black-throated Blue Warbler, Setophaga caerulescens.The female looks so different that for a long time they were thought to be entirely different species.

I only saw this because of modern technology. I heard a call, and saw movement, but the bird was elusive. So I used my Merlin app to record the song and to ID it, and it told me it was a Black-throated Blue Warbler. I’d never seen one, so I waited patiently for ages and ages, and finally got a glimpse, and a bad photo.

I fear I have crossed the line depicted by The New Yorker:

3 thoughts on “Warblers IV: A blacker theme”

  1. ….there’s also a ‘line’ between bird watching and bird knowing…I think the latter is more important…it involves more curiosity. I saw two black & white birds in a tree in woods near here & got some ‘poor’ photos…but was able to ID with online help….Black-and-White Warblers. I hope you see some new-for-you Warblers.


  2. Very complete (and funny). the warblers have such a range in looks, do they actually DNA them to decide If they are, or is it just visible characteristics?



  3. This is a good question. It used to be done by visible characteristics, but now DNA is used to confirm this, and quite often turns out to require changing the traditional terminology , so the birds’ scientific names get changed.


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