Natural History Notes on the Birds

Songbirds I

Thrushes through Tanagers

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About the categories

Name

Common name

Food

The main food category.

Feeding Techniques

How it acquires its food.

Habitat

What kind of area does the bird live?

Plumage

Is there similarity between the male and the female, between winter and spring, young and adult, or are there variations in the plumage amongst the species.

Distribution

Approximately where it is found in the United States.

Breeding

Unique aspects on how the species breeds.

About the Notes from A.C. Bent

Special notes on the status or natural history of this bird.

Notes from A. C. Bent

Selections from the Life Histories of North American Birds, edited by A. C. Bent.

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Name

American Robin
Lesson Plan

Food

Vegetable matter, worms and other invertebrates

Feeding Techniques

Visual foraging

Habitat

Diverse

Plumage

Male and female have similar plumage

Distribution

Throughout the US

Breeding

Female builds nest on horizontal branch of tree, lined with grass, plant fiber; both parents feed young.

About the Notes from A.C. Bent

"thus necessitating reduction in their numbers" - Bent is arguing that Robins eat too much fruit, and that this necessitates eliminating Robins to protect the fruit harvest.

depradations - refers to eating the fruit

Notes from A.C. Bent

Like the true thrushes the Robin approves of a 60: 40 dietary composition, but in a reverse sense, the larger item in its case being vegetable rather than animal food. There is no question about Robins sometimes taking too much cultivated fruit, thus necessitating reduction in their numbers. However, the woodland Robins with which we are here especially concerned have little or no part in these depredations, and their fruit-eating is a benefit rather than an injury because it results in the planting of numerous trees and shrubs. The favorite wild fruits of New York robins are those of red cedar, greenbrier, mulberry, pokeweed, juneberry, blackberry and raspberry, wild cherry, sumac, woodhine, wild grape, dogwood, and blueberry.

Beetles and caterpillars are the items of animal food taken in greatest quantity by the Robin, with bugs, hymenoptera, flies, and grasshoppers of considerably less importance. Spiders, earthworms, millipeds, sowbugs, and snails are additional sorts of animal food worth mentioning.

Various insects which are pests or near pests in woodlots have been identified from stomachs of Robins and we may be sure that a special study of Robins actually living in forests would greatly increase the list.

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Name

Hermit Thrush
Lesson Plan

Food

Vegetable matter, worms and other invertebrates

Feeding Techniques

Visual foraging

Habitat

Wooded areas

Plumage

Male and female have the same plumage

Distribution

Throughout the US

Breeding

Female builds nest; nests vary by geography; both parents feed young

About the Notes from A.C. Bent

tensity - the state of being tense

Notes from A.C. Bent

Behavior: Dawson (1923) gives the following good description of a well-known bit of action that is common to all hermit thrushes, and by which they can often be recognized:

Perhaps the most prominent characteristic of the Hermit Thrush, and the one which does most to remove it from the commonplace, is the incessant twinkling of the wings: the action is so rapid and the return to the state of repose so incalculably quick that the general impression or silhouette is not thereby disturbed; but we have an added feeling of mobility of tensity on the part of the bird which gives one the impression of spiritual alertness, a certain high readiness. I tried on a time to count these twinkles, with the compensatory flirt of the tail, as the bird was hopping about on the ground in my rose garden. The movements occurred about once per second, yet oftenest in groups, and so rapidly, that not a twentieth part of the bird's time seemed so consumed.

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Name

Varied Thrush
Lesson Plan

Food

Vegetable matter, worms and other invertebrates

Feeding Techniques

Visual foraging

Habitat

Mature wet forests

Plumage

Male and female have different plumage - Female is paler form of the male

Distribution

Northwest

Breeding

Female builds bulky nest in coniferous tree; both parents feed young

About the Notes from A.C. Bent

Samuel F. Rathbun - an ornithologist of the Pacific Northwest around the turn of the century.

Notes from A.C. Bent

I owe my introduction to this large and elegant thrush to my old friend Samuel F. Rathbun, who first showed it to me in the vicinity of Seattle and who has given me a wealth of information on it in his copious notes. While we were waiting for the good ship Tahoma to sail for the Aleutian Islands, in May 1911, he helped our party to locate for two weeks in the then small town of Kirkland across Lake Washington from Seattle. At that time the shores of the lake and the country around the little town were heavily wooded, much of it with a primeval forest of lofty firs, but more of it had been lumbered once and grown up again to dense second growth, with some clearings and little farms scattered through it. The principal forest growth consisted of firs of two or three species, with a considerable mixture of hemlock and cedar; and in some places there was a heavy forest growth of large alders and maples, with an undergrowth of flowering dogwood and wild currant. The favorite haunts of the varied thrushes were in their dark, shady retreats in the dense stands of firs that were often dripping with moisture, for it rained most of the time that we were there. Here we often heard the clear, rich, vibrating notes of the thrushes, uttered without inflection, but with a weird doubletoned or arpeggio effect. Mist and rain did not appear to dampen their ardor; their voices seem to be at their best in such gloomy weather and to form a fitting companiment to the patter of raindrops on the dripping foliage.

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Name

Swainson's Thrush
Lesson Plan

Food

Vegetable matter, worms and other invertebrates

Feeding Techniques

Visual foraging

Habitat

Spruce forests

Plumage

Male and female have the same plumage

Distribution

Throughout the US

Breeding

Female builds nest on horizontal branch of tree, lined with grass, plant fiber; both parents feed young.

About the Notes from A.C. Bent

Russet-backed Thrush - earlier name for the Swainson's Thrush

Notes from A.C. Bent

By early June, and sometimes sooner, the Russet-backed Thrushes in Yosemite Valley are in full song and may be heard during the day as well as in the morning and evening hours. The song is set in character and each individual thrush begins his song on about the same key: not changing from song to song as does the Hermit. The first syllables of any individual's song are always on the same pitch, and full, clear, and deep; the remainder are more wiry, ascending, and sometimes the last one goes up so high in pitch as to become almost a squeal: wheer, wheer, wheer, whee-ia, whee-ia, whee-ia, or quer, quer, quer, quee-ia, quee-ia, quee-ia. The call note oftenest heard is a soft liquid whistle, what or whoit, sounding much like the drip of water into a barrel. An imitation of this note by the observer will often bring a thrush into close range. Now and then a thrush will give an abrupt burred cry, chee-ur-r; and again there may be a single whistle, louder and higher than the usual call. The song season lasts until early July, after which the birds become quiet. By the end of the month not even the call note is to be heard.

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Name

Western Bluebird
Lesson Plan

Food

Insects

Feeding Techniques

Flycatching, foraging on the ground

Habitat

Open country

Plumage

Male and female have different plumage

Distribution

Western US

Breeding

Nests in tree cavities

About the Notes from A.C. Bent

phlegmatic - slow, sluggish

Notes from A.C. Bent

Behavior:  In general demeanor the Western Bluebird is much like other members of the thrush family, being of deliberate or even phlegmatic temperament. When perched it sits quietly, not hopping about as do many small birds such as sparrows and warblers. It ordinarily seeks a perch which will command a wide field of view, as on some upper or outer branch of a deciduous tree. * * * Upon taking to flight bluebirds make off in the open, high in the air, uttering their soft call notes now and then as they fly. The high course of flight and the repeated flight calls are suggestive of the behavior of linnets (House Finches) under similar circumstances. Sometimes the flight is so far above the earth that the birds are quite beyond the range of vision of an observer stationed on the ground, only the mellow call notes giving indication of the passage of the birds overhead. When bluebirds are in flocks the formation is never compact or coherent; individuals move here and there among their companions and single birds or groups join and depart at intervals.

