Tuesday, September 17, 2013

A bird to look for this time of year: Common Yellowthroat

The next three weeks or so are the best time of year to look for a species of warbler called the Common Yellowthroat.  Although they occur in scrubby wetlands in our area all winter, and some also in summer, this window of fall migration we are entering is a time when they turn up all over urban areas as well.

They may simply show up in shrubs in your yard, but can also be found by targeting any unkempt weedy area, even a single vacant lot that has become overgrown.  Stand on its edge and "spish"- the species is often responsive to this.  They usually respond initially with their short check (or chunk) call, and quite commonly approach and take a peak at you.  They typically occur solo, although a few may be attracted to the same habitat patch.

Yellowthroats are almost always within just a few feet of the ground, and tend to occur in bright sunlit weedy and scrubby areas (not below shady canopy).  However, at this time of year I often find them in all kinds of odd places- small urban tree copses, even isolated manicured shrubs on the UNO campus.  Presumably these are recently arrived birds that are passing through and using whatever passes for the best habitat in their immediate environs.

Males are easy to tell even in fall- adults retain an essentially full black mask, while young males usually have a thin black wash delineating the same mask area.  In either case, this allows quick recognition.

Females, adult and immature, are basically tan all over except for their clean yellow throat and breast, and yellow undertail coverts.  Compared to other nondescript olive above/yellow below warblers, they differ in 1) being quite brown/tan (vs. olive) on the upperparts, and 2) having this upper part color extend broadly onto the sides and flanks.

They are chunkier/more squat than is typical of the warblers, and may remind you more of a wren.

Good birding,


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Jefferson LA 70121
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