ABACO’S 5 ‘PERMANENT RESIDENT’ WARBLERS & A NEW WARBLER ID GUIDE


Olive-capped Warbler, Abaco (Bruce Hallett)

Olive-capped Warbler, Abaco

ABACO’S 5 ‘PERMANENT RESIDENT’ WARBLERS & A NEW WARBLER ID GUIDE

There are 37 Warbler species (Parulidae) recorded for Abaco. There is considerable scope for confusion between many of them. For a start, by no means all have the helpful word ‘warbler’ in their name. Secondly a great many of the species are to a greater or lesser extent yellow, with sub-variables for gender, age and season. It’s easy to get in muddle. A good place to start ID is with the warblers that are on Abaco all year round. Only 5 species are permanent residents on Abaco and the Cays: Bahama Warbler, Bahama Yellowthroat, Olive-capped Warbler, Pine warbler and Yellow Warbler. I have used images of these to illustrate this post.

Yellow Warbler (f) Abaco

Yellow Warbler (f) Abaco

The rest are mostly winter residents, with some being transient visitors passing through on their migration routes. Some are ‘everyday’ birds; some are unusual; and a few are extremely hard to find, the Kirtland’s warbler being the rarest and therefore the most prized sighting of all. I will be returning to the Kirtland’s in more detail in due course.

Pine Warbler, Abaco

Pine Warbler, Abaco

At the bottom of this post is a complete list of the Abaco warbler species, with Bahamas bird authority Tony White’s excellent codes indicating (a) when they may be seen; and (b) the likelihood of seeing a particular species (from 1 – 5). First however, news of a great resource for aiding warbler ID, produced by The Warbler Guide. Click on the blue link below to open a pdf with illustrative views of warbler species from several angles, spread of 8 pages. These are the warblers of North America, but you’ll find that almost all the Abaco warblers are featured.

THE WARBLER GUIDE QUICK-FINDERS

SAMPLE PAGE

Warbler Guide Sample Page

Bahama Warbler, Abaco (Woody Bracey)

Bahama Warbler, Abaco

THE 37 WARBLER SPECIES RECORDED FOR ABACO

WOOD-WARBLERS  PARULIDAE CODE
Ovenbird Seiurus aurocapilla WR 1
Worm-eating Warbler Helmitheros vermivorum WR 2
Louisiana Waterthrush Parkesia motacilla WR 3
Northern Waterthrush Parkesia noveboracensis WR 1
Blue-winged Warbler Vermivora cyanoptera WR 3
Black-and-white Warbler Mniotilta varia WR 2
Prothonotary Warbler Protonotaria citrea TR 3
Swainson’s Warbler Limnothlypis swainsonii WR 4
Tennessee Warbler Oreothlypis peregrina TR 4
Orange-crowned Warbler Oreothlypis celata TR 4
Nashville Warbler Oreothlypis ruficapilla WR 4
Connecticut Warbler Oporonis agilis TR 4
Kentucky Warbler Geothlypis formosa TR 4
Bahama Yellowthroat Geothlypis rostrata PR B 1
Common Yellowthroat Geothlypis trichas WR 1
Hooded Warbler Setophaga citrina WR 3
American Redstart Setophaga ruticilla WR 1
Kirtland’s Warbler Setophaga kirtlandii WR 4
Cape May Warbler Setophaga tigrina WR 1
Northern Parula Setophaga americana WR 1
Magnolia Warbler Setophaga magnolia WR 3
Bay-breasted Warbler Setophaga castanea TR 4
Blackburnian Warbler Setophaga fusca TR 4
Yellow Warbler Setophaga petechia PR B 1
Chestnut-sided Warbler Setophaga pensylvanica TR 4
Blackpoll Warbler Setophaga striata TR 3
Black-throated Blue Warbler Setophaga caerulescens WR 2
Palm Warbler Setophaga palmarum WR 1
Olive-capped Warbler Setophaga pityophila PR B 1
Pine Warbler Setophaga pinus PR B 1
Yellow-rumped Warbler Setophaga coronata WR 2
Yellow-throated Warbler Setophaga dominica WR 1
Bahama Warbler Setophaga flavescens PR B 1
Prairie Warbler Setophaga discolor WR 1
Black-throated Green Warbler Setophaga virens WR 3
Wilson’s Warbler Cardellina pusilla TR 4
Yellow-breasted Chat Icteria virens TR 4
Bahama Yellowthroat, Abaco

Bahama Yellowthroat, Abaco

Warbler_Guide

Image credits: Bruce Hallett, Tom Reed, Woody Bracey, Charlie Skinner; PDF from ‘The Warbler Guide”

