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Sunday, September 13, 2015

Warblers of Southeast Arizona Featuring Red-faced Warbler and Painted Redstart

[Mt. Lemmon. August 2015]

Southeast Arizona conjures up visions of saguaro cacti, arid scrubland, and deep canyons. But, it is away from the dry plains, in the "sky islands" of Arizona that some of the best birding of the area may be encountered. 

This post will, thanks to a quick trip to Mt. Lemmon and Madera Canyon, profile signature warblers of the Western US -- augmenting the scintillating Lady Warblers covered in a prior post. 

Western birders must pine for sightings of Cerulean, Blackburnian, Magnolia and other warblers that are exclusive to the East. And, while both variety and quantity of our 50-odd warblers are indeed skewed toward that region -- there are, nonetheless, some choice Western warblers that must excite envy-tinged curiosity in Eastern US birders as well -- warblers such as:
  1. Red-faced Warbler
  2. Painted Redstart
  3. Nashville Warbler
  4. Black-throated Grey Warbler
  5. Wilson's Warbler
  6. Hermit Warbler
  7. Orange-crowned Warbler
  8. Audubon's Warbler
How many of our 50-odd warbler species, bright as they are, dare to sport hues of bright red? Even American Redstart, strictly speaking, is more orange than red. Indeed, we have only two warblers in pure red: Red-faced Warbler and Painted Redstart; and both are best seen in SEAZ:

We start with Red-faced Warbler (first profiled on this blog here). This Mexican warbler barely enters US territory in Southeastern Arizona and Southern New Mexico in the breeding season (late April through early September). This is one of the few warblers that is not strongly sexually dimorphic -- females are just slightly duller than the males.

Red-faced Warbler seen at Bear Wallow, Mt. Lemmon
The Red-faced Warbler has a red face and head; the latter marked by a black bonnet. The back is grey and the undersides are pale. Seen in August at Bear Wallow, this individual is getting ready to migrate South to Mexico.

Our other red warbler is the Painted Redstart:

Painted Redstart seen at Madera Canyon
This gorgeous warbler is technically a "whitestart"; it is not related to American Redstart.

Painted Redstart seen at Rose Canyon
Other than the visual description, the blurb on Red-faced Warbler also applies equally to the Painted Redstart.

Other warblers observed included:

Nashville -- a warbler that is seen in both halves of the country. The Western race could be a candidate for a future split.

Nashville Warbler seen at Summerhaven

Nashville Warbler seen at Rose Canyon
Somewhat similar to Black-and-white Warbler, the Black-throated Grey Warbler shares the same color scheme as the former with a black mask and throat; however, the latter has a grey back and 2 yellow spots -- one in front of each eye.

Black-throated Grey Warbler seen at Mt. Lemmon

Wilson's, like Nashville, is another warbler seen across the US:

Wilson's Warbler seen at Summerhaven
A distantly observed Hermit Warbler:

Hermit Warbler seen at Summerhaven
And Orange-crowned:

Orange-crowned Warbler seen at Summerhaven
This Orange-crowned Warbler has a greyish head and therefore can be presumed to belong to the Eastern race of the species. The Western race, seen below, is much more yellow:

Orange-crowned Warbler seen at Rose Canyon

Finally,  Audubon's Warbler -- the Western race of Yellow-rumped Warbler:

Audubon's Warbler seen at Rose Canyon
The most acclaimed songbirds of our land are surely the warblers -- no other family of songbirds are as colorful or as coveted. And, while it is generally acknowledged that the Eastern distribution of warblers provides greater richness, it would be a gargantuan travesty to ignore our Western warblers -- a grouping that includes red-lettered species such as the iconic Red-faced Warbler and the incomparable Painted Redstart.


Bob Pelkey said...

You've certainly made a best effort on a "short" trip, Hemant. Did you see the Audubon's Warbler on this most recent visit to SEAZ? Should one carry bear pepper spray while birding these areas?

Digital Plume Hunter said...

Hi Bob -- I've posted a photo of Audubon's from my trip in April this year. I have also observed the species at this time of year at the same venue. With regard to bear repellant, I've never carried any but it might be advisable on remote trails.