PRAIRIE WARBLERS ON ABACO: CHIRPY WINTER RESIDENTS
There are 32 warbler species that migrate south and joinABACO’S 5 PERMANENT RESIDENT WARBLERSfor their winter break. Some, like the Prairie Warbler Setophaga discolor, are common; a few are quite rare; and one, the endangered Kirtland’s Warbler, is a ‘bird of a lifetime’ if you manage to see one. Or even hear one.
The Prairie Warbler prefers open areas to coppice and pine forest, though despite its name it does not inhabit prairies in the summer months. Scrubland and backcountry wood margins are a favourite haunt. This is a tail-bobbing warbler species, and is often seen low down in foliage or actually on the ground.
The wonderful photographs below were all taken on Abaco by Gerlinde Taurer, whose collection of bird species photographed on the island was used extensively in the “THE BIRDS OF ABACO“, including one of the Prairie Warblers below (awarded a full page).
The overall impression is of a small yellow bird with darker wings and back, and conspicuous black streaking. However there are considerable variations in the colouring and patterning within the species depending on age, sex, season and so on. One indicator of the species is a dark line through the eye. Mostly, there will be a patch of yellow above and / or below the eye. However, all the birds on this page show differences from each other in their markings, and one can only generalise about their appearance.
Prairie Warblers forage for insects on tree branches or sometimes on the ground. You may also see them ‘hawking’ for insects. They have two types of songs, sung at different times – for example in the breeding season, or when territorial assertion is called for. Here is one example:
Mike Nelson Xeno-Canto
These warblers also use a simple chipping calls of the ‘tsip’ or ‘tsk’ kind.
Paul Marvin Xeno-Canto
Though currently IUCN listed as ‘Least Concern’, numbers of this species are declining. The two main threats to them are mankind (habitat loss); and nest parasitism by, in particular, theBrown-headed Cowbird, a bird which causes problems for many other species.
Credits: All photos Gerlinde Taurer except header Wolfgang Wander; Audio Clips Xeno-Canto; Range map Cornell Lab
BOBOLINKS: MIGRATORY SONGBIRDS OF ABACO & THE BAHAMAS
Occasionally vacation plans disrupt the flow in the smoothest of operations. A smear of suntan cream in the well-oiled machinery of a blog. Or a well-oiled operator over-sampling the local produce – wine, in these parts. So it pays to follow the Blue Peter principle of ‘Here’s one I prepared earlier’. Except regrettably I didn’t do it properly and have been struggling to unpick some html on an iPhone. Don’t ever try it. Luckily the ever-resourceful Mrs RH brought an iPad along. Much less fiddly. So I am now able to feature the BOBOLINK (Dolichonyx oryzivorus), a small New World blackbird
14 ESSENTIAL BOBOLINK FACTS TO ENTERTAIN YOUR FAMILY & FRIENDS
Adults weigh about 1 ounce (28 g)
The collective name for a group of Bobolinks is a ‘chain’
One bird was tracked flying 12,000 miles (19,000 km) in one year
A bobolink has been tracked covering 1,100 miles (1,800 km) in one day
The birds migrate in flocks, feeding on cultivated grains and rice, which may annoy farmers
Despite their flying stamina Bobolinks have rarely been sighted in Europe
In South American they are known as “ricebirds”
In Jamaica they are sometimes eaten and are called “butterbirds”
Bobolinks forage on or near the ground eating seeds and insects.
Their breeding habitats are open grassy fields across North America
Males are often polygynous, and take their vows shamefully lightly
Females lay 5 to 6 eggs in a cup-shaped nest on the ground, hidden in dense vegetation
Both parents feed the young, except when the male has some important singing to do (often)
Although currently rated “of least concern” their numbers are declining due to loss of habitat
WAYS IN WHICH THE BOBOLINK HAS INSPIRED ARTISTS (despite its unpromising name)
Emily Dickinson wrote several poems about the bird, including “The nicest bird, I always think / Is the tiny Bobolink / To me, it never had occurred / Thus to name a songstrel bird”*
The Bobolink is also mentioned in a song called Evelina, from a musical called “Bloomer Girl” (me neither): “Evelina, won’t ya ever take a shine to that moon? / Evelina, ain’t ya bothered by the Bobolink’s tune?”**
The Bobolink is name-checked by Nabokov; in a poem by Sophia Jewett, An Exile’s Garden (1910); and it has a fly-on part in a film “The Mouse on the Moon”
Finally, a wonderful video showcasing the bubbling song of the bobolink(Credit: Themusicofnature)
* and ** I can’t be sure which of these is made up. Maybe neither. Or both.