Sunday, May 19, 2013


When you see a warbler in a tree the first question you should ask yourself is, ‘Which warbler is it?"

Finding warblers passing through Wisconsin is easy now.  They’re colorful, common and curious as they bounce around the branches searching for newly hatched insects. The Cornell Lab of Ornithology lists eighty different species of warblers.  Ranging from olive drab to brilliant yellow…the warbler migration is a sure sign of spring.

The Cape May Warbler is a good example of warbler complexity.  The Cape May Warbler is multi-colored and multi-striped in bold patterns, but there are a half dozen other warblers that look similar.  It is a challenge to tell them apart.  Certainly, you don’t have to identify a warbler precisely to enjoy it. Knowing the differences is just more fun.

The Black-throated Green Warbler's size, shape and coloration is similar to many other warblers, but in a different order. You could drive yourself crazy trying to remember all the color combinations and patterns. Only experienced birders can do that well, plus they can recognize their individual songs.

The Black and White Warbler is one warbler no one should have a problem identifying.  He is black and white and boldly striped.  Watch for him along tree trunks looking for crawling insects. Few other warblers are this bold.

The Palm Warbler displays a more conservative look with a warm-brown back, yellow streaked breast and a small chestnut colored crown on top of his head.  Palm Warblers are abundant in Wisconsin right now, but they will soon leave for Canada. 

Yellow-rumped Warblers are very noticeable.  They may be the first warbler species you find in Wisconsin.  They are hard to mistake if you see them from the back.  They have bright yellow patches on their sides, one yellow stripe on the head and as their name points out, a yellow rump.

The Nashville Warbler doesn’t change colors significantly during the breeding season.  They look much the same all year long.  With a bright yellow breast and an olive back, they are passing through much of the United States at this time.  Look for Nashville Warblers high in the trees or low to the ground.  

You’re not likely to find a Canada Warbler at your backyard seed feeder. Warblers eat insects. Take a walk in the country or urban park to find one. Wisconsin is covered in warblers right now, but they're not here for long.