Another Bird Named Swainson’s

Swainson’s warbler (photo by Bettina Arrigoni via Wikimedia Commons)

I’ve seen the Swainson’s thrush and Swainson’s hawk. My goal last weekend was to hear and see a Swainson’s warbler.

Like the other two birds the Swainson’s warbler (Limnothlypis swainsonii) was named for English ornithologist William J. Swainson (1789-1855) but unlike them he’s hard to find.

To begin with, Swainson’s warblers don’t breed in Pennsylvania. The northernmost corner of their range is a 3.5 hour drive from Pittsburgh. Three of us went to New River Gorge, West Virginia.

Range map of Swainson’s warbler (from Wikimedia Commons)

We found his breeding habitat …

Breeds in southern forests with thick undergrowth, especially canebrakes and floodplain forests in lowlands and rhododendron-mountain laurel in the Appalachians.

from species account at All About Birds

… and stood quietly in a rhododendron thicket where he’s known to breed. We listened for this.

Listening is important. Swainson’s warblers skulk in shadowy, deep thickets and are rarely seen.

We heard one (“He’s in there!”) but he never came out.

Fortunately listening counts.

(photos and maps from Wikimedia Commons, sound from Xeno Canto; click on the captions to see the originals)

p.s. Here’s how thick the rhododendrons are in West Virginia, in a blog post by Samuel Taylor.

2 thoughts on “Another Bird Named Swainson’s

  1. Read “Follow the River,” Thom. Wonderful description of the New River valley with it’s Rhododendron thickets. Based on true story of Indian capture and escape by young woman. I read in the 1950’s and it’s beauty remains.

    1. Nan, one of my friends bought the book and began reading it on the way home in the car. Hair raising story in the beginning. Yikes!

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