Thursday, April 26, 2007

Warbler Season

While birding highlights occur throughout the year, seasoned American birders always look forward to late April and early May, the peak of the warbler migration. These small, colorful insectivores summer in North America but the great majority winter south of the United States. Among the more common Midwestern residents are yellow warblers, northern parulas, common yellowthroats, yellow-breasted chats and Louisiana waterthrushes. Others are fairly common in special habitats; for example, hooded warblers favor mature forest while prothonotary warblers nest in wooded swamplands. Some 18 species summer in Missouri and just as many migrate through the State.

The appeal of warbler watching has to do with their variety (55 species can be found in North America) and the challenge of observing them. Many of these small, active birds feed in the treetops, flitting among the branches to snare their prey. They are thus often difficult to identify, even for the most experienced birders. If we don't spot them in spring, we have another chance in late summer as they head for Central and South America.