Confusing Fall Warblers

Right now there are lots of Wood-Warblers moving through the area in migration.

Some of our beautiful Wood-Warblers go through quite a change come fall. Once they have bred and raised a family, some species of the male Warbler will go through a molt and revert back to their basic plumage. A group of “winter” plumaged male, juvenile, and female Warblers can be very challenging to identify. Take a look at this beautiful Yellow-rumped Warbler in his breeding plumage.

Yellow-rumped Warbler by Alice Hill

Now this is what the Yellow-rumped Warbler looks like in the fall and winter.

Yellow-rumped Warbler

Not all the Wood-Warblers change their breeding or “alternate” plumage.

This is a good website to go to that has several photos of Warblers in many different plumages: http://www.giffbeaton.com/warblers.htm 

By the way, the Yellow-rumped Warbler is one of the most common Warblers in our area, and can be easily found during migration and in the breeding season.

The Yellow-rumped Warbler has been divided into two sub-species; the Myrtle and the Audubon’s. The “Myrtle” Yellow-rumped Warbler is the species that occurs in our area while the “Audubon’s” Yellow-rumped Warbler is out in the western US. The way to tell the two sub-species apart is by the color of their throat. The Myrtle’s is white and the Audubon’s has a yellow throat. If you have an old field guide, it may refer to the Yellow-rumped Warbler as a Myrtle’s Warbler. I kind of like that name better – it’s easier to say (and write!)

Right now, family groups of mixed flocks are frequenting the area. When you are outside, if you hear the familiar call of the Chickadee, take notice. Many times those flocks of vocalizing Chickadees will hold other bird species. Many times there will be a Warbler or Vireo accompanying the flock. The usually territorial birds will bunch up in the fall as they make their way south to their wintering grounds. As they say, safety in numbers.

Next time you are out in the woods try pishing a couple times if you hear a few Chickadees. You never know what may turn up!

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