A true harbinger of spring is the northern parula (Setophaga americana):
Warblers, like most songbirds, are best found by listening. Especially when they are rather hard to tell apart, like these waterthrushes. I've exaggerated the differences in the size and colour of the eyebrow stripe, streakiness of throat, bill size and whiteness of the underparts.
|Left: Louisiana Waterthrush (Parkesia motacilla) Right: Northern Waterthrush (Parkesia noveboracensis)|
Redstarts have rather trick, variable songs, including a see-sawing, squeaky bicycle wheel version that sounds a bit like an abrupt black and white warbler. I have a particularly soft spot for this zebra-striped warbler, partly because of the unusual way it shimmies up and down trunks and branches.
Othello and Desdemona: Male and female American Redstarts (Setophaga ruticilla)
|Black and white warbler (Mniotilta varia)|
The common yellowthroat can be endearingly confiding for a warbler, and is widespread throughout most of North America. The male has an amusing racoon mask, and a very strident song that goes "wichety-withcey-wichety".
|Common yellowthroat (Geothlypis trichas)|
|Kentucky warbler (Geothlypis formosa)|
In contrast to the very common yellowthroat, the Kentucky warbler is restricted to the deciduous forests of the southeastern US, making it a rare and exciting find further north. Central Park birders were vocalising vigorously at the sight of one of these little birds, with yells of "are you texting or tweeting?", so other NY birders with their smart phones could converge on the unfortunate bird.
Another genus of bright yellow warblers that contains some of my favourites includes the Wilson's warbler, with its little black yamaka, the Canada warbler, complete with eye-ring and black necklace. Surprisingly, DNA evidence now demonstrates that the hooded warbler, which used to be in the same genus, is actually more related to the American Redstart.
|Above: Wilson's warbler (Cardellina pusilla), Canada warbler (Cardellina canadensis) Below: Hooded warbler (Setophaga citrina)|