Warblers and Identification Stress

By Dave Hanks

Some birds are a real headache to identify. Many of the small flycatchers look so much alike that one is never totally sure of their identity. The same is true of many shore birds, like sandpipers. Immature gulls and hawks, and especially the females and their young of many species, can pose problems.

Some species like cardinals, robins, and bluebirds are instantly recognizable. Likewise, the male Wilson’s Warbler is, also. His bright yellow body, prominent black eyes, and black cap make him easy to spot. But not so with his mate and their young, who resemble some other warbler species. The female Wilson’s and her immature sub-adults resemble the Orange-Crowned (it’s hard to see the orange crest) and the Yellow Warbler. Also, the warbler family is so large that it is hard to keep all the variations clear in one’s brain – at least in mine.

Warblers are a great big group – So much diversity Listed below are five - The most common in this county to see:

Yellow – All yellow with faint red streaking on his chest

Orange Crowned – Dull yellow all over (crown not usually visible)

Audubon – Yellow patches on rump, throat, and below wings

MacGillvray’s – Yellow body and gray head

Wilson’s – Look for the black cap and big black eye

The above field marks – May be used as a guide. But check your bird book – When it’s hard to decide

WILSON’S WARBLER (top) with black cap and prominent black eye and his look alike YELLOW WARBLER (bottom) with no black cap and faint red streaking on his chest

(A comparison study)