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Sunday, May 1, 2016

A Perfect Ten: Signature Warblers of the Southwest Featuring Red-faced Warbler, Painted Redstart and Olive Warbler

[Southeast Arizona. April 2016]

A quick trip to Tucson in late April for some flash birding afforded this blogger an opportunity to revisit the spectacular "Warblery" of the area featuring both migrating warblers as well as arriving breeders -- a group of ten signature warblers that can be enjoyed in the Southwest at this time of year, namely:
  1. Red-faced Warbler
  2. Lucy's Warbler
  3. Grace's Warbler
  4. Townsend's Warbler
  5. Audubon's Warbler
  6. Wilson's Warbler
  7. Olive Warbler
  8.  Black-throated Grey Warbler
  9.  Painted Redstart
  10. Orange-crowned Warbler

Of this "perfect 10" grouping of warblers, we lead with this blogger's personal favorite, the incredible Red-faced Warbler:

Red-faced Warbler seen on Mt. Lemmon

Best seen in the Sky Islands of Southeast Arizona from late April through early August, these Mexican warblers are seasonal breeders in montane forests of the region. This blogger's favorite venue for observing this stunning species is Mt. Lemmon where they may be reliably found.

Unconfusable with any other species in the region, this warbler is instantly recognizable due to its black bonnet, red face, light-grey body and white nape and rump.

According to the well known expression "See Rome and die" -- the eternal city is so enriching and fulfilling that the satiated visitor is left with a feeling that their life's mission has been accomplished with no further desire to see anything else. It would not be unreasonable to coin a parallel expression for the Avian world -- "See the Red-faced Warbler and die"!

Compared to the striking crimson aesthetics of the Red-faced Warbler, the Lucy Warbler's coloration may seem a bit bland:

Lucy's Warbler seen at Sabino Canyon
The Lucy's Warbler is a light grey warbler with ivory underparts; the crown and rump are rusty brown.

Lucy's is our only desert warbler and they can be quite common in the arid canyons of SEAZ.
Unlike Lucy's, Grace's Warbler is found in the mountain forests of the Sky Islands:
Grace's Warbler seen at Rose Canyon, Mt. Lemmon

Grace's Warbler seen at Madera Canyon
Grace's Warbler was observed at both Madera Canyon and Mt. Lemmon (General Hitchcock Campground and Rose Canyon).

Grace's Warbler seen at Mt. Lemmon
Grace's Warbler is a breeding species in SEAZ unlike the next species, Townsend's Warbler, which is just passing through on its way to the Pacific Northwest:

The male Townsend's Warbler sports bold black facial markings and throat; the female lacks the black on the throat and has olive markings instead.

Townsend's Warbler seen at Madera Canyon

Audubon's Warbler is currently recognized as a subspecies of the Yellow-rumped Warbler:

Audubon's Warbler seen at Florida Canyon

Like the Townsend's, and Audubon's, Wilson's Warbler is also just passing through:

Wilson's Warbler seen at Florida Canyon
Olive Warbler is more of an "honorary warbler" than a true warbler -- DNA studies have shown that, while similar in habits to wood warblers, the Olive Warbler is genetically distinct and it is currently placed in its own monotypic family:

Olive Warbler seen at Rose Canyon
The male Olive Warbler is striking with its turmeric head and black mask. It is a breeding species in SEAZ.

Black-throated Grey shares the black mask of the Olive Warbler but it is a typical warbler:

Black-throated Grey Warbler seen at Florida Canyon
Painted Redstart, like the Black-throated Grey, is another breeding species and on a couple of occasions, they were observed gathering nesting material:

Painted Redstart seen at Mt. Lemmon
This, like the Red-faced Warbler, is another iconic warbler of the Southwest.

Painted Redstart with nesting material. Madera Canyon.

We conclude with the drab Orange-crowned Warbler seen at Florida Canyon:

Birders often talk of the distinct set of Eastern warblers and Western warblers in the country; however, it is the Southwestern warblers such as the Red-faced Warbler and the Painted Redstart that are the true gems of the warbler family in the US and there is no better place for the intrepid birder to find them than in the Sky Islands of Southeast Arizona.

1 comment:

Bob Pelkey said...

Another stunning collection of work, Hemant. The bill of the Olive Warbler does appear uncharacteristically thin for a typical warbler with the species sporting an interesting call. The Red-faced Warbler is understandably your favorite. Nice work capturing the Painted Redstart with nesting material as well.