5 May 2022
After yesterday morning’s downpour the sky never cleared and the air was so heavy that I didn’t expect to see good birds in Schenley Park, but when I arrived the soundscape was filled with the songs of rose-breasted grosbeaks, wood thrushes, Baltimore orioles, and many northern parulas. When I found the loudest parula I discovered he had a rare friend — a golden-winged warbler (Vermivora chrysoptera). The two of them were feeding on insects hidden in new elm leaves.
My post on the rare bird alert drew in other birders and photographers, including Charity Kheshgi whose photos are shown here. Rare birds usually visit for only 24 hours so everyone had to act fast.
Why is this bird rare?
The Golden-winged Warbler is a sharply declining songbird that lives in shrubby, young forest habitats in the Great Lakes and Appalachian Mountains regions. They have one of the smallest populations of any songbird not on the Endangered Species List and are listed as Near Threatened by the IUCN. An estimated 400,000 breeding adults remain—a drop of 66% since the 1960s. In the Appalachian Mountains the situation is even worse: the regional population has fallen by 98%. We’ve learned that the main reasons for the decline include habitat loss on the breeding and wintering grounds (Central and northern South America) and hybridization with the closely related Blue-winged Warbler.— Cornell Lab of Ornithology: Golden-winged warbler Conservation Strategy
Because of their precipitous decline, golden-winged warblers have been well studied for at least a decade. Seven years ago, scientists tracking this tiny bird in Tennessee discovered that it sensed the approach of violent storms and fled the tornadoes one day ahead. Read the amazing story of how golden-winged warblers flew 400 miles to the Gulf of Mexico to avoid the storms … and then came back.
(photos by Charity Kheshgi)