I sit in the plum patch to wait out the warbler that I know will show. When the orange-crown finally appears, shaking the blossoms ever so slightly, I’ll watch him a long while, hoping to catch a view of his smudge of orange as he twists and leans this way and that.
Years ago, we made plum jam from this big, sprawling patch. When I leave, I’ll squeeze out the back way, not to disturb the warbler. By then, I always think he must have a light sparkle of golden pollen dust on him, after a morning of browsing through that ocean-foam of flowers.
–from Merrill Gilfillan’s The Warbler Road
Warblers are passerines in the Parulidae family. Many arrive here during migration in April and May and again in the fall. During spring, warblers travel from their wintering grounds in southern states and Central and South America to their chosen breeding areas north. Some, such as the Yellow warbler, remain to nest in Kansas.
Warblers are small and strikingly beautiful birds that like to forage the canopies for insects. Learning their songs and identifying them from the ground through the foliage above can be challenging. Spending time in the field observing, knowing what fieldmarks to look for during different seasons, and understanding their habitat preferences are key to accurate identification.
The checklist of Kansas birds prepared by the Kansas Ornithological Society includes a list of warblers (see the Parulidae family) you may see in our state. Birds of Kansas is another quality resource with photos and county breeding records. The Guide to Kansas Birds and Birding Hot Spots has a nice section devoted to warblers with field notes and stunning photographs.
The Warbler Guide by Tom Stephenson and Scott Whittle is a terrific and comprehensive resource full of photos of male and female warblers in both spring and fall plumages. Photos taken from various angles show just how challenging ID can be. Remember to bring a camera along in the field as underview photos of a warbler just might be enough to narrow your possibilities of choices for an accurate ID!
To learn more about when and where you can expect to see warblers such as Blackburnian, Prothonotary and Nashville migrate through our region and tips to improve your birding skills, come to the Library this Thursday, March 6, at 7:00 p.m. for Chuck Otte’s presentation focusing solely on warblers. Chuck is a co-author of Birds of Kansas and is an active member and past President of the Kansas Ornithological Society. This event is cosponsored by the Topeka Audubon Society. It’s free and everyone is welcome to attend!