ABACO WARBLERS: IN SEARCH OF A YELLOW RUMP…


Yellow-rumped_Warbler Dan Pancamo (Wiki)

ABACO WARBLERS: IN SEARCH OF A YELLOW RUMP…

I haven’t been very lucky with yellow rumps in the past. This is not normally something one likes to talk about in a public forum… but to be honest I have been longing to get hold of a yellow rump of my own. The warbler Setophaga coronata, that is, a fairly common winter resident on Abaco. I’ve seen them of course. I’ve glimpsed a passing flash of yellow rump. But no YRW has stayed parked in tree with its backside towards me for long enough to permit me to photograph its posterior glory. Ideally I’d have liked a clear, attractive shot like the header image (Dan Pancamo, Wiki). But desperation leads to lowered expectations and plummeting standards. Frankly, this year I’d have been satisfied with any yellow rump. Abandoning my initial plan to apply a yellow highlighter pen to a compliant female grassquit, I bided my time. And suddenly there, at the very top of a tree near the swimming pool at Delphi, was my chance… A pair of YRWs were in evidence.

Yellow-rumped Warbler, Abaco 5Yellow-rumped Warbler, Abaco 6Yellow-rumped Warbler Abaco 1Yellow-rumped Warbler, Abaco 2

The tree wasn’t very close to me, and the birds stayed near the very top. My photos were never going to be great. Especially since each bird was meticulous in keeping its rear end out of sight. Then they flew away! However quite soon one was back. This time there were twigs in the way, one of the those little variables that makes camera focussing so enjoyable. But this time I managed to ‘pap’ its derrière…  Feeble shots but mine own. As an avian ‘Holy Grail’, a mere yellow rump leaves quite a lot to be desired, I can quite see. It’s on no one’s ‘bucket list’ of birding musts. But now I can move on, release that poor female grassquit and chuck out the highlighter pen.

Yellow-rumped Warbler, Abaco 3Yellow-rumped Warbler, Abaco 4

BLACK-AND-WHITE WARBLERS ON ABACO


B & W Warbler (f) BH IMG_0482 copy

The Black-and-White Warbler Mniotilta varia is a fairly common winter resident on Abaco. They are the only birds of the genus Mniotilta (“moss-picker” gr.). Unlike most warblers these birds behave rather like nuthatches, creeping along the trunks and branches of trees grubbing insects out of the bark. Pine trees are ideal for this. I remain rather dim about the 37 species of warbler on Abaco. A lot of them are small and yellow. But as soon as I saw one of these for the first time, I was very relieved. I knew exactly what it was – the bird that has been described as ‘a flying humbug’. 

Black & White Warbler.Cross Harbor.Abaco Bahamas.Tom SheleyB & W Warbler BH IMG_9587 copyBlack & White Warbler TR jpg

SUMMER     WINTER
220px-Mniotilta_varia_map.svg

Finally, this is a great short video of this little bird in action. Even if you only watch the first 30 seconds, you will be enchanted…

Image Credits: Bruce Hallett, Tom Shelley, Tom Reed (my own were too feeble to use…). All are contributors to “The Delphi Club Guide to the Birds of Abaco” (Publ. March 2014)

PRETTY PALMS: CHEERY WARBLERS ON SUNNY ABACO


220px-Palm_Warbler,_Indiatlatlantic

PRETTY PALMS: CHEERY WARBLERS ON SUNNY ABACO

Palm Warblers Setophaga palmarum are cheerful little birds. Keen feeders, foraging around on the ground, in the coppice, or where there are pines. They are one of only 3 warbler species that bobs its tail, not just when it’s happy but much of the time. Maybe it is happy much of the time. The other 2 species are the relatively familiar Prairie Warbler; and the vanishingly rare – on Abaco, at least – Kirtland’s Warbler, the avian Holy Grail for birdwatchers on the island. 

The male palm warbler in breeding plumage has a smart chestnut cap and what might be described as a ‘buttery’ BTM, to use a polite text-abbrev. The females are paler and have less yellow on them. The photos below were taken in March this year, mostly by Mrs RH (I can’t now recall who took what so I’ll give a general credit until she claims her ones). You’ll see the wide variety of types of place you might encounter one of these little birds. The last picture isn’t great as a photograph… but it’s a classic bit of acrobatic personal grooming.

