An Imperial Beach Hidden Gem and "Bird of the Week" is the Yellow-Rumped Warbler
Jan 03, 2018 10:21PM
● By Paul Spear
This week's "Bird of the Week" is the Yellow-rumped Warbler (Setophaga coronata), a still abundant and widespread bird that breeds from eastern North America west to the Pacific, and southward into western Mexico. Their preferred habitat is in conifer forests. In winter, their habitat varies from open woods, brush, thickets, gardens, and even beaches. In the North, they breed in coniferous and mixed forests, preferring more open stands and edges in pine, fir, spruce, aspen, and spruce-tamarack bogs. In the West, they breed up to 12,000 feet in mountain conifer forests. In winter, they are common in many lowland habitats, especially coastal bayberry thickets in the East, and streamside woods in West.
They are seen flashing their trademark yellow rump patch as they fly away, calling a check for confirmation. They are one of our best-known warblers. While most of its relatives migrate to the tropics in the fall, the Yellow-rump, able to live on berries, commonly remains as far north as New England and Seattle. It is the main winter warbler in North America. Included in this species are two different-looking forms, the eastern "Myrtle" Warbler and western "Audubon's" Warbler.
Yellow-rumped Warblers are versatile in their feeding. They search among twigs and leaves, and will hover while taking insects from foliage. They often fly out to catch flying insects, but will forage on ground, and will cling to tree trunks and branches. Males tend to forage higher than females during the breeding season. In winter, they usually forage in flocks.
Their diet consists of insects and berries, feeding on caterpillars, wasps, grasshoppers, gnats, aphids, beetles, spiders, and many other insects. They feed in winter on berries of bayberry, juniper, wax myrtle, poison ivy, and others. They can winter farther north than most warblers because they can digest the wax in berry coatings.
After mating, females lay 4-5, but sometimes only 3, creamy white with brown and gray marks eggs. Eggs are incubated usually by females for 12-13 days. Occasionally the male will cover the eggs. Both parents feed nestlings. Young leave their nest after 10-12 days, and can fly short distances 2-3 days later. Their first brood is probably fed mostly by males after fledging. Normally Yellow-rumped Warblers yield 2 broods per year.
During courtship, males accompany females everywhere, fluffing their side feathers, raising their wings and colorful crown feathers, and calling and fluttering.
Nests are placed 4-50 feet above the ground, usually on a horizontal branch away from the
trunk of a conifer, but sometimes in deciduous trees, or in a fork where a branch meets the trunk. Nests (built by females) are an open cup made of bark fibers, weeds, twigs, and roots. Nests are lined with hair and feathers in such a way as to curve over and partly cover the eggs.
I recently spotted this colorful bird perching atop an agave flower looking for insects near the Tijuana Estuary parking lot. You never know where or when you encounter a new bird species. Look for this bird and many others that call our Estuary home. Until next week, happy birding!
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