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Name

Eastern Bluebird
Lesson Plan

Food

Insects

Feeding Techniques

Flycatching, foraging on the ground

Habitat

Open country

Plumage

Male and female have different plumage

Distribution

Eastern United States

Breeding

About the Notes from A.C. Bent

Notes from A.C. Bent

Courtship: The love-making of the bluebird is as beautiful as the bird itself, and normally as gentle, unless interrupted by some jealous rival who would steal his bride; then gentleness gives place to active combat. The male usually arrives a few days ahead of the female, selects what he considers to be a suitable summer home, and carols his sweetest, most seductive notes day after day until she appears in answer to his call. Then he flutters before her, displaying the charms of his widespread tail and half-opened wings, warbling in delicious, soft undertones, to win her favor. At first she seems indifferent to the gorgeous blue of his overcoat or the warm reddish brown of his ardent breast. He perches beside her, caresses her in the tenderest and most loving fashion, and sings to her in most endearing terms. Perhaps he may bring to her some delicious morsel and place it gently in her mouth, as an offering. Probably he has already chosen the cavity or box that he thinks will suit her; lie leads her to it, looks in, and tries to persuade her to accept it, but much persistent wooing is needed before the nuptial pact is sealed. In the meantime a rival male may appear upon the scene and a rough and tumble fight ensue, the males clinching in the air and falling to the ground together, a confusing mass of blue and brown feathers struggling in the grass; but no very serious harm seems to have been done, as t.hey separate and use their most persuasive charms to attract the object of their rivalry. At times, a second female may join in the contest and start a lively fight with her rival for the mate she wants. John Burroughs (1894) gives an interesting account of such a four-cornered contest, too long to be quoted here, in which the female of an apparently mated pair seemed to waver in her affections between her supposed mate and the new rival; and the latter seemed to have left the female of his first choice to win the bride of the other. However, after a much prolonged contest, the matter seemed to be satisfactorily settled, for two pairs of bluebirds finally flew off in different directions and started up housekeeping without further trouble.

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Name

Mountain Bluebird
Lesson Plan

Food

Insects

Feeding Techniques

Flycatching, foraging on the ground

Habitat

Open country

Plumage

Male and female have different plumage

Distribution

Western US

Breeding

Breeds in tree cavities

About the Notes from A.C. Bent

I once saw a flock of Mountain Bluebirds against of field of fresh fallen snow. I can understand Bent's phrase, "purity of beauty."

Notes from A.C. Bent

The mountain bluebird is not so gaudily or so richly colored as the western bluebird, but it is no less pleasing in its coat of exquisite turquoise-blue. As it flies from some low perch to hover like a big blue butterfly over an open field, it seems to carry on its wings the heavenly blue of the clearest sky, and one stands entranced with the purity of its beauty. As Mrs. Wheelock (1904) says: "No words can describe his brilliancy in the breeding season, as he flies through the sunny clearings of the higher Sierra Nevada, or sits like a bright blue flower against the dark green of the pines." The male certainly is a lovely bird, and the female is hardly less charming in her coat of soft, blended colors.

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Name

California Thrasher
Lesson Plan

Food

Insects and fruit

Feeding Techniques

Foraging on the ground

Habitat

Riparian woodland

Plumage

Male and female have the same plumage

Distribution

California

Breeding

Both sexes build nest placed in low shrub.

About the Notes from A.C. Bent

"while common and widely distributed in California, are almost exclusively confined to that State" Bent is referring to birds such as the Yellow-billed Magpie, Nuttall's Woodpecker, Oak Titmouse, and the Wrentit and Tri-colored Blackbird which have the majority of their population in California.

Notes from A.C. Bent

The California thrasher is appropriately named, as it is one of a number of birds of various families that, while common and widely distributed in California, are almost exclusively confined to that State, with its faunal extension, the northwestern portion of Baja California. The range of the species extends from the western slopes of the Sierra Nevada and the higher mountains of southern California to the Pacific, and from the head of the Sacramento Valley to about latitude 300 in Baja California.

As pointed out by Dr. Joseph Grinnell (1917), it is predominantly a species of the Upper Sonoran Zone, being most abundant along the bases of the mountains, where it ascends the brushy southerly and westerly slopes to an altitude of at least 5,000 feet in the southern part of the State, but never enters the Transition Zone coniferous forests. Its lower limits, however, are less strictly defined, especially toward the south, where it follows the brush-bordered watercourses down into the Lower Sonoran. Dr. Grinnell suggests that a certain degree of atmospheric humidity may also be a requisite for this species, as it fails to follow the Upper Sonoran Zone around the southern end of the Sierra Nevada into apparently suitable territory on the eastern slope of the range.

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Name

Curve-billed Thrasher
Lesson Plan

Food

Insects and fruit

Feeding Techniques

Forages on the ground

Habitat

Desert habitat

Plumage

Male and female have the same plumage

Distribution

Southwest US

Breeding

Nests in cholla cactus.

About the Notes from A.C. Bent

The Curve-billed Thrasher used to be called the Palmer's Thrasher. Viznaga is a vegetable in the carrot family.

Notes from A.C. Bent

Food: The food of Palmer's is very similar to that of the other thrashers, including numerous insects and their larvae as well as various fruits and berries. Its feeding methods remind one of our eastern brown thrasher. It is fond of water and comes freely to bird baths and other places where it can find water about houses, as well as resorting to open water holes. Florence Merriam Bailey (1923) writes:

One was seen drinking from a dripping faucet and another seen perched on top of a viznaga reaching down with its long curved bill digging out the shining black seeds and the moist pulp which the House Finches had also found a ready source of both food and moisture. A Thrasher accidentally caught in a trap, January 28, had an empty crop but a gizzard full of seeds of cactus (Opuntia sp. ?), and the shrubbery hackberry (Celtis pallida), a few oat shells, one grain, a few insect remains, apparently ants, and some gravel. One of the birds was seen, February 8, walking in the mesquite pasture, flipping up cowchips as he went, evidently looking for insects or other toothsome morsels below: a scorpion had been found under one of them.

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Name

Sage Thrasher
Lesson Plan

Food

Insects and fruit

Feeding Techniques

Forages on the ground

Habitat

Sagebrush

Plumage

Male and female have the same plumage

Distribution

Western US

Breeding

Both sexes build nest in sagebrush or similar brush

About the Notes from A.C. Bent

Notes from A.C. Bent

Food: Ira La Rivers (1941) gives the sage thrasher credit for being one of the three species that "fed most destructfully" on the Mormon cricket (Anabrus simplex). "Eggs as well as adults were consumed. From my observations, the thrasher played nearly as important a role in the destruction of cricket egg-beds as did the more conspicuous Western Meadowlark. ... The cricket, actually a long-horned grasshopper, yearly cause damage in Elko, Eureka, Lander, and Humboldt counties, Nevada, by destroying large quantities of range and field forage, crops, and garden stuffs." He found this thrasher feeding not only on the migrating crickets, in company with mice and shrews, "but also digging up crickets from partly-finished wasp burrows. One individual was surprised in the act of eating a black wasp (Chlorion laeviventris) which had been left by a marauding shrew."

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Name

Brown Thrasher
Lesson Plan

Food

Insects and fruit

Feeding Techniques

Forages on the ground

Habitat

Dense thickets

Plumage

Male and female have the same plumage

Distribution

Eastern US

Breeding

Both sexes build nest placed in low shrub.

About the Notes from A.C. Bent

Notes from A.C. Bent

Behavior: As suggested by Miss Sherman (1912) and as mentioned in the first part of this account, there seems to be some variation in the general behavior and in the disposition of the brown thrasher in New England from what has been noted in the Midwest and South. In Massachusetts I have always regarded it as a shy, retiring, and somewhat unfriendly bird, shunning human society and especially hostile to the intruder near its nest in other parts of the country, it seems to be more sociable, more friendly, and more inclined to make its home in parks in towns and villages, or even cities, in gardens, orchards, and close to human dwellings. These are not, however, hard and fast rules, for there are exceptions in both cases.

