Saturday, April 28, 2012

Backyard Black-and-white Warbler

I've been in a glum mood this month. April and May are the peak of spring migration and I feel like I'm missing it this year. Before I realized it, I committed myself to helping out with bird surveys or group bird walks every weekend in April and a couple in May. I haven't had time to bird my favorite neighborhood hotspots. This is the first April in years I haven't been able to visit the Texas coast (which experiences an amazing diversity and density of migrating birds this time of year since many cross stretches of the Gulf of Mexico and stop to recuperate when they finally make it to land).

I was free this morning, but all I felt like doing was spending half an hour on my back patio to see what I could find. The first twenty minutes were pretty uneventful but then I heard a Black-and-white Warbler singing. I was able to find it in my neighbor's trees behind my backyard and got a couple so-so photos of it. Here's one.

Black-and-white Warbler - 1

Warblers are small migratory songbirds that actively forage for insects in the forest canopy.
They are very popular among birders because there are fifty or sixty species that can be found in north America, and most are amazingly colorful and detailed. Black-and-white Warblers are one of the most common to pass through central Texas in the spring. They breed here too, but not in neighborhoods. Their striped black-and-white pattern is distinctive, but so is their behavior. They mostly clink to tree trunks and thick branches like a woodpecker, often scooting around upside-down or sideways as they glean the bark and bases of twigs for bugs.

Black-and-white Warblers are one of those interesting migratory species whose northern summer range almost overlaps with its southern winter range. They winter as far south as northern South America and as far north as south Texas. They breed in the summer from central Texas all the way up north to Canada. I wonder if the individual birds that breed the furthest north also winter the furthest north?

Here's the other photo I got, showing the bird singing.

Black-and-white Warbler - 2

Hearing and then seeing this bird cheered me up a bit. Even though I'm not out there to see them as much this year, birds are moving north through my neighborhood and through my yard on schedule. For some reason this makes me happy.


Annie in Austin said...

A couple of days ago my husband saw an interesting bird that he couldn't ID but I was reminded of his description of it when I saw your wonderful photos.
DH just confirmed that this is the bird he saw - we're happy a Black-and-white warbler stopped here, too.

Thanks again, Mikael!

Annie at the Transplantable Rose

Mikael Behrens said...

You're welcome,Annie. Glad I could help!