Friday, March 25, 2011

Six yellow Warbler Pics

[Put the lemon in the coconut - this male Yellow Warbler lingered in a coconut palm on the coast of Belize, March 17 2011. Yellow Warblers are very widespread and involve complex taxonomy, e.g. Dunn and Garret's Warblers book give it over 20 pages. The pictured bird, the aestiva subspecies, is "our" Yellow Warbler, and winters from Mexico through Central and into South America. It is very much a habitat generalist on the wintering grounds, which helps explain why it remains relatively common while other warblers decline. Click to enlarge.]

By March, don't your eyes crave yellow? The American Goldfinches in pre-alternate molt at my feeders show more yellow every day, which is great, but what we really need are WARBLERS! Decent movements of Pine Warblers have already occurred in Cape May and more can be found singing at breeding sites every day. We can hope for the first Yellow Warbler shortly after tax day.

In the meantime, they say Americans should travel more. I agree, and not just for birds, but they do make a fine excuse. So off to Belize we went.

We wound up recording 24 North American warblers among close to 300 bird species during our Belize trip a week ago. Ours was certainly not an exhaustive tour, but some of us talked about returning with backpacks to explore where birders seldom go, visions of Harpy Eagles in our heads. Sounds like heaven.
Belize is a quite small country on the Caribbean, with the Mexico's Yucatan Peninsula to the north, from which launch many trans-gulf migrants bound for the shores of Texas and Louisiana; Guatemala to the west, and Honduras to the south.

Not counting the locally breeding Grace's Warblers and Gray-crowned Yellowthroats, here are the warblers we encountered: Blue-winged Warbler, Golden-winged Warbler, Tennessee Warbler, Northern Parula, Yellow Warbler, Chestnut-sided Warbler, Magnolia Warbler, Cape May Warbler, Yellow-rumped Warbler, Black-throated Green Warbler, Yellow-throated Warbler, Palm Warbler, Black-and-white Warbler, American Redstart, Prothonotary Warbler, Worm-eating Warbler,  Ovenbird,  Northern Waterthrush, Louisiana Waterthrush,  Kentucky Warbler, Common Yellowthroat, Hooded Warbler, Wilson's Warbler and Yellow-breasted Chat.

In six weeks that list or one like it will be attainable in the mid-Atlantic - can't wait!

[Belize is at the the center of Magnolia Warbler winter range. In some brushy habitats it was the most common bird we encountered! This funky looking one, still in prealternate molt, lounged in our Belize City hotel courtyard. Click to enlarge.] 

Belize really helped me dial in on one of Magnolia Warbler's calls, an inflected, nasal nieerf that they seemed to use as the primary wintering call.I've heard it stateside, and I bet now that I know it well I'll hear it more.

[Cape May Warblers winter mainly on Carribean Islands or hugging the coast, where this one posed in Hopkins, Belize just a stone's throw from the water. March 18, 2011, click to enlarge.] 

[Male Hooded Warbler bathing in a rain shower outside the cabana. Hoodeds winter mainly in lowlands from Mexico and the Carribean to Panama. That white flash is a good field mark as they flit away back home in Belleplain State Forest, NJ. Near Hopkins, Belize, March 20, 2011, click to enlarge.]

[Yellowstart: dark lores indicate a first spring male American Redstart, not a female. Not all of them show the dark breast spotting this one has. Note also the orangy (as opposed to yellow) breast, wing and tail patches. This was another cabana buddy in Hopkins. Redstarts winter mainly from Mexico south through northern South America. March 20, 2011, click to enlarge.]

"Mangrove" Yellow Warbler, a candidate for future splitting from Yellow, in mangroves, where else, on a cay off Belize. This species or subspecies (or subspecies -ies) has been seen in Texas and California, even nesting on South Padre Island, but, well, good luck with that. I'd seen the bird a bunch of years ago on the mainland coast of the Sea of Cortez; it was delightful to meet up with it again March 18, 2011.]


  1. Nice photos! Interestingly, the first record of "Mangrove" Yellow Warbler for the western US was one banded in central Arizona on 31 Jul 2004 - see more here:

  2. @ Andrew, thanks! Wonder if the AZ Mangrove Yellow came from the pop.from where I saw my first, down near Ciudad Obregon.