Springtime brings in new life all around. Frogs call out from the wetlands, songbirds sing from the treetops and wildflowers break through the forest floor. We also see migrating travelers. Some birds are back in town for the summer and others are taking a quick pit stop on their journey. One group to keep an eye and an ear on is the migraters hailing from Central and South America: the warblers.
Warblers are small birds that showcase feathers with a variety of colors and patterns. In the springtime, they are looking their best to attract a mate with bright colors of yellow, olive green, blue, black and orange. Come fall, they turn it down a notch and sport drab and muted coats. These birds typically flutter from branch to branch snapping up insects as they fly. You won’t see these birds at your feeder; you have to look up into the trees. It is much easier to see these birds before the trees leaf out.
When looking to identify a warbler, it is important to keep in mind the colors and pattern of its feathers, the habitat and its behavior. The songs of these birds can be very helpful too, since they may not be eager to be seen.
Meet these five common warblers that will be flying into our area!
Yellow warbler (Setophaga petechia)
Coloring: Yellow warblers are bright yellow with rusty streaking on the chest. They feature a plain face with a round black eye.
Habitat: Yellow warblers are usually in the middle of the tree canopy. They love willow trees and to be near a water source.
Behavior: These birds nest in Will County. Some yellow warblers can spot when a cowbird laid an egg in their nest. When that happens, they often build a new nest right on top and start over!
Song: Hear them singing: “Sweet, sweet, sweet, I’m so sweet!”
Common yellowthroat (Geothlypis trichas)
Coloring: Not surprisingly, common yellowthroats have yellow throats! Plus, they have an easy-to-spot black mask across their forehead and face with a white top.
Habitat: These birds are spotted in lower thick shrubs and vegetation. They can be in wetlands, prairies and pine forests.
Behavior: Males are often seen perched up on a tall stalk to sing and flick their tails, hoping to catch an eye of a female.
Song: Hear them sing: “Witchity-witchity-witchity.”
Yellow-rumped warbler (Setophaga coronate)
Coloring: Yellow-rumped warblers have yellow on their rumps, but also on their shoulders and a streak on top of their heads. In the east, they have white throats and are nicknamed Myrtle. In the west, the subspecies has yellow throats and are nicknamed Audubon.
Habitat: Find these birds in the forests. The can be found in mature pines but also in mixed coniferous-deciduous woodlands.
Behavior: Yellow-rumped warblers are the only warblers able to digest waxy berries like bayberries and wax myrtles. This allows these birds to travel further north and handle winter better than other warblers.
Song: Hear them sing more of a trill: “tee-tee-tee-brr-brrbrr.”
Palm warbler (Setophaga palmarum)
Coloring: Palm warblers have a rusty cap on their heads with light rusty streaks on their chests. They also have yellow eyebrows and throats.
Habitat: Look lower to the ground in open wet areas. These birds like to stop by forest edges, shrubby fields and along fencerows.
Behavior: A big giveaway to identifying these warblers is watching their tail. Palm warblers constantly pump or wave their tails up and down.
Song: Hear them sing more of a trill: “tre-tre-tre-tre-tre-tre.”
Black-and-white warbler (Mniotilta varia)
Coloring: Just like the name suggests, there is no yellow to be seen on this warbler. Look for black and white streaks across their bodies.
Habitat: This warbler can be found in mixed coniferous-deciduous forests. They are famous for creeping along the branches and bark of the trees.
Behavior: The black-and-white warbler has extra long and strong toes to be able to walk head first down a tree trunk like a nuthatch.
Song: Hear them sing like a squeaky shopping cart wheel: “weecy-weecy-weecy-weecy.”
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