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Sunday, July 2, 2017

Quest for Gold: Finding the Golden-winged Warbler

[Michigan. May 2017]

Man has cherished gold for thousands of years; the allure of this shiny, untarnishable yellow metal has proved to be irresistible to emperors, warriors, bandits, lovers and merchants over our entire recorded history. And, to this list of gold-lovers we must now add the American birder who has been gifted the following gifts of avian gold:

  • Golden-cheeked Warbler (seen on this blog here)
  • American Golden-Plover (seen on this blog here)
  • Golden-crowned Kinglet and Sparrow (seen on this blog here and here)
  • Golden Eagle (seen on this blog here); and,
  • Golden-winged Warbler

In this blog post, however, we shall devote our attention singularly 
to the latter species -- the incomparable Golden-winged Warbler.

The analogy does not stop at the Golden highlights found on this warbler; like the metal itself, the Golden-winged is rare and hence presents itself as a priceless gift to the beholder:

This handsome warbler is classified as "Near Threatened" due to a precipitous decline in numbers over the last few decades. In addition to loss of habitat, these warblers are also declining due to hybridization from the Blue-winged Warbler. The Blue-winged Warbler's breeding range has shifted Northward due to warming temperatures thereby bringing it into collision with the Golden-winged's territories. 

As a result, Golden-wingeds are now absent from their former strongholds in areas such as Port Huron SGA. Instead, a trip there now generally produces only Blue-wingeds (lots of them) and a few Brewster's or Lawrence's Warblers. 

The facial pattern of this warbler is unique in its family; the black throat and mask giving the overall effect of looking at a Black-throated Sparrow with a golden crown!  The back is silver and the undersides are yellow. A bold golden patch adorns the wings and crown. There is simply no other warbler quite like the Golden-winged! 

To put things in perspective, there are 150 times more Wilson's Warblers than Golden-winged's. 

Other species included Mourning Warbler:

Nashville Warbler:

Indigo Bunting:

Rose-breasted Grosbeak:

And, Yellow-throated Vireo:

There are many treasures in our Eastern forests; yet, to behold the Golden-winged Warbler is surely a sight incomparable in both rarity and beauty.


Bob Pelkey said...

Congratulations on your excellent documentation of the Pot O' Gold, Hemant!

Digital Plume Hunter said...

This was a dream come true Bob!