The thrasher is one of the most valiant and aggressive defenders of its nest and young among all our small birds, exhibiting the greatest bravery and boldness. While the late Herbert K. Job and I were photographing birds near West Haven, Conn., on June 5, 1910, we found a thrasher brooding her young in a nest 5 feet from the ground in a thick bush. She allowed Mr. Job to stroke her on the nest before she left and then set up a loud cry of protest and defiance, which soon brought her mate to join in the attack. As I attempted to examine the young, both birds flew at me and attacked me savagely; they flew at my face, once striking a stinging blow close to my eye and drawing blood; within a few seconds I was struck on the side of my head, and we decided to withdraw from the scene of the battle, leaving the brave birds masters of the situation. Mr. Job had had a similar experience with fighting thrashers a few years previously; they attacked his hands, when he attempted to touch the young, and scratched and bit holes through the skin.

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Name

Townsend's Solitaire
Lesson Plan

Food

Insects and berries

Feeding Techniques

Foraging while watching from a perch

Habitat

Higher coniferous forests

Plumage

Male and female have the same plumage

Distribution

Primarily in the western US states

Breeding

Nests on or near the ground; both parents feed young

About the Notes from A.C. Bent

mandibles - the beak

cedar-bird - Cedar Waxwing

Notes from A.C. Bent

Behavior: Many of the solitaire's traits have been referred to above, as well as some of the points on which it resembles other species in appearance and manners. Dawson and Bowles (1909) have summed this up very well, as follows:

Barring the matter of structure, which the scientists have now pretty well thrashed out, the bird is everything by turns. He is Flycatcher in that he delights to sit quietly on exposed limbs and watch for passing insects. These he meets in mid-air and bags with an emphatic snap of the mandibles.

He is a Shrike in appearance and manner, when he takes up a station on a fence-post and studies the ground intently. When its prey is sighted at distances varying from ten to thirty feet, it dives directly to the spot, lights, snatches, and swallows, in an instant; or, if the catch is unmanageable, it returns to its post to thrash and kill and swallow at leisure. During this pouncing foray, the display of white in the Solitaire's tail reminds one of the Lark Sparrow. Like the silly Cedar-bird, the Solitaire gorges itself on fruit and berries in season. Like a Thrush, when the mood is on, the Solitaire skulks in the thickets or woodsy depths, and flies at the suggestion of approach. Upon alighting it stands quietly, in expectation that the eye of the beholder will thus lose sight of its ghostly tints among the interlacing shadows.

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Name

Northern Mockingbird
Lesson Plan

Food

Insects and berries

Feeding Techniques

Forages while on the ground

Habitat

Suburbia, towns, agricultural areas, open country

Plumage

Male and female have the same plumage

Distribution

Throughout most of the US; rarer in the north

Breeding

Nests in shrub or small tree. Male Northern Mockingbird will sing late into the night to attract a mate.

About the Notes from A.C. Bent

Duck Hawk is an older name for the Peregrine Falcon.

Notes from A.C. Bent

The spirit of play appears well developed in the mocker also. It is somewhat reminiscent of the duck hawk (Falco peregrinus anatum) in this respect. It seems to delight in bedeviling dogs and cats and puts either to flight. A neighbor of the writer in Charleston maintained a kennel of hunting dogs for some years, and the mockers of the neighborhood would often "dive-bomb" these dogs, plunging upon them as they slept, or else they roamed about the enclosure and frequently drove them to the shelter of the kennels, tails between legs! At times they would actually alight on a dog's back and peck savagely. M. G. Vaiden (MS.), of Rosedale, Miss., says that "I have seen the mockingbird ride my Belgian shepherd's back more than once, near the nesting site, and usually the dogs find some other places to ramble than those near a mocker's nest." It often attacks snakes also, and an instance of this is related by Mrs. J. L. Alley (1939), of Tavernier, Fla. She states that she witnessed an attack on a coachwhip snake (Masticophis flagellum) near St. Petersburg in the summer of 1939. The bird repeatedly alighted on the head of the snake and pecked it viciously. The encounter was watched for a considerable time, the snake finally seeking sanctuary under some bushes.

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Name

Catbird
Lesson Plan

Food

Insects and fruit

Feeding Techniques

Forages on the ground

Habitat

Thickets and suburbia

Plumage

Male and female have the same plumage

Distribution

Much of the US; except Pacific states to western Texas

Breeding

Nests in shrubs or small trees. Actively attacks Cowbird's eggs when they appear in the nest.

About the Notes from A.C. Bent

Notes from A.C. Bent

Behavior: Although the catbird usually establishes itself in a well-defined territory to which it challenges all intruders, it does at times live in harmony with other birds. E. A. Doolittle (1923) writes of a catbird nest containing four eggs that was built in a little thornbush hardly 3 feet high. Less than 4 feet from the catbird's nest and on the same level was a nest and five eggs of the yellow warbler. Apparently the catbirds made no effort to disturb their smaller neighbors and were indulgent with their presence.

The catbird is not so adapatable in solving unusual situations with which it may be confronted, as some other birds. Dr. A. A. Allen (1912) found that if a cloth is placed over a phoebe's nest, the bird with a single glance grasped the situation and immediately removed the obstacle. The catbird, however, was at a total loss as to what to do under a similar situation.

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Name

Starling
Lesson Plan

Food

Scavenger

Feeding Techniques

Bold aggressive scavenger

Habitat

Farm areas and anywhere where people provide it food.

Plumage

Male and female have the same plumage

Distribution

Throughout the world

Breeding

Cavity nester

About the Notes from A.C. Bent

Not native to the US. As detailed in the notes from Bent, the Starling was brought over from Europe and "introduced". It seems that the introduction that worked was accomplished by somewhere between 80 and 100 individual birds. From that number we now have over 100 million.

Notes from A.C. Bent

We probably shall never know how many unsuccessful attempts have been made to introduce the starling into North America; Edward H. Forbush (1927) mentions the following introductions: "Cincinnati, Ohio (1872-43); Quebec, Canada (1875); Worcester, Massachusetts (1884); Tenafly, New Jersey (1884); New York City (1877, 1887, 1890, 1891); Portland, Oregon (1889, 1892) ; Allegheny, Pennsylvania, and Springfield, Massachusetts (1897) ; and Bay Ridge, New York, about 1900." Apparently all these attempts were failures except those made in New York City in 1890 and 1891. May Thacher Cooke (1928) mentions an unsuccessful attempt made at West Chester, Pa., before 1850.

Authorities differ somewhat as to the numbers of starling liberated by Eugene Scheifflin in Central Park, New York, and as to the exact dates. Mr. Forbush (1927) says that 80 were liberated on March 16, 1890, and 40 more on April 25, 1891. Miss Cooke (1928) says that 80 birds were released in April 1890 and 80 more the next year. It is generally accepted, however, that 60 birds were introduced in 1890 and 40 more in 1891; Dr. Chapman (1925) states that there were only 100 birds liberated in all, and he ought to have known. From this small nucleus have descended all the vast hordes that now overrun the country.

For the first six years, while the birds were becoming established, they were confined to greater New York City, including Brooklyn and Staten Island, though stragglers were reported in Princeton, N. J., in 1894. Then, as the population built up, the fall and winter wanderings began in search of new territory in which to establish a breeding range later. By 1900 they had appeared at New Haven, Conn., Ossining, N. Y., and Bayonne, N. J. Dr. Stone (1937) reported them at Tuckerton, N. J., in 1907, and Dr. Townsend (1920) saw the first one in 1908 in eastern Massachusetts. During that and the next two years, the starlings wandered over most of Massachusetts, up to the New Hampshire border, and over eastern Pennsylvania. Robie W. Tufts tells me that the first one was seen near Halifax, Nova Scotia, on December 1, 1915. By 1916, according to Kalmbach and Gabrielson (1921), its postbreeding wanderings extended from "southern Maine to Norfolk, Va. On November 10, 1917, one specimen was collected as far south as Savannah, Ga. Inland it has been seen at Rochester, N. Y., Wheeling, WVa., and in east central Ohio." During the next 10 years starlings were variously recorded as far north as southern Ontario, as far west as Wisconsin, Iowa, and Illinois, and as far south as Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, and Florida. E. C. Hoffman's (1930) map shows the range for the winter of 1929 - 30 as extending west to southeastern Wisconsin, eastern Iowa, including most of Missouri, southeastern Kansas, much of Oklahoma and Texas, and extending practically to the coasts of the Gulf States. It is interesting to note that the western limit of this range roughly parallels the 1,000-foot contour line.

