Monday, October 4, 2010

Meet The Confusing Fall Warbler

Monday, October 4, 2010
Man, if we could only see the feet, this might be a cinch! But of course they are obscured.

So let's move on to the other field marks. Looking at the small bill and overall shape we know this is a warbler, right? Good. What else do we notice?

Well, if you remember your Streaky Fall Warblers chapter from Identify Yourself: The 50 Most Common Bird Identification Challenges (please see page 296) you'll remember that we divide the confusing fall warblers into Streaky Fall Warblers and Plain Fall Warblers. This little dude is definitely streaky.

The Streaky Fall Warblers include magnolia, pine, Cape May, blackpoll, bay-breasted, and prairie.

The "maggie" has a necklace, a dark head, and a yellow rump, which this bird lacks.

The pine is a super-chunk bird with a stout bill. Again, not our bird.

The Cape May is dark above, pale below, with dark face, and a limeade rump. Nope.

The prairie is very yellow below, with noticeable white tail panels, which it shows off by flicking its tail. It also has a very obvious yellow face, with a yellow crescent below the eye. Our bird's face is olive.

OK, look at the eye on our bird. See how it has a dark line through it? That's the line that makes the blackpoll look "mean" while the eyeline-free, plain face of the bay-breasted looks "sweet."

A streaky back. OK that narrows things even more. Wing bars? Good to note, but that doesn't get us much closer to an answer.

Non-uniform underparts: pale throat, yellow breast, streaky belly and flanks. Now that's notable. If this were a bay-breasted warbler, the underparts would be uniform. And the flanks might show a hint of the "bay" or chestnut color. But this bird has plain flanks.

So this bird, a Streaky Fall Warbler, is a blackpoll warbler. Oh, and the clue about the feet I mentioned at the outset? Blackpoll warblers show yellow feet (and often yellowish legs). But that's a field mark that can be difficult to see on a tiny, flitting migrant. So start with streaky versus unstreaky, and go from there.

Get it? Got it? Good!


On October 5, 2010 at 6:26 AM Alan said...

Cool, nice breakdown Bill. It does seem simpler broken down like that. You’ve made the confusion a little clearer...thanks!

On October 5, 2010 at 5:41 PM Bird Feeders said...

Great breakdown! This is usually what goes through my head as well when I'm IDing a difficult warbler. Thanks!

On October 12, 2010 at 10:30 PM dguzman said...

Dangit, I thought "pine." I'll have to re-read that chapter!