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Sunday, May 4, 2014

Signature Warblers of the West featuring Lucy's, Grace's, MacGillivray's, Townsend's and more

[SE Arizona. April 2014]

The zooynms of American Wood Warblers are either descriptive ("Yellow", "Bay Breasted", "Cerulean", etc), geonymous ("Kentucky", "Cape May", "Nashville", etc), or eponymous ("Kirtland's",  "Audubon's", "Swainson's", etc).

Unlike the (mostly) descriptive names of the Eastern Warblers ("Black-throated Green", "Blue-winged", etc), many Western Warblers, more so than their Eastern kin, are a "who's who" of American ornithology -- a fact well illustrated by the following warblers recently observed in SE Arizona:
  • Lucy's Warbler
  • Grace's Warbler
  • MacGillivray's Warbler
  • Wilson's Warbler
  • Townsend's Warbler
Of course, many of the other warblers observed have descriptive names as well:
  • Yellow Warbler
  • Red-faced Warbler
  • Olive Warbler
  • Painted Redstart
  • Black-throated Grey Warbler
  • Orange-crowned Warbler
All 11 warblers observed on this trip will be briefly profiled here.

Lucy's Warbler seen at Sabino Canyon

Lucy's Warbler is our smallest and palest warbler. While both sexes have a rusty rump (usually covered by the wings), only the male shows a rusty crown patch.

Lucy's Warbler (male)

Lucy's Warbler (female)
This desert warbler is named after Spencer Fullerton Baird's daughter Lucy and its other claim to fame is that it is the only cavity nesting warbler found in the West.

Grace's Warbler is found from Nicaragua to Nevada in elevated pine/oak habitat.

Grace's Warbler observed in Rose Canyon, Mt. Lemmon

Spencer Baird described Grace's Warbler scientifically in 1865. However, the warbler itself was discovered by another giant of American Ornithology,  Elliott Coues. Coues, requested Baird to have the warbler named after his sister, Grace.
Grace's Warbler gathering nesting material

The next warbler, was discovered "twice" and carries the names bestowed by both discoverers. Discovered first by Townsend, he named it after William Fraser Tolmie (a Scottish Physician who served at the Hudson Bay Company).

Later, the same bird was discovered again (without knowledge of the first discovery) and it was named by J. J. Audubon after the Scottish naturalist William MacGillivray.

Since the bird can only have one name, a compromise was struck: the scientific name is Geothlypis tolmiei while the common name is MacGillivray's Warbler.

MacGillivray's Warbler seen at Florida Canyon

MacGillivray's Warbler is the Western "equivalent" of the Mourning Warbler -- sharing the same skulking habits, preferred habitat and color scheme. The Mourning, however, lacks the white eye-crescents of MacGillivray's. 

Wilson's Warbler seen at Florida Canyon

Wilson's Warbler is named after the famous Scottish-American naturalist, Alexander Wilson and is a common warbler of the West. It is also seen as a migrant in the East as it heads to its breeding grounds in the far North.

Townsend's Warbler

Discovered by Townsend, the warbler was named by Thomas Nutall who was traveling with him at the time. It is closely related to the Hermit Warbler and the Black-throated Green Warbler of the East. 
Now for the warblers with descriptive names:

Yellow Warbler seen at Sabino Canyon

Second only to the Common Yellowthroat in the expanse of their distribution in the US, the Yellow is found coast to coast and from Alaska to Arizona.

Red-faced Warbler seen at Mt. Lemmon

Red-faced Warbler is the most sought-after warbler of the Southwest.

Red-faced Warbler

The next warbler, the Olive Warbler, is another songbird of the Southwest; however, it is now classified in its own family, Peucedramidae, which is endemic to North America.

Oliver Warbler seen at Mt. Lemmon

Olive Warbler

A more conventional warbler, the Painted Redstart has a characteristic foraging technique -- crawling on trees (much like a Black-and-white Warbler) while fanning its tail:

Painted Redstart seen in Madera Canyon

Black-throated Grey Warbler seen at Madera Canyon

Black-throated Grey warbler (1 of 3 warblers starting with "Black-throated"), breeds from British Columbia to Arizona in the West.

Orange-crowned Warbler seen at Mt. Lemmon

Orange-crowned Warbler is one of the most widespread warblers of the West. It is generally drab in appearance. It breeds near streamside thickets and this is exactly where this particular individual was found near Bear Wallow, Mt. Lemmon

While the fabled warbler migration hotspots of the East (such as Magee Marsh, OH) are better known, nonetheless, the Sky Islands of SE Arizona offer an opportunity to observe restricted-range Mexican arrivals (such as Red-faced Warbler) as well as neotropical migrants in passage.

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