CALL

Palm Warbler, Abaco 7 Palm Warbler, Abaco 6 Palm Warbler, Abaco 5 Palm Warbler, Abaco 4 Palm Warbler, Abaco 3 Palm Warbler Abaco 2 Palm Warbler Abaco 1Thank you for admiring me…Palm Warbler, Abaco 9…now please excuse me if I scratch my ear for a moment…Palm Warbler, Abaco 8Header thumbnail image credit: Wiki

ABACO WARBLER CHALLENGE: CAPE MAY WARBLER IDENTIFIED


WARBLER IDENTIFICATION – A LIGHT-HEARTED CHALLENGE

SPECIES ID NOW SOLVED! CUT TO THE CHASE BENEATH THE PHOTOS FOR DETAILS. A LATE ENTRY NOW DISPUTES THE GENDER ID, SO THE SEX CHALLENGE IS REOPENED, SO TO SPEAK

I have previously posted aids to WARBLER ID (1); WARBLER ID (2), a pitfall-fraught area that continues to baffle me despite books, online resources, futile stabs in the dark etc. For each species the male differs from the female, and both differ from juvenile / maturing birds. And this all depends to some extent on the season. Here’s a speckled warbler photographed recently at the Delphi Club, Abaco, for which there are various candidates ranging from the distinctly possible to the frankly completely-unlikely-but-astounding-if-it-turned-out-to-be-true Kirtland’s Warbler. These are seen and positively identified vanishingly rarely on Abaco – maybe one or two a year, and invariably in winter. But what if one decided to stay behind for the summer… And to those who say “Prairie, dimwit”, I reply “…but their speckles don’t cover their entire fronts”.

I’m throwing this open, because although I have a view I’d like to see what others come up with. Craig? Avian101? Avian3? Margaret H? Other birding followers? Are you out there? Leave a comment (see small-print blurb at the bottom of the post) or email me at rollingharbour.delphi@gmail.com The bird was a bit reluctant to be photographed, but I managed to get a side view, a ‘full-frontal’ and a head shot. Any ideas?

UPDATE Thanks to all who came up with suggestions – it’s interesting how opinion on warbler species varies, even with quite clear close-ups to judge from. The first past the post is… Dr Elwood D Bracey (Fl), to whom many thanks. It’s a female CAPE MAY WARBLER Dendroica tigrina. The runner-up is (amazingly) myself – I had it down for a Cape May juvenile, because I thought it looked a bit on the fluffy side… Also, its eye-patches (photo 3) are grey rather than brown, and I took their colouring to be a work in progress. There’ll be some more ID queries from our recent batch of Abaco photos – not just birds, but flowers & shells as well. All contributions will be welcome…

Oh no! What’s happening here? A late challenge has come in from Margaret H (see comments), who contends that the clearly shown patch on the bird’s cheek indicates that it is a male, not a female, Cape May. So the challenge was ended and the award given prematurely… The species is now definite, but the gender ID remains unresolved…

I’ve now heard from Alex Hughes, who writes “[I am] one of Caroline Stahala’s field techs on the parrot project this summer.  She forwarded me the photos of the warbler taken recently on Abaco.  The photos I saw are of a female Cape May Warbler, which is a great find in June!  She is certainly not going to make it to her breeding grounds, unfortunately, but still fascinating to see a boreal forest bird in the Bahamas during summer.

In a follow-up, Alex adds “I’d be very surprised if this was a male bird, due to the plumage lined up with the time of year.  This year’s juvenile birds are not big enough to make the flight south from breeding grounds yet, and wouldn’t anyways if they could.  Therefore, it would have to be adult non-breeding plumage if it were a male, also meaning this bird already molted from alternate plumage from spring, and flew south.  This seems far more unlikely to me than a female who simply didn’t make the flight, probably due to some handicap.  Either way, very cool!”

So I think that wraps it up. A female Cape May, in the right place at the wrong time. How lucky to have got close to one in the off-season. It just goes to show, eager Kirtland hunters, that any of the migratory warbler species might choose to stay behind for the summer…

CORNELL LAB OF ORNITHOLOGY IMAGE & BLURB

“The Cape May Warbler breeds across the boreal forest of Canada and the northern United States, where the fortunes of its populations are largely tied to the availability of spruce budworms, its preferred food. Striking in appearance but poorly understood, the species spends its winters in the West Indies, collecting nectar with its unique curled, semitubular tongue”.

It is presumably using its ‘unique… tongue’ in Photo 2, inconveniently concealed by foliage so we will never know

(RH COMMENT My one obviously liked the Delphi Club – and its feeders – so much that it decided to stay for the summer…)

(Credit: Steve Pelikan for Xeno-Canto)

CAPE MAY WARBLER RANGE MAP (Wiki) (left)

As a warbler-muddler, I am interested to see how extremely selective this species is in its preferred summer and winter latitudes. The banding is very distinct. Are they never tempted by New York? Have they never tried Disneyland?

CORNELL LAB OF ORNITHOLOGY RANGE MAP (below)

The more sophisticated range map below shows the migration areas between the summer breeding and winter non-breeding areas. It looks as though a Cape May warbler on Abaco in June is an unexpected sighting.