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Name

American Pipit
Lesson Plan

Food

Invertebrates - both aquatic and terrestrial

Feeding Techniques

Gleaning

Habitat

Open country, quite often around wetlands

Plumage

Male and female have the same plumage

Distribution

Coastal states from Virginia to Washington

Breeding

Nests on the ground

About the Notes from A.C. Bent

terrestrial - ground

Notes from A.C. Bent

Behavior

Pipits are essentially terrestrial birds and spend most of their time on the ground, in the fields, meadows, marshes, mud flats, beaches, or on the bare rocks of their summer haunts. Some writers have stated that they never alight anywhere else, but such is certainly not so. In Laborador we frequently saw them walking on the roofs of tilts, where codfish was drying, or alighting on the roofs of the fish houses and even on the roofs of the dwelling houses and on the rocks around them. On migrations, we often see them perched in trees, on wire fences or fence posts, on the ridge poles of houses, and on telephone or telegraph wires. Dr. Knowlton writes to me that, in the locality where he collected the birds ... "thousands of pipits were present over an area 6 to 15 miles wide. the birds would fly ahead of the car, alighting on fence wires near the approaching vehicle. however, when disturbed by a man walking along the road, large numbers would sometimes fly away and alight in the field at some distance from the collector. ...

When on the ground the pipit walks gracefully and prettily, with a nodding motion of the head, like a dove, and with the body swaying slightly from side to side as he moves quietly along; sometimes he runs more rapidly.

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Name

Bohemian Waxwing
Lesson Plan

Food

Fruit ; during the summer will also take insects

Feeding Techniques

Forages in shrubs, trees; usually as part of a flock

Habitat

Varies: open country, boreal forests, parks

Plumage

Male and female have similar plumage

Distribution

Irregular distribution. Generally found in the north.

Breeding

About the Notes from A.C. Bent

Notes from A.C. Bent

Enemies: Frank L. Farley writes to me: "Pigeon hawks must take a heavy toll of the Bohemian waxwings while they are gathering in the Rockies and foothills to commence their wanderings to the south. On several trips after big game into these regions, I have seen large flocks of a hundred or more birds, sitting motionless and apparently fearful, on the top branches of a solitary leafless tree, out in an opening. If one looks about, he is almost certain to see a pigeon hawk perched in a nearby tree top, patiently watching the waxwings. The birds seem to know that they are safe, if they remain in the tree, but, if one puts them to flight, the hawk is off in a flash and easily takes one before the flock gets a hundred yards from the tree."

Mr. Cameron (1908) says that, in very severe weather, when the waxwings were somewhat stupified by the cold: they became the prey of ranch cats. A very fine male which our cat brought to me on Feb. 13, 1899, was quite fat after eighteen days of a cold wave during which 45 degrees below zero was registered. I do not think that many Waxwings fall victims to Prairie Falcons, as they betake themselves to thick cover when the latter are about. On March 10, 1904. my wife and I approached within two yards of a flock of Waxwings, which refused to leave a low cedar when a Rough-legged Hawk was sailing above.

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Name

Cedar Waxwing
Lesson Plan

Food

Fruit ; during the summer will also take insects

Feeding Techniques

Forages in shrubs, trees; usually as part of a flock

Habitat

Open woods, suburbs, parks

Plumage

Male and female have similar plumage

Distribution

Throughout the US

Breeding

Nests in trees

About the Notes from A.C. Bent

Notes from A.C. Bent

Howard L. Cogswell says in his notes from Pasadena, Calif.: ''This species is often very abundant throughout the cities in winter, especially in sections where camphor trees and peppertrees are planted. Of late years the peppertrees, long a recognized favorite for berry-eating birds, have been yielding poorer and poorer crops in the Los Angeles area. As a consequence, in the Pasadena area at least, the waxwings and their often-present associate, the robin, are now to be seen chiefly in the camphor trees used extensively to line the streets of residential districts. From their arrival in numbers in November until about February 1, the small cherrylike drupe of this tree seems to be the chief food of the waxwings. Then, when these are gone, they turn to the various berries on ornamental bushes in gardens, such as Pyracantha, Clotone aster, and Eugenia. Many times I have also seen waxwings eating from persimmons and apples allowed to remain on the trees until overripe. Outside the city, they feed on toyon, mistletoe, coffeeberries, the fruits of the sycamore tree, and wild grapes in the lowland willow regions."

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Name

Phainopepla
Lesson Plan

Food

Fruit

Feeding Techniques

Forages while perched in shrubs or trees

Habitat

Desert

Plumage

 Male has purple plumage while female is grayish

Distribution

Southwest - Southern California, Arizona, New Mexico

Breeding

Nests in trees

About the Notes from A.C. Bent

Notes from A.C. Bent

The males, particularly, often carry on flycatching activities from elevated perches, sometimes by sallies in regular flycatcher fashion, but frequently by hovering and fluttering about in the air in a seemingly aimless and befuddled manner. It is often difficult to determine whether these peculiar maneuvers represent the prosaic pursuit of food or some odd form of play. It is noticeable that the hunting of winged insects always is conducted at a considerable height and never by low swoops over the ground as is often the case with flycatchers. Mrs. Bailey (1896) further describes some of the habits and mannerisms of the phainopepla: 

In feeding, the birds occasionally flew against a bunch of berries, as Chicadees do, clinging while they ate; and I once saw one hover before a bunch while eating, as a Hummingbird whirrs under a flower. More frequently they lit on a branch from which they could lean over and pick off the fruit at leisure. I never actually saw them eat anything but peppers, but at one time when the brush was full of millers, the birds seemed to be catching them; and they sometimes made short sallies into the air as if for insects. They did this much as a Kingbird does, flying up obliquely and going down the opposite side of the angle.

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Name

Wilson's Warbler
Lesson Plan

Food

Mostly insects and other invertebrates.

Feeding Techniques

Gleaning and flycatching

Habitat

Shrubby areas, open areas with shrubby understory

Plumage

Male and female have similar plumage

Distribution

Throughout the US

Breeding

Builds its cup nest on the ground. Three races identified

About the Notes from A.C. Bent

Dr. Alexander Skutch - ornithologist who has lived and studied birds in Costa Rica for over 40 years. He is the author of many fine studies of birds including Parent Birds and their Young.

Notes from A.C. Bent

Food: No comprehensive study of the food of Wilson's warbler has appeared in the literature, and practically nothing has been published in detail on the food of our eastern bird. Prof. Beal (1907) examined the contents of 53 stomachs of one of the western races of the species and found that 93 percent of the food was animal matter and only 1 percent of it vegetable. There is no reason to suppose that the eastern race has not a somewhat similar diet. Moreover, since our Wilson's warbler has been seen repeatedly foraging among the twigs and foliage of trees and shrubs, presumably in search of insects and their eggs and larvae, or darting out into the air to capture flying insects, it may be safely regarded as primarily insectivorous and hence mainly a beneficent species. 

Dr. Alexander F. Skutch (MS.), speaking of the bird in Central America, says: "Among the peculiar foods of the Wilson's warblers in their winter home are the little, white, beadlike protein corpuscles which they daintly pluck from the furry cushions at the bases of the long petioles of the Cecropia tree. These minute grains, the chief nourishment of the Azteca ants that dwell in myriads in the hollow stems of the tree, are also sought by a number of other small birds, both resident and migratory."

