BIRD WATCH: Winter warblers welcome

“IS THE TOWNSEND’S warbler rare around here in the winter?” The question was a good one.

A long, long time ago, I would have thought it to be very rare.

Now, I expect to enjoy the occasional winter visitor.

The water in the bird bath is the attraction, but once they discover the lard/oatmeal mix, they visit often.

This warbler is an attractive bird with plenty of yellow and black on its head and breast, plus some white in its tail, wings and undersides.

Unlike most other warblers, its plumage looks the same, spring or winter.

Some warblers, mostly the eastern ones, look very different in their fall and winter plumage and can be difficult to identify.

So, why are Townsend’s warblers showing up at some feeding stations and not at others?

I do know they love the lard/oatmeal mixture. In fact, that’s all they eat along with the insects they find.

Warblers aren’t seed eaters. They’re insect-eaters.

They are also bold and will chase away the chickadees and nuthatches while claiming the feeder as theirs.

It’s a good thing they eat and then leave for a while. Then the others can fill up.

One other winter warbler the Townsend’s chases away is the orange-crowned.

Audubon chapters throughout Western Washington frequently report this warbler on their annual Winter Christmas bird counts.

Mild winter weather may be a factor but another reason could also contribute to their winter movements.

It is common for warblers to attach themselves to fall and winter flocks of other small insect-eating birds.

They often show up when chickadees, nuthatches, bushtits, wrens and brown creepers visit an area.

While searching for insects in the company of these other species, already familiar with feeders, they discover them too.

They’ve probably always wintered here in small numbers but were seen in less populated areas.

Whatever the reason for these winter warbler sightings, I am happy to see them.

Before these winter visits started, the orange-crowned warbler was the first warbler I looked for every spring.

I usually hear them first. Their call is described as a, “colorless trill.”

Once learned, it is easily remembered and recognized.

While the Townsend’s warbler prefers mature forests for nesting habitat and is found in the greatest numbers in the mountains, the orange-crowned frequents a variety of habitats in the lowlands.

Sometimes they nest in our yard while the Townsend’s only stops for a short time during migration.

Another warbler on record as a winter resident is the yellow-rumped.

Formerly considered two species, the Audubon’s and the Myrtle, it has a regular winter range in Western Washington.

It is often found along our coast where dense stands of shore pines and Myrtle offer protective cover and support a good insect population.

Throughout Puget Sound, especially near water, this warbler’s call (chek!) and trilling song gets your attention.

They alert you to the fact that yellow-rumps are in the area.

When they’re around, they are hard to miss and usually plentiful in number.

Their winter plumage is pale compared to their spring and summer color. Look for yellow markings on their shoulders, throat, top of head and especially their rump.

The Myrtle race has a white throat. Both can be seen in the same flock, especially during migration.

Here in the Northwest, we have a small group of warblers compared to the variety on the East Coast.

The fact that three of them stay around during the winter months is special.

Their occasional flashes of color are as welcome as sunshine on a winter day.

________

Joan Carson’s column appears every Sunday. Contact her at P.O. Box 532, Poulsbo, WA 98370, with a self-addressed, stamped envelope for a reply. Email: [email protected]

More in Life

Kennedy Bruch
Soroptimists announce STAR Awards for Port Angeles juniors

Soroptimist International of Port Angeles presented STAR Awards to… Continue reading

Evensong service set

Katy Taylor will offer music for an Evensong service… Continue reading

A selection of Esther Webster’s historically significant paintings includes scenes of local industry, business, and recreation. 

Photo by Nora Pitaro.
Virtual discussions set on life of Esther Webster

A virtual discussion on the life of Esther Barrows… Continue reading

Compassionate policing topic of film, panel discussion

Compassionate policing — a practice that teaches law enforcement… Continue reading

Photo courtesy of Silas Crews
Lindsey Coffman, last year’s Sequim Irrigation Festival queen, crowns Hannah Hampton in a virtual royalty pageant.
Queen, princesses crowned for virtual Sequim Irrigation Festival

Scholarship pageant makes its debut with online platform

Sophie Elan and Mark Katsikapes enjoy Tuesday afternoon at Port Townsend's Chetzemoka Park, which has received a $127,000 bequest from a Sequim woman who loved the spacious park. (Diane Urbani de la Paz/Peninsula Daily News)
Sequim benefactor supports three places

Funds split between PT park, pet care and hospice support

Lisa Leporati, left, and Lexi Koch built a garland of roses beneath the Haller Fountain in downtown Port Townsend on Monday. The flowers were placed in honor of the people lost to COVID-19 during the past year. (Diane Urbani de la Paz/Peninsula Daily News)
Floral heart memorial brings burst of color

Display honors people who have died of COVID-19

x
Charcoal artist in spotlight at Harbor Art Gallery

Harbor Art Gallery is featuring charcoal artist Lance Snider… Continue reading

x
Nature photographer, Mosaic members bring art to Sequim gallery

An award-winning photographer with an eye for storytelling through images… Continue reading

Most Read