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Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Signature Warblers of the West: Virginia's, Hermit, Townsend's and more ...

[Mt. Ord and Mt. Lemmon, AZ. May 2013]

A delightful assortment of warblers were observed in Central and SE Arizona:
  1. Virginia's Warbler
  2. Hermit Warbler
  3. Townsend's Warbler
  4. Black-throated Grey Warbler
  5. Painted Redstart
  6. Orange-crowned Warbler
  7. Red-faced Warbler
The latter two were observed on Mt. Lemmon while the remainder were seen on Mt. Ord.

Virginia's Warbler

Dr. W. W. Anderson is credited with "collecting" the first specimen of this warbler in New Mexico in 1858. Spencer Baird, however, was the first to describe it scientifically 2 years later and he named the warbler after Dr. Anderson's wife -- Virginia -- at the good Doctor's request.

Virginia's Warbler is a small yellow-vented, grey warbler with a prominent eye ring. Barely 4.5" long, this plain warbler with a yellow breast (male only; a small rusty patch on the crown is also an identification characteristic) is found in a small cluster of Western states in the breeding season and winters in Central America.

Hermit Warbler

Unlike Virginia's Warbler which breeds on Mt. Ord, this Hermit Warbler seen was migrating to its breeding grounds in the coastal regions of California, Oregon and Washington.

The Hermit Warbler is a shy warbler of the high canopy and is distinguished by its almost entirely yellow face marked by a black chin, throat, and thin bib [seen better in photo below].

Although classified as "Least Concern", the Hermit Warbler population is considered vulnerable due to its restricted breeding range, specialized habitat of breeding in the tallest trees in the country, and hybridization with, and displacement by, the more aggressive Townsend's Warbler.

This warbler is presumably called "Hermit" because of its shy, reclusive and solitary nature.

Black-throated Grey Warbler

The Black-throated Grey warbler is a warbler found in a wide swathe of the Western US.

Males and females are similar except for the male having a black throat.The small yellow patch between the bill and the eye is distinctive.

This warbler has been described by Townsend, Audubon, and Bonaparte, among others. However, Townsend's scientific description was the earliest and he is credited as the "discoverer" of the species. This is the 3rd of our black-throated warblers and the only one described in the 19th century -- the other two -- black-throated blue and black-throated green -- were both described in the the late 1700's.

Unlike the Hermit Warbler, the Black-throated Grey is much more approachable and will generally tolerate close observation.

Townsend's Warbler

Townsend's warbler breeds North of the Hermit warbler's range; ranging from Alaska to Oregon. The latter state is where both warblers' ranges overlap.

The male is a darker version of the female [shown above] with black instead of olive markings and a distinctive black throat.

This warbler is a rare instance of a bird being named after its discoverer [Townsend]. Naming a bird after yourself is a huge faux-pas that Townsend, in this case, averted by choosing a name picked by Thomas Nutall who was with him at discovery. Nutall naturally named the species after his co-traveler, Townsend.

Painted Redstart

In addition to the migrants (Hermit, Townsend's) and the breeders (Black-throated Grey, Virginia's), the other breeding species seen at Mt. Ord was Painted Redstart.

Described by Swainson, the Painted Redstart has had a troubled taxonomic history. Initially classified with the American Redstart, it flirted briefly with an Old World Flycatcher genus, before finding its current home in the Whitestart genus Myioborus.

[Painted Redstart with insect]

This is the only Whitestart found in the US and is range-restricted to a small area of the Southwest. The next couple of warblers were observed on Mt. Lemmon.

Orange-crowned Warbler

The Orange-crowned warbler is found widely across the US and Canada; it is common in the West but rarely seen in the East.

Red-faced Warbler

Described in an earlier post, the Red-faced warbler is a dazzling specialty species of SE Arizona.

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