WINTER WARBLERS ON ABACO: NORTHERN PARULA


Northern Parula,  Abaco Craig Nash

WINTER WARBLERS ON ABACO: NORTHERN PARULA 

The NORTHERN PARULA Setophaga americana is a stumpy little migratory warbler with white arcs above and below the eyes, and with a slate-coloured back distinctively smudged with an olive patch in both sexes. These birds are winter residents on Abaco, and are common throughout the island and cays. They are arriving right now, including juveniles making their first trip to Abaco. Wonder what they’ll make of it?

Northern Parula, Abaco - Bruce Hallett (adult male)

Range Map: Summer (Yellow) & Winter (Blue)220px-Parula_americana_map.svg

Parulas are primarily insect eaters, with a preference for caterpillars and spiders. They sometimes dart from a perch to snatch insect prey in mid-air. In winter they vary their diet with berries and fruit. You are most likely to see one foraging busily in bushes and low trees – maybe coming up for air by poking its head above the foliage…

Northern Parula, Abaco (Craig Nash)

TAXONOMY DOMINÉ

WHAT THE HECK IS  A “PARULA”? Originally, Linnaeus classified this little bird at a Tit, or Parus. For some reason, “as taxonomy developed the genus name was modified first to Parulus and then the current form” (Wiki Hat-tip). But although none of the other 37 Abaco warbler species is a Parus, Parulus or Parula, they all come under the family name Parulidae. The august institutions that deal with these things have classified the Parula as a ‘Setophaga’, along with many other warblers.

This photo shows the distinctive upper chest band of the adult bird very clearlyBAHAMAS - Northern Parula Warbler, Abaco -  Becky Marvil

The CORNELL LAB list of adult Parula identifiers is shown below, with adult females being similar ‘but with greener backs’. These specifics are pretty much borne out by the birds shown here (except for the last bird, an immature female just beginning to develop the Parula characteristics). The next photo by Woody Bracey, is a perfect example of what to look out for. 

  • Small songbird.
  • Blue-gray hood and wings.
  • Yellow chest with black and reddish band across it.
  • White crescents above and below eyes.
  • Green back.
  • Two white wingbars.

Northern Parula, Abaco (Woody Bracey)

Parulas produce different sounds to listen out for – a ‘chip’ call that could be any number of birds (IMO); a song; and a trill. Here are examples of each from the essential bird call site Xeno Canto.

CHIP CALL Paul Marvin / Xeno Canto

SONG Paul Marvin / Xeno Canto

TRILL Jelmer Poelstra / Xeno Canto

ABACO BAHAMAS - Northern Parula 2, 1-22-12, Nursery copy 2

This is an immature female parula, a ‘first fall’ bird, and therefore on its first visit to AbacoNorthern Parula, Abaco - Bruce Hallett (imm. - 1st fall female)

I’ll end with an excellent 2:18 mins-worth of Parula-based video from Wild Bird Video Productions

RELATED POSTS

WARBLER GALLERY ABACO’S 37 SPECIES

PERMANENT RESIDENT WARBLERS  – THE ABACO 5 

ENDEMIC BIRDS - ABACO’S 4, inc. 2 WARBLERS

CREDITS: Photos – Craig Nash, Bruce Hallett, Becky Marvil, Gerlinde Taurer; Audio – Xeno Canto; Video -Wild Bird Video Productions; Cornell Lab; a smidge of Wiki

ABACO WARBLERS: A COMPLETE PDF GUIDE FOR TABLET & PHONE


Black & White Warbler, Abaco - Bruce Hallett

ABACO WARBLERS: A COMPLETE PDF GUIDE

Yesterday I posted a complete guide to Abaco’s 37 warblers. A few people said nice things about it. Two people spotted a mistake (my bad!), now corrected. It has now occurred to me that it might be helpful to reduce the contents to a shorter PDF so as to make the guide more handy – plus you will be able to print it out. If you click the link below, you can save the 1.6 mb ‘booklet’ onto your computer desktop / iPad / tablet / etc. You can email it to your phone and save it there. For an iPhone, you have the option to have a ‘quick check’. I you want to keep it, you can ‘cloud’ it, or save it in various ways on the phone, for example to iBook or Kindle if you have the App. I expect other cellphone  types are much the same. I have road-tested the system, and it works! So if one sunny day you suspect you are looking at a Bay-breasted Warbler (highly unlikely, but possible) in that small bush over there… yes look, near the top on the left… no, on the long twig lower down… you can check it out. 

AN ILLUSTRATED GUIDE TO ABACO’S WARBLERS

Bahamas-Great Abaco_Prairie Warbler_Gerlinde Taurer

And here’s the thing. You have a camera in your hand to record the encounter. And if the little rascal is happily singing away, you can use you phone to record it, using a simple technique I have previously described – check out the link. 

HOW TO RECORD BIRDS ON A PHONE 

Prothonotary Warbler, Abaco - Craig Nash

Photos: Black & White Warbler, Bruce Hallett; Prairie Warbler, Gerlinde Taurer; Female Prothonotary Warbler, Craig Nash

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 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.