A Bestiary: Part Twenty-four ~ Songbirds: Warblers ~ Black-throated Blue Warbler

The Black-throated Blue Warbler Setophaga caerulescens, by chance becomes the 24th beast to be featured in my ‘A Bestiary . . . Tales from a Wildlife Garden.’ My only encounter with this small slate-blue, black-and-white warbler was in September of 2009, so I cannot know for certain that it breeds here at Flower Hill Farm.

Setophaga caerulescens

However, in the depths of the New England northern hardwood forest below our farmhouse and  blueberry fields . . . the hilly habitat within the many maples, beeches, birches and black cherry trees along with scattered stands of hemlock and a rich understory of mountain laurel would perfectly suit any Black-throated Blue Warbler mating pair. Ultimately, it is the female who decides on a nesting site. The male will follow her about as she builds her nest low to the ground in a dense, usually evergreen, shrub. Our mountain laurel stands may tempt a female, who will use her saliva along with spider silk, glueing slips of white or yellow birch in forming her nest cup. The couple may raise two broods.

Setophaga caerulescens

The female Black-throated Blue Warbler’s attire is so decidedly different from the males that they were once thought to be two different species. I have yet to capture a female’s portrait but will recognize her by her dull olive wings wearing a notable, white patch and her white eyebrow. The female and the male are both rather thickset with barely a recognizable neck.

Setophaga caerulescens

I have read that these songbirds are very tame and it does seem as though this little fellow is curious about me, though he does keep his distance. I feel sure I have heard his high pitched and lively ‘zoo zoo zee’ , with an emphasis on ‘buzzy’ ‘z’, song over the summer months.

Setophaga caerulescens

This Black-throated Blue Warbler seems to be more pure slate but perhaps in a different light the blue will appear. The male also dons a bright white wing patch. Instead of a white eyebrow seen on a female, he sports a fine white smiling line beneath his wing.

These warblers are keen foragers and are able to hover while snatching their prey. They are gleaning the Crabapple Orchard for tiny larva but will also hunt butterflies and other insects along with some arachnids. They will also nibble on bits of fruit too.

Setophaga caerulescens

Those living within the eastern southern states may still be seeing some Black-throated Blue Warblers as they migrate towards Cuba, Puerto Rico and Jamaica. Sounds good to me . . . what fun it could be to fly down and visit these warblers in their overwintering sites. Some Black-throated Blue Warblers may decide to spend the winter along the farthest tip of Florida.

These warblers are not endangered but they do have a relatively small breeding area which can be along mountainous regions down into Georgia and up into New England and the Great Lakes regions, as well as, bits of Canada. Hopefully there will continue to be healthy habitats to support these striking wood warblers and that one day I will see a female gathering strips of birch in the forest.



© 2013, Carol Duke. All rights reserved. This article is the property of Native Plants and Wildlife Gardens. If you are reading this at another site, please report that to us

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About Carol Duke

Carol Duke is an artist and farmer, who has given much of the last thirty years to caring for her twenty-one acre hillside farm in Western Massachusetts. Her greatest joy in working with the land has been to see how her farm has become home to a diverse community of wildlife. Through her blog Flower Hill Farm, Carol shares the beauty of living closely with nature and how with careful consideration of conservation and only using organic practices, while being a steward to the land, one can create a true sanctuary for native flora and fauna.  Her facebookand twitter pages are used mostly for action alerts to inspire activism towards protecting wild places and wildlife the world over. Flower Hill Farm has also become a Retreat for guests visiting the area from all over the world.

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