 Mrs. Edith K. Frey tells me that she has seen Wilson's warblers and several other species of wood warblers feeding on aphids in her shrubbery day after day until the pests were gone.

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Name

Yellow-rumped Warbler
Lesson Plan

Food

Mostly insects and other invertebrates; will eat berries

Feeding Techniques

Gleans

Habitat

Varied. Suburbia, parks, coniferous forests, open farm land

Plumage

Male and female have similar plumage

Distribution

Throughout the US

Breeding

Nests in trees, usually coniferous

About the Notes from A.C. Bent

Formerly considered two species, the Audubon Warbler and the Myrtle Warbler. Further study showed that they are two races of the Yellow -rumped Warbler.

Notes from A.C. Bent

Food: Forbush (1929) sums up the food of this warbler very well as follows:  

The Myrtle Warbler is one of the few warblers that can subsist for long periods upon berries and seeds, although undoubtedly it prefers insects when it can get them. Along the coast during the milder winters there are many flies rising from the seaweed in sheltered spots on mild days even in January, and there are eggs of plant-lice and some hibernating insects to be found on the trees, but the principal food of the Myrtle Warbler in New England during the inclement season is the bayberry. They can exist, however, on the berries of the Virginia juniper or red cedar and these seem to form their principal food when wintering in the interior; berries of the Virginia creeper or woodbine, those of viburnums, honeysuckle, mountain ash, poison ivy, spikenard and dogwoods also serve to eke out the birds' bill of fare. In the maple sugar orchards in early spring they occasionally drink sweet sap from the trees. In the southern Atlantic states they take palmetto berries. North and south they also eat some seeds, particularly those of sunflower and goldenrod. During spring and summer they destroy thousands of caterpillars, small grubs and the larvae of saw-flies and various insects, leaf-beetles, dark-beetles, weevils, wood-horers, ants, scale insects, plant-lice and their eggs, including the woolly apple-tree aphids and the the common apple-leaf plant-louse, also grasshoppers and locusts, bugs, house-flies and other flies including caddice-flies, craneflies, calcid-flies, ichneumon-flies and gnats, also spiders.

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Name

Nashville Warbler
Lesson Plan

Food

Mostly insects plus some berries

Feeding Techniques

Gleans from lower branches

Habitat

Breeds in mixed woods

Plumage

Male and female have similar plumage

Distribution

Throughout the US. Population showing signs of decline

Breeding

Well hidden nest on ground

About the Notes from A.C. Bent

Alexander Wilson (1766 - 1813) is considered by many the father of American ornithology.

Notes from A.C. Bent

Alexander Wilson discovered this species near Nashville, Tenn., and gave it the name Nashville warbler. Baird, Brewer, and Ridgway (1874) say of its early history: "For a long while our older naturalists regarded it as a very rare species, and knew nothing as to its habits or distribution. Wilson, who first met with it in 1811, never found more than three specimens, which he procured near Nashville, Tenn. Audubon only met with three or four, and these he obtained in Louisiana and Kentucky. These and a few others in Titian Peale's collection, supposed to have been obtained in Pennsylvania, were all he ever saw. Mr. Nuttall at first regarded it as very rare, and as a Southern species.

This is not strange when we stop to consider that this bird is more or less irregular in its occurrence, apparently fluctuating in numbers in different localities and perhaps choosing different routes of migration. Its record here in eastern Massachusetts illustrates this point. Thomas Nuttall never saw the bird while he lived in Cambridge, from 1825 to 1834. Dr. Samuel Cabot, who lived there from 1832 to 1836, told William Brewster (1906) that he was sure that it did not occur regularly in eastern Massachusetts at that time. According to Brewster:

Soon afterwards a few birds began to appear every season. They increased in numbers, gradually but steadily, until they had become so common that in 1842 he obtained ten specimens in the course of a single morning.

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Name

Yellow Warbler
Lesson Plan

Food

Mostly insects and other invertebrates.

Feeding Techniques

Gleans and flycatches

Habitat

Open, moist habitats such as riparian woods

Plumage

Male and female have similar plumage

Distribution

Throughout the US

Breeding

Cup nest in tree between 3 and 9 feet up. There is a race in Baja California that has a rufous head

About the Notes from A.C. Bent

Dr. Frank Chapman - (1863 - 1948) American ornithologist, who is credited with starting the annual Christmas Count.

Notes from A.C. Bent

The familiar yellow warbler, also commonly called the summer yellow bird or wild canary, is the best known and the most widely known of all of our wood warblers. It is one of the few birds that. almost everybody knows by one of the above names. It is universally beloved as it comes to us in the flush of budding spring, gleaming in the shrubbery, like a rich yellow flame among the freshly opening leaves, or bringing to the apple orchards a flash of brilliant sunshine to mingle with the fragrant blossoms. As Dr. Chapman (1907) says: "In his plumes dwells the gold of the sun, in his voice its brightness and good cheer. We have not to seek him in the depths of the forest, the haunt of nearly all his congeners, he comes to us and makes his home near the yellow warbler, as a species, is also the most widely distributed member of its family. Its breeding range extends from the Atlantic to the Pacific in both Canada and the United States (110 degrees of longitude), and from the Barren Grounds in northern Canada to Mexico and the Gulf States (40 degrees of latitude). Its winter range covers 54 degrees of longitude and 31 degrees of latitude in Central and South America. Professor Cooke (1904) says: "The extreme points of the yellow warbler's range, northern Alaska and western Peru, are farther separated than the extremes of the range of the black-polled warbler, which is considered the greatest migrant of the family." But it must be remembered that the yellow warbler breeds much farther south than the blackpoll.

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Name

Common Yellowthroat
Lesson Plan

Food

Mostly insects and other invertebrates.

Feeding Techniques

Feeds low to the ground

Habitat

Marshes

Plumage

Female and male very different; female lacks the black mask of the male is generally paler in color than the male.

Distribution

Throughout the US

Breeding

Nest is generally on the ground

About the Notes from A.C. Bent

Another discussion on sub-species that suggests that geography is responsible for creating the number of sub-species. (See also Song Sparrow)

Notes from A.C. Bent

While the following account applies primarily to the northern yellowthroat Geothlypsis trichas brachidactyla, for practical reasons it also includes the Maryland yellowthroat Geothlypsis trichas trichas, as the breeding and winter ranges overlap and the literature pertaining to these two forms is so intermixed that they are not easily separated.

The species of Geothlypis respond more readily to the influences of the environment than do other American warblers. As a result 12 subspecies of trichas have been recognized by the 1931 A. 0. U. Check List and subsequent supplements. Of these, 4, trichas, brachidactyla, ignota, and typhicola are in eastern United States and the other 8, occidentalis, campicola, sinuosa,chryseola, scirpicola, arizela, insperata, and modesta are represented in the western part of the country.

The color pattern of the 12 subspecies is similar; and they vary chiefly in minor differences of size and intensity of color, in a number of instances, the great individual variation which characterizes these birds so obscures their subspecific differences that determination of skins is often difficult and positive identification in the field, especially where the ranges overlap, is impossible.

Of the two forms included in this life history, the northern yellowthroat differs from the Maryland yellowthroat, in the male, in its larger size, and by reason of its more greenish upper surface, more whitish frontal band of grays, more extensively yellow posterior parts, and its usually brownish flanks.

The female of the northern is similar to the Maryland but is larger, more greenish above, and slightly paler.

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Name

Black-throated Green Warbler
Lesson Plan

Food

Mostly insects and other invertebrates.

