Friday, September 5, 2008

Fall Warbler Identification: Part 6

The Blackpoll Trio

Bay-breasted, Blackpoll, and Pine Warblers

By far and away these three warblers are the hardest to identify of all the warblers. Many birders are discouraged from trying to identify any fall warblers just because this group has confused them so much. There are some distinctive traits to each of these warblers and with some experience these warblers become much easier to identify.

The Pine Warbler is not as similar as the other two are to each other. Only the first year Pine Warblers will cause any confusion. The Pine is easily distinguished from the Blackpoll and Bay-breasted by structure. The Pine has a longer tail (with more white), shorter primary projection, and a much heavier bill than any other warbler. Do not look for these individual traits, look at the whole bird; the structural differences will be very obvious. The Pine has a much more laid back manor than the Blackpolls and Bay-breasteds that move around quickly. The Pine will be much duller throughout the upperparts than the other two. Most importantly look at the structure and you should notice that it could never be any other warbler except Pine.

Now for the Bay-breasted and Blackpoll (first fall birds)
Key Field Marks:

Tan undertail coverts
Little to no streaking on sides
Very warm coloring overall
Weak eye-line and face pattern

White undertail coverts
Distinct, intricate streaking on sides
Some yellow on the chest and belly (but not as warm)
Very strong eye-line and face pattern

All of these field marks are great indicators to which warbler you are watching, use as many of these as possible to make a positive identification.

When I went birding today I was able to locate the biggest flock of Warblers that I have found this fall. The biggest treat was an adult male American Redstart that was very cooperative. I also saw many Pine and a few Yellow-throated Warblers. There was also a first year Canada Warbler hanging around the flock. This flock was moving very quickly and reminded me that many times it will not be possible to identify or even see many of the warblers in a flock. Don’t get discouraged, just keep trying to get on and identify as many as possible, and enjoy each one that you are able to watch.


Anonymous said...

Ihave had trouble in the past with warbler indentifcation and your post have really helped. Thank you for your post.

Chad said...

I like the "Fall Warbler Identification" series you are putting together. Very helpful. Today, we actually had a Pine Warbler and a Bay-breasted for sure. I am 99% I got a look at a Blackpoll as well but couldn't find it again after consulting the Field Guide! There was a very nice flock of Warblers at the Marina this morning - the rest of the park was ghost town. Eagle Creek that is!