Warblers and Flycatchers

Oh happy May migration!

In honor of the new birds in town, I took Audubon’s Warblers and Flycatchers class, taught by John Rakestraw, accomplished birder and blogger, instructor, and author of Birding Oregon. I learned that Oregon has 41 species of wood-warblers and 23 species of tyrant flycatchers, and Portland regularly has 11 of each visit during migration.

What makes a warbler a wood-warbler? Wood-warblers, or New World Warblers, are any species in the songbird family, Parulidae. They are usually cute, often colorful, and can cause “warbler’s neck,” a pain in the neck from trying to see them high in the tree-tops. I’m refining my birding stance by keeping my shoulders down. John Rakestraw’s post on warbler’s neck describes the proper way to gaze above at these beauties without injury.

Why are flycatchers “tyrants”? Tyrant is a family name that “reflects the aggressive nature of some species, which drive away much larger birds that venture too near their nests.” Business birds mean business.

We met on a Saturday morning for a field trip to Mt Tabor. We saw a variety of warblers, including: Townsend’s Warbler, Orange-crowned Warbler, Yellow-rumped Warbler, Black-throated Gray Warbler, and even a Nashville Warbler.

A few pictures.

Black-throated Gray Warbler

Black-throated Gray Warbler

Black-throated Gray Warbler

My new favorite, the female Black-throated Gray Warbler which lacks the black throat, so, technically she is a white-throated Black-throated Gray Warbler

Nashville Warbler

Nashville Warbler (gray hood, yellow throat, full white eye-ring)

We witnessed a couple of flycatchers perched high atop the Douglas-fir, but were unable to positively identify them. There are subtle differences between flycatchers and the best way to distinguish them is by their song. But these birds didn’t make it that easy.

Birding at Mt Tabor

Birding at Tabor

Here’s a sub-par picture of a flycatcher from a more recent trip to Mt. Tabor that was ID’ed as an Olive-sided Flycatcher, based on the bulky build and dark “vest.”

Olive-sided Flycatcher

Olive-sided Flycatcher

A couple of non-warbler-flycatchers we saw at Mt Tabor:

Band-tailed Pigeon

Band-tailed Pigeon

Hermit Thrush (cutie!)

Hermit Thrush (cutie!)

A funny thing happened when I returned home from the birding trip. I heard the sound of a warbler I hadn’t seen during the day! The song consisted of a series of fast chatter-like notes, that drop downward in pitch toward the end. It was the song of a Wilson’s Warbler, I was sure of it! I stalked the shrubs in our yard for a good hour, intermittently hearing the song, but only catching a glimpse of movement.

I almost gave up, until I went to show my boyfriend the Raccoon I found curled up sleeping in the tall Douglas-fir along the property.

Sleeping ball of trouble

Sleeping ball of trouble

Immediately after, there it was! Blurry-rocket-smudge-bird!

Bird? Plane? Raccoon minion?

Bird? Plane? Raccoon minion?

I stalked the trees another good half hour, then followed (okay ran) after it towards the back yard. Got it! Yellow warbler with a “bad toupée” – Wilson’s Warbler!

Wilson's Warbler

Wilson’s Warbler

Oh happy day.

Tweets and chirps,


4 thoughts on “Warblers and Flycatchers

  1. Great warbler shots. I like the new species of white-throated black-throated gray warbler. That’s the kind of bird that keeps people from getting started in birding. Congratulations on the WIWA and I hope you see his wee self again!

  2. Pretty amazing shots considering how far away those warblers were. My shoulders look a little hunched in that photo; I need to watch that.

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