Feeding Techniques

Gleans

Habitat

Coniferous forest

Plumage

Male and female have similar plumage Female lacks the black throat of the male

Distribution

Northeast

Breeding

Nests in trees

About the Notes from A.C. Bent

ablutions - washing of the body

Notes from A.C. Bent

Behavior: Although the black-throated green warbler is one of our tamest and most confiding wood warblers, as shown by the intimate studies of its home life made by several observers, it is much more often heard than seen, for it is a tiny mite and spends most of its time in the tree-tops, gleaning in the foliage of both coniferous and deciduous trees. As Miss Stanwood (1910b) says: "The bird is quick in its movements, but often spends periods of some length on one tree, frequently coming down low to peep inquisitively at an observer, once in a while flying toward a person as if to alight on his hand or head." Forbush (1929) draws a picture of its confidence: "Like all the wood warblers it is fond of bathing, its bath tub often some pool in a mountain trout brook. One day as I stood beside such a brook, a very lovely male, disregarding my presence, alighted on a stone at my feet, and at once hopped into the clear spring water and performed his ablutions, dipping into the stream and throwing off the sparkling drops in little showers. As he stood there in the sunlight which streamed through an opening in the tree-tops, he left an enduring picture in my memory. Those who have studied the home life of the black-throated green warbler have noted its intolerance of some avian intruders in the vicinity of its nest, and its tolerance of others.

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Name

Black-throated Gray Warbler
Lesson Plan

Food

Insects

Feeding Techniques

Gleaning

Habitat

Mixed woodland

Plumage

Male and female have similar plumage

Distribution

Western US. Winters in Mexico

Breeding

Nests in trees

About the Notes from A.C. Bent

Notes from A.C. Bent

Food: No extensive study of the food of the black-throated gray warbler seems to have been made. It is evidently mainly, if not wholly, insectivorous, for several observers have mentioned its zeal in foraging among the foliage of trees and bushes for insects, with a special fondness shown for oak worms and other green caterpillars. Bowles (1902) says that "it seems to prefer oak trees in the spring because of the small green caterpillars that are very numerous on them and which are devoured on all occasions. One female must have eaten nearly half its weight of them (from three-fourths to one and one-half inches long) while its nest was being taken." Mrs. Wheelock (1904) writes in the same vein: "In the spring these oaks are particularly infested with the green caterpillars, and the Warblers never seem to tire of devouring the pests. They lean way over to peer under every leaf, or reach up to the twigs overhead, never missing one. Twenty of these worms is an average meal for a Blackthroated Gray Warbler, and the total for a day must reach into the hundreds."

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Name

Black and White Warbler
Lesson Plan

Food

Mostly insects and other invertebrates.

Feeding Techniques

Gleans from along the trunk of a tree

Habitat

Mixed forest habitat

Plumage

Male and female have similar plumage

Distribution

Primarily found in the eastern US

Breeding

Nests on the ground; young are fed by both parents

About the Notes from A.C. Bent

Unique amongst the warblers for the way that it feeds along the trunk of a tree or tree limbs like a nuthatch or creeper.

psyllids are plant lice; family Psyllidae

Notes from A.C. Bent

Food: McAtee (1926) summarizes the food of the species thus:  

In its excursions over the trunks and larger limbs of trees the Black and White Creeper (Warbler) is certainly not looking for vegetable food, and only a trace of such matter has been found in the stomachs examined. The food is chiefly insects but considerable numbers of spiders and daddy-long-legs also are eaten. Beetles, caterpillars, and ants are the larger classes of insect food, but moths, flies, bugs, and a few hymenoptera also are eaten. Among forest enemies that have been found in stomachs of this species are round-headed wood borers, leaf beetles, flea beetles, weevils, bark beetles, leaf hoppers, and jumping plant lice. The hackberry caterpillar, the backberry psyllid, an oak leaf beetle Xanthonia 10-notata, and the willow flea beetle, are forms specifically identified. Observers have reported this warbler to feed also upon ordinary plant lice, and upon larvae of the gypsy moth.

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Name

Northern Parula
Lesson Plan

Food

Mostly insects and other invertebrates.

Feeding Techniques

Forages high in the trees

Habitat

Breeds in coniferous and deciduous trees

Plumage

Male and female have similar plumage

Distribution

Primarily the eastern US

Breeding

Nests in tree about 4 to 15 up

About the Notes from A.C. Bent

Its habitat is ually associated with Old Man's Beard moss (Usnea lichen)

Notes from A.C. Bent

Behavior: The parula warbler is less active in its movements, more sedate and deliberate, than most of the other treetop wood warblers. 

It creeps along the branches and hops from twig to twig, often clinging to the under side of a cluster like a chickadee, an action that led some of the early writers to refer to it as a small titmouse, and it sometimes clings to the trunk of a tree like a nuthatch in its search for food. The birds are fearless and confiding, and are easily approached. Even when their nest is disturbed they come within a few feet of the intruder, making little, if any, protest or demonstration. George B. Sennett (1878) tells the following story, illustrating the confiding nature of the bird: 

Just before we sighted land, imagine our surprise and joy to see a little Blue Yellow-backed Warbler on our mast. It soon flew down to the sail and thence to the deck, where, after a few moments, it felt quite at home. Our sailor caught him, and he was passed around for all to admire and pet. It would nestle in our hands and enjoy the warmth without the least fear. When allowed his freedom, he would hop upon us, fly from one to another, and dart off over the side of the boat as if taking his departure; when lo back he would come with a fly or moth he had seen over the water and had captured. Several flies were caught in this way. He searched over the whole boat and into the hold for insects. Often he would fly to one or the other of us, as we were lying on the deck, and into our hands and faces, with the utmost familiarity. He received our undivided attention, but could have been no happier than we. Upon reaching shore, amid the confusion of landing we lost sight forever of our pretty friend."

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Name

Palm Warbler
Lesson Plan

Food

Mostly insects and other invertebrates.

Feeding Techniques

Feeds primarily on the ground

Habitat

Open habitat, edge habitat of wooded areas

Plumage

Male and female similar plumage

Distribution

Southeast - from east Texas to Florida, up the coast to Virginia

Breeding

Nests on the ground

About the Notes from A.C. Bent

Has characteristic behavior of bobbing its tail as it walks around on the ground.

Notes from A.C. Bent

Behavior: The most characteristic trait of the palm warbler is its habit of almost constantly wagging its tail up and down, like a pipit, even while flitting about in the low trees. Strangely enough, Kirtland's warbler, the only other species of the genus Dendroica that habitually nests on ground, has the same habit. The palm warbler spends much of its time on the ground, where it has been said to walk with a gliding motion, but to me it seems to hop or run, though its little feet move so rapidly that it is not easy to see just which it does. W. B. Barrows (1912) writes of its behavior in Michigan:  

Although entirely unlike the Yellow-rumped Warbler in appearance, the two species have many points in common, and the present bird is equally fond of the ground, where it alights constantly for food, hopping about in search of seeds and insects, very much like a sparrow. It is usually found in flocks sometimes as many as fifty together, though more often in small squads of six to ten. It frequents the edges of fields, the borders of woods and the sides of hedges and roads, but is often seen frequently in open fields, particularly in the wetter parts of cattle pastures, where it perches on weed-stalks or on the ground, and when alarmed flies to the nearest fence, where it sits, wagging its tail up and down in a manner entirely unlike that of any other warbler.

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Name

Yellow-breasted Chat
Lesson Plan

Food

Mostly insects and other invertebrates.

Feeding Techniques

Forages in foliage

Habitat

Open country with thickets and underbrush

Plumage

Male and female have the same plumage

Distribution

Throughout the US

Breeding

Nests in trees

About the Notes from A.C. Bent

vituperation - act of being verbally abusive; This is a comment made in jest that highlights the vocal abilities of the chat which is a very noisy bird. Again, this is another example of adding human traits to non-human animals.

Notes from A.C. Bent

Enemies: The.yellow-breasted chat is a common victim of the cowbird, but it will often desert its nest after the alien egg is deposited. Dr. Friedmann (1929) gives about one hundred records of such parasitism, and mentions only three cases of tolerance, though doubtless there have been many other cases where chats have accepted the eggs, which are about the same size as its own, and have raised the young. He says: "Apparently there is considerable variation in the sensitiveness of Chats around their nests, but the bulk of the evidence goes to show that normally a Cowbird's egg has little chance of ever being hatched by a Yellow-breasted Chat."

