PINE WARBLERS ON ABACO: ‘PINUS ENVY’
The Pine Warbler Setophaga pinus is one of 5 year-round resident warblers (endemics) on Abaco. All are to be admired, of course. The others are Bahama yellowthroat; Bahama warbler; olive-capped warbler; and yellow warbler.
The pine warbler is also to be envied for several reasons:
- Like most Setophagae, they are bright, lively and attractive birds
- Bahamas residents all year round – no long exhausting migration flights twice a year
- Abaco has vast areas of their preferred pine forest habitat
- They are plentiful – the population is largely untroubled by usual habitat concerns
- They are one of the few seed-eating warbler species, so feeders are a bonus
As the name strongly hints, the pine warbler is primarily a bird of the pine forests, of which Abaco has an abundance. The tall, straight trees of Abaco were once a vital local source of timber (SAWMILL SINK q.v.). As a historical note, felled pines were also exported to the UK to be made into the strong pit-props needed for coal-mines.
Q. WHAT IS THE NORMAL YEAR-ROUND RANGE OF THIS BIRD? A. THIS IS!
Pine warblers have a broad diet and forage methodically. Pine cones are a fertile source for food, and those robust, stabby, slightly down-curved beaks are ideal for getting the seeds out of the cones. Equally, these warblers use their beaks to prise / pry out insects from the rough pine trunks and branches.
WHAT OF THEIR NIDIFICATION?
The pine forest is obviously the preferred nesting habitat for these birds. The warblers also nest in the smaller groups of pines found (for example) in or near some of the settlements; or in backcountry around the edges of former sugar cane fields and the like. One nesting habit is slightly unusual – pine warblers tend to build their nests near the end of branches rather than near the trunk, a position that seems far less secure. One theory on pine warbler nest location is that they feel safer from predators by building at the end of a small branch*.
WHAT DO THEY SOUND LIKE?
One source states that “The song of this bird is a musical trill. Their calls are slurred chips“. I think we’ve all been there at some time, possibly when lunching at Pete’s Pub.
MUSICAL TRILL Paul Driver / Xeno Canto
SLURRED CHIP Don Jones / Xeno-Canto
Photo Credits: Bruce Hallett (1, 3, 6); Alex Hughes (2); Tom Reed (4); Tom Sheley (5); Dick Daniels (7); Wiki (range map); Nat Geo (species drawings); Paul Driver / Xeno Canto – call; Don Jones / Xeno Canto – chips; Milton Harris – nesting theory