Thursday, August 28, 2008

Fall Warbler Identification: Part 3

Orange-crowned vs. Tennessee

The identification challenges that arise with these two warblers drive many the fall birder crazy. With some good looks at these birds you can see many small differences, but as with most warblers good looks are not easy to come by. Orange-crowned Warblers are almost always more yellow overall than the Tennessee except for when the Tennessee is a first year bird. So the only problem that comes from this identification is when the Tennessee is a young bird.

Lakes surrounded by woodland are an excellent place to find warblers during migration.

The most often taught identification tip for these two warblers is the color on the undertail. The Orange-crowned Warbler has yellow undertail coverts and the Tennessee Warbler has white undertail coverts. Many times you are not able to see the undertail coverts and if this is the only way you know how to identify these warblers you will be out of luck. In every identification situation knowing more than one field mark is very important. There are many other ways to identify Orange-crowned Warbler other than the undertail coverts. The Orange-crowned has blurry streaking on its sides and is usually grayer through the upperparts. Orange-crowned also has a much longer tail in comparison to its body than the Tennessee does.

As with all birds, knowing the habits and behaviors of these two warblers will help you make your identification quicker. Orange-crowned usually stays lower to the ground than Tennessee. You will usually see Tennessee Warblers foraging high in the trees while the Orange-crowned will stay in the shrubbier habitat. Although in the fall Tennessee Warblers will forage much lower than they do in the spring. The Tennessee is a much more hyperactive forager than the Orange-crowned. The Orange-crowned feeds by getting bugs out of dead leaf clusters and the Tennessee mostly feeds by foraging in the living foliage. When you look at any bird try to see the whole picture, as soon as you are able to do this you will learn the birds very quickly.

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