And Taverner (1906) gives the following character sketch:

With his stealthy elusiveness, wild outpourings of song and fund of vituperation, the Chat is a droll imp. * * * He is full of life and boiling over with animation. It bubbles out of his throat in all manner of indescribable sounds.

He laughs dryly, gurgles derisively, whistles triumphantly, chatters provokingly, and chuckles complacently, all in one breath. He throws himself about through the bush regardless of consequences, never still, scrutinizing the intruder in all attitudes. Viewing him now from under a branch, and then from over it, talking always exictedly, rather incoherently and usually indelicately. In fact, one throat is not sufficient to relieve the pressure of his feelings, and he presses into service his long tail, and with it wig-wags things such as even he, irresponsible little sprite that he is, dare not say out loud.

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Name

Orange-crowned Warbler
Lesson Plan

Food

Mostly insects and other invertebrates.

Feeding Techniques

Forages in trees, shrubs

Habitat

Brushy areas at the edges of wooded areas

Plumage

Male and female have similar plumage

Distribution

Throughout the US

Breeding

Nests in trees

About the Notes from A.C. Bent

Lutescent -

Notes from A.C. Bent

Food: Prof. Beal (1907) examined the contents of the stomachs of 65 California specimens of this species. 

Less than 9 percent of the food is vegetable matter, and is made up of 3 percent of fruit and rather more than 5 percent of various substances, such as leaf galls, seeds, and rubbish. Fruit was found in only a few stomachs, but the percentage in each was considerable; figs were the only variety identified. [Of the 91 percent animal matter] Hemiptera are the largest item and amount to over 25 percent, mostly leaf-bugs, leaf-hoppers, plant-lice, and scales. Plant-lice were found in only one stomach and scales in 5, of which 3 contained the black olive species. Beetles amount to about 19 percent of the food, and with the exception of a few Coccinellidae are of harmful families, among which are a number of weevils. * * * Caterpillars are eaten rather irregularly, though they aggregate 24 percent for the year. Stomachs collected in several months contained none, while in others they amounted to more than half of the food. * * * Hymenoptera amount nearly to 15 percent, and are mostly small wasps, though some ants are eaten. 

Other items were flies, less than 1 percent, and spiders, 7 percent. W. L. MeAtee (1912) says that this is one of only two wood warblers known to prey upon codling moths. "The lutescent warbler shows a strong liking for the pupae, two taken in California in May having eaten 10 and 18 pupae, respectively."

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Name

Townsend's Warbler
Lesson Plan

Food

Small insects; see below in notes from Bent

Feeding Techniques

Chases small insects and gleans from foliage of trees.

Habitat

Damp evergreen forest

Plumage

Male and female have similar plumage male has black throat while female has yellow.

Distribution

Generally found in the Northwest.

Breeding

Nests in trees. Hybridizes with the Hermit Warbler.

About the Notes from A.C. Bent

Notes from A.C. Bent

Food: Professor Beal (1907) examined the contents of 31 stomachs of Townsend's warblers taken in California from October through January, of which he says: "The animal food consists of insects and a few spiders, and amounts to over 95 percent of the food during the time specified. Of this, bugs make up 42 percent, mostly stink-bugs (Pentatomidae) and a few leaf-hoppers and scales." Several stomachs were entirely filled with stink-bugs.

Hymenoptera, consisting of both wasps and ants, are eaten to the extent of 25 percent of the food. Most of them are winged species. Perhaps the most striking point in the food of this bird is 'the great number of weevils or snout-beetles represented. They amount to over 20 percent of the food, while all other beetles form less than 1 percent. The greater number of these insects were of the species Diodyrhynchus byturoides, a weevil which destroys the staminate blossoms of coniferous trees. Five stomachs contained, respectively, 68, 65, 53, 50, and 35 of these beetles, or 271 in all. Representatives also of another family of snout-beetles very destructive to timber were present in a few stomachs. These were the engravers (Scolytidae), which lay their eggs beneath the bark of trees, where they hatch, and the larvae bore in every direction. Caterpillars and a few miscellaneous insects and some spiders make up the remainder of the animal food.

The less than 5 percent of vegetable food "consists of a few seeds and leaf galls."

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Name

Prairie Warbler
Lesson Plan

Food

Mostly insects and other invertebrates.

Feeding Techniques

Forages in trees, shrubs

Habitat

Brushy areas, second growth woodlands

Plumage

Male and female have similar plumage

Distribution

Eastern states

Breeding

Nests in trees

About the Notes from A.C. Bent

Notes from A.C. Bent

Enemies: The northern prairie warbler is a common victim of the cowbird. Dr. Friedmann (1929) had 10 records from its limited range, in the eastern States. Harold H. Bailey (1925) says that the nest is often abandoned after the cowbird's egg is laid in it, but that "often this warbler has been known to construct a false bottom over the Cowbird egg, and any of her own that were in the nest, as well, and start laying again." Harold S. Peters (1936) lists as external parasites of the northern prairie warbler a louse, Ricinus pallens (Kellogg), and a tick, Haemaphysalis leporis-palustris Packard.

Behavior: The prairie warbler is a lively little bird, very active in pursuit of its insect prey, and quite demonstrative in the defense of its nest, flitting about in the vicinity of the intruder and sometimes becoming quite bold or inquisitive. It is not particularly shy. Francis H. Allen (MS.) says that it "has a habit of twitching its tail nervously from side to side, as it hops and flits among the bushes. I have seen it catching flies on the wing and, also, taking insects from the tops of low bushes by hovering before them with blurred wings like a hummingbird." The tail-wagging of the prairie warbler is not so pronounced or so persistent as with the palm warbler, with longer intervals between these motions. Although it is essentially a bird of the underbrush and low growths, where it obtains most of its food, it often selects a singing perch near the top of a fair-sized tree.

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Name

Chestnut-sided Warbler
Lesson Plan

Food

Mostly insects and other invertebrates.

Feeding Techniques

Gleans

Habitat

Breeds in second growth forest

Plumage

Male and female have similar plumage

Distribution

Eastern states

Breeding

Nest is close to the ground

About the Notes from A.C. Bent

coppice - (From Wikipedia) Coppicing is a traditional method of woodland management, by which young tree stems are cut down to a low level, or sometimes right down to the ground. In subsequent growth years, many new shoots will emerge, and after a number of years the cycle begins again and the coppiced tree or stool is ready to be harvested again. Typically a coppice woodland is harvested in sections, on a rotation. In this way each year a crop is available. This has the side-effect of providing a rich variety of habitats, as the woodland always has a range of different aged stools growing in it. This is beneficial for biodiversity.

Notes from A.C. Bent

Many changes have taken place in the distribution and relative abundance of many birds in different parts of our land since the settlement of the country, owing to the changes wrought in the landscape by man. The beautiful little chestnut-sided warbler is one of the species that has benefited, flourished, and increased with the spread of civilization. It seems strange that such a common, well-marked, and familiar species, as we now know it to be over so much of northeastern North America, should have been largely unknown by the early writers on American birds. Edward H. Forbush (1929) tells the story very well as follows:

Audubon met with it but once; Wilson saw little of it; Nuttall, who considered it rare, evidently knew little about it, and saw very few. Since his time, however, its numbers have increased until it has become one of the commonest of eastern warblers. Its increase was favored by the destruction of the primeval forest and the continued cutting away of subsequent growths, and later by the increase of neglected fields and pastures with their growths of bushes and brambles, for it is not a frequenter of deep woods, nor yet of well-kept gardens, orchards or farmyards, but prefers neglected or cut-over lands, with a profusion of thickets and briers. So we may find it usually away from houses, in low roadside and brookside thickets, or in sproutlands rather recently cut over. As the coppice grows up the bird retires to other quarters or to the edges of the woods.

