Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Fall Warbler Identification: Part 2

*Looking at a field guide while reading this article will be very helpful.

I can’t recall all of the times that a birder has looked over and asked “what’s that warbler; it has yellow wing-bars and an eye-ring?” Without ever looking at the bird I can almost assuredly tell them that they are looking at a Chestnut-sided Warbler. Many times when people are not sure on an identification they have already seen the major field marks. This is the hardest part; from this point on it is just memorization. For some reason that I am not sure of, Chestnut-sided Warblers are difficult for beginners to identify. I think that some people get confused by the name; they can identify the warbler when it has chestnut on its side but as soon as they see a first-fall female without a trace of chestnut they are completely lost.

Identifying features of the first fall female Chestnut-sided Warbler:
· White eye-ring and yellow wing-bars
· Plain white to gray belly and throat
· A very distinct yellow-green from the cap through the back
· Posture: holds its wings farther down on its side than most warblers

When I look through all of the warblers that could possibly be observed, I really believe that each is very unique and none look similar to the Chestnut-sided Warbler. The white eye-ring could possibly suggest a Nashville Warbler but the Nashville Warbler has lots of yellow throughout the breast. The Chestnut-sided will never show any yellow in the breast, it always has a light gray or white breast. When you see a Chestnut-sided that is not a first fall female, but has some chestnut on the side, you may mistake this warbler for a Bay-breasted Warbler at a quick glance. These two warblers are however very different from each other. The Bay-breasted Warbler is cream colored through its breast and belly. It also has two white wing bars, and holds itself much differently than a Chestnut-sided. The Chestnut-sided looks very laid backed compared to the Bay-breasted. The Bay-breasted always looks as if it were on its tiptoes. The most important thing to remember when identifying warblers in the field is to see the whole bird, don’t just try to see the field marks. The sooner you start to notice the habits and behaviors of warblers the sooner you will understand the identification of warblers.

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