Sep 01 2009

Confusing Fall Warblers

Published by at 7:07 am under Songbirds

Female Yellow Warbler (photo by Chuck Tague)From the moment I became a birder there was a section of the field guide that gave me the shivers.

In my Peterson Field Guide to Birds there were four pages labeled Confusing Fall Warblers.  I studied those pages many times but it was hopeless.  The birds in the pictures were females or juveniles.  Some had wing bars, some did not.  Much as I tried I couldn't identify those tiny, olive-green and yellow birds.

For many years I was cowed.  Finally I bought a field guide that didn't have those four pages and avoided the problem by ignoring it.

Years later I'm surprised to discover I can identify many fall warblers though I didn't work at learning them.  Instead I spent May after May looking at spring warblers.  I got used to identifying the adults, noticing their body shapes, bill sizes and whether they had eye stripes, wings bars or beady eyes.

Eventually I realized that young warblers have the same traits.  A long, thin-bodied warbler is still long and thin-bodied whether it's young or old.  An adult warbler who feeds by poking under bark will have babies who do the same.  A warbler with a beady black eye, like this female yellow warbler, has a beady black eye at every age.

I'm still confused by many fall warblers - and a couple of spring ones too - but I enjoy them more since I gave up trying so hard.


(photo of a female yellow warbler by Chuck Tague)

2 responses so far

2 Responses to “Confusing Fall Warblers”

  1. Dianeon 01 Sep 2009 at 7:57 am

    I was so glad to read this. I struggle with warblers. It makes me feel challenged I am is so bad at it. I think enjoying them and not trying so hard is good advice.

  2. Kate St. Johnon 01 Sep 2009 at 3:34 pm

    I wrote this blog before I went birding today where I saw at least 3 confusing fall warblers at Flying Mountain. One was an American redstart. The rest were a challenge: a possible common yellowthroat, a possible female black-throated blue warbler and an impossible who-knows-what. I saw an osprey catching a fish – easy to identify and beautiful!

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