• Laurel Contributor

Yellow-Throated Warblers

by William McReynolds

You won’t find Yellow-Throated Warblers around your bird feeders. To catch a glimpse of these little charmers, look up.

This colorful summer resident of the Highlands Plateau is a member of a large family of colorful songbirds, the warblers.

The Yellow-throated Warbler (Setophaga dominica) was first described while wintering in the Dominican half of the island of Hispaniola, hence its Latin name of dominica. It sports grey dorsal plumage with double white wing bars, a white belly and under-tail, and a black facemask with long white eyebrows. Its bright yellow throat is a clear field sign. Look also for the long, sharp bill and notched tail.

Yellow throats’ summer breeding grounds include the Southeast US, from Florida and the Gulf Coast north to Pennsylvania and west to the Mississippi Valley, Missouri and West Texas.

They winter in Florida, the Caribbean and Mexican Gulf Coast. Their typical summer habitat is coniferous woods, with tall trees near water. Some are year-round residents of Florida.

Regarding diet, yellow throats are bark foragers that “creep” the upper branches of tall trees, finding beetles, caterpillars, flies and scale insects. Not being seed eaters, they rarely appear on our seed feeders. You might need binoculars to follow their treetop song of sharp, descending whistles: teedl teedl teedl…tew tew twee.

Yellow throats nest in the canopy using Spanish moss, if available, or bark, grass and weeds. The interior of the small cup nest is softened with feathers and tender vegetation. The male establishes and defends the territory and might help the female build the nest. A clutch of three to five speckled eggs incubate for 12-13 days before hatching. There are usually two broods per season.

Happy October birding from the Highlands Plateau Audubon Society. Although most of our summer birds have migrated south, there are many year-round local birds still here to enjoy and some migrants still moving through, going south on Mississippi and Atlantic flyways. In addition, our Plateau is the winter home for many migratory birds who come from Canada and other northern climes.

The mission of the Highlands Plateau Audubon Society is to provide opportunities to enjoy and learn about birds and other wildlife and to promote conservation and restoration of the habitats that support them.

HPAS is a 501(c)(3) organization, a Chapter of the National Audubon Society. Visit online at highlandsaudubonsociety.org for information on membership and all activities.

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