Saturday, August 30, 2008

Fall Warbler Identification: Part 4

Blackburnian and Cape May

While in the spring both the Blackburnian and Cape May Warblers are very distinctive, in the fall they fade into a less glamorous plumage. Even in the fall these warblers are very beautiful but there is no doubt they are less distinctive and colorful. Both of these warblers are treetop foragers uncommonly coming down to eye level for better looks. In the spring the Blackburnian Warbler is known as the “flamethroat” and is the favorite warbler of many birders.

The Blackburnian Identification:
The most important aspect for identifying the Blackburnian Warbler is the face pattern. Each Blackburnian Warbler from the adult male to the first year female has the same distinctive face pattern. The face pattern includes a pale supercillium and dark auriculars. It also has pale sides on its neck which narrows down the possibilities very quickly. This warbler also has a pale bottom half eye ring, probably the most distinctive aspect of the face pattern. Blackburnians have streaking on the sides (never through the belly or chest) and big white wing bars. Almost every Blackburnian Warbler has a yellowish to orange wash through the throat and face.

The Cape May Identification:
Most plumages and ages of the Cape May Warbler have enough yellow and enough streaking on the chest to make this identification simple but the first year females can cause many problems. As with the Blackburnian the most important identifying features of the Cape May are in the face pattern. One important aspect of the face pattern to look for is the pale yellow patch on the side of the neck. It also has a black eye stripe with a pale eyebrow. The first year female Cape May is also much browner overall than other warblers that you can mistake it with.

With some experience with these warblers the identifications will become much easier.

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