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Name

Black-throated Blue Warbler
Lesson Plan

Food

Mostly insects and other invertebrates.

Feeding Techniques

Usually gleans high in the top of coniferous trees

Habitat

Woodlands

Plumage

Male and female have different plumage

Distribution

Eastern United States during breeding season.

Breeding

About the Notes from A.C. Bent

Notes from A.C. Bent

Territory: In favored regions, where the population is fairly dense, as it often is, the males arrive ahead of the females and establish their breeding and feeding territories, which they often have to defend against intruding males of the same species. John Burroughs (1895) describes such an encounter as follows: "Their battle-cry is a low, peculiar chirp, not very fierce, but bantering and confident. They quickly come to blows, but it is a very fantastic battle, and, as it would seem, indulged in more to satisfy their sense of honor than to hurt each other, for neither party gets the better of the other, and they separate a few paces and sing, and squeak, and challenge each other in a very happy frame of mind. The gauntlet is no sooner thrown down than it is again taken up by one or the other, and in the course of fifteen or twenty minues they have three or four encounters, separating a little, then provoked to return again like two cocks, till finally they withdrawn beyond hearing of each other,: both, no doubt, claim the victory."

Nesting: I believe that John Burroughs (1895) was the first naturalist to discover the nest of the "black-throated blue-backed warbler," as he called it, and be wrote an interesting account of his hunt for it in "Locusts and Wild Honey." It was found in July, 1871, in Delaware County, N. Y., and contained four young and one addled egg. "The nest was built in the fork of a little hemlock, about fifteen inches from the ground, and was a thick, firm structure, composed of the finer material of the woods, with a lining of very delicate roots or rootlets." The young birds were nearly fledged and were frightened from the nest. "This brought the parent birds on the scene in an agony of alarm. Their distress was pitiful. They threw themselves on the ground at our very feet, and fluttered, and cried, and trailed themselves before us, to draw us away from the place, or distract our attention from the helpless young."

Name

Tennessee Warbler

Lesson Plan

Food

Mostly insects and other invertebrates.

Feeding Techniques

Usually gleans high in the top of coniferous trees

Habitat

Woodlands

Plumage

Male and female have similar plumage

Distribution

Eastern states to Rocky Mountain states

Breeding

Nests high up in trees

About the Notes from A.C. Bent

Notes from A.C. Bent

Winter: Dr. A. F. Skutch has contributed the following account: "The Tennessee warbler winters in Central America in vast numbers. Coming later than many other members of the family, the first individuals appear in mid-September; but the species is not abundant or widely distributed until October. During the year passed on the Sierra de Tecpin in west-central Guatemala a single Tennessee warbler appeared in the garden of the house, at 8,500 feet, on November 7 and despite frosty nights lingered into December. On November 19, 1935, I saw one on the Volcano Irazii in Costa Rica at 9,200 feet: the highest point at which I have a record of the species. At the other extreme I found a few of these adaptable birds among the low trees on the arid coast of El Salvador in February and among the royal palms at Puerto Limon, on the humid coast of Costa Rica, in March.

But Tennessee warblers are most abundant as winter residents at intermediate altitudes, chiefly between 2,000 and 6,000 feet above sea-level. From 3,000 to 5,000 feet they often seem to be the most abundant of all birds during the period of their sojourn. They travel in straggling flocks and form the nucleus of many of the mixed companies of small, arboreal birds. At times 'myriads' is the only term that seems apt to describe their multitudes.

"I think 'coffee warbler' would be a name far more appropriate than Tennessee warbler for this plainly attired little bird; it was merely a matter of chance that Alexander Wilson happened to discover the species in Tennessee rather than at some other point on its long route from Canada to Central America; but the warblers themselves manifest a distinct partiality to the coffee plantations. The open groves formed by the shade trees, whose crowns rarely touch each other, yet are never far apart, seem to afford just the degree of woodland density that they prefer. It matters not whether these trees are Grevilleas from Australia with finely divided foliage, or Ingas with large, coarse, compound leaves, or remnants of the original forest: a mixture of many kinds of trees with many types of foliage: from Guatemala to Costa Rica the Tennessee warblers swarm in the coffee plantations during the months of the northern winter and are often the most numerous birds of any species among the shade trees. Possibly they may at certain times and places be as multitudinous in the high forest as in the plantations. Although I have never found them so, the negative evidence must not be allowed to weigh too heavily, for such small, inconspicuous birds, devoid of bold recognition marks, are not easy to recognize among the tops of trees over a hundred feet high.

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Name

Blackburnian Warbler
Lesson Plan

Food

Mostly insects and other invertebrates. ( See below)

Feeding Techniques

Gleans at the top of trees

Habitat

Woodlands

Plumage

Male and female have similar plumage

Distribution

Northeast. Flies across the Gulf of Mexico during migration.

Breeding

Nests high up in tree

About the Notes from A.C. Bent

Notes from A.C. Bent

Food: The Blackhurnian warbler is mainly insectivorous like other wood warblers, feeding almost entirely on the forest pests that are so injurious to the trees. F. H. King (1883), writing of its food in Wisconsin, says: "Of nine specimens examined, four had eaten nine small beetles; five, nineteen caterpillars; one, ants; and one, small winged insect. In the stomachs of three examined collectively, were found four caterpillars, four ants, one dipterous insect .09 of an inch long, one medium sized heteropterous insect, four large crane-flies, and one ichneumon-fly (?). Another bird had in its stomach one heteropterous insect (Tingis), nine small caterpillars, two leaf-beetles, and two large crane-flies."

Ora W. Knight (1908) writes: "In general I have found large quantities of the wing cases and harder body portions of beetles in the stomachs of such Blackburnian Warblers as I have dissected, also unidentifiable grubs, worms, larvae of various lepidopterous insects and similar material. As a rule they feed by passing from limb to limb and examining the foliage and limbs of trees, more seldom catching anything in the air.

R. W. Sheppard (1939), of Niagara Falls, Ontario, observed a male Blackburnian warbler in his garden for several days, November 5 to 11, 1938, that appeared to be traveling with two chickadees, among some willow trees. "An examination of the row of low willow trees which appeared to be so attractive to this particular warbler, revealed the presence of numbers of active aphids and innumerable newly laid aphis eggs, and it is probable that these insects and their eggs provided the major incentive for the repeated and prolonged visits of this very late migrant."

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Name

Hermit Warbler
Lesson Plan

Food

Mostly insects and other invertebrates.

Feeding Techniques

Gleans

Habitat

Coniferous forest

Plumage

Male and female have similar plumage

Distribution

Pacific coast states

Breeding

Nests high in coniferous tree. Hybridizes with Townsend's Warbler

About the Notes from A.C. Bent

Notes from A.C. Bent

Food: The only item I can find on the food of the hermit warbler is the following short statement by Bowles (1906) : "Their food consists of small spiders, caterpillars, tiny beetles, and flying insects which they dart out and capture in a manner worthy of that peer of flycatchers the Audubon warbler."

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Name

Hooded Warbler
Lesson Plan

Food

Mostly insects and other invertebrates.

Feeding Techniques

Gleans insects from the understory

Habitat

Mature woodland with thicket

Plumage

Female lacks the "hood" of the male

Distribution

Eastern states

Breeding

Nest is close to the ground

About the Notes from A.C. Bent

Notes from A.C. Bent

Spring: Dr. Chapman (1907) says that the hooded warbler reaches the United States by a flight across the Gulf of Mexico, avoiding the West Indies and (for the most part) southern Florida." This statement is doubtless correct, for there seems to be only scattering records for Key West, the Tortugas and points on the west coast of Florida. Howell (1932) calls it an "abundant migrant and a common summer resident in northwestern Florida south to the lower Suwannee River." Furthermore, M. A. Frazar (1881) reported "large numbers" seen 30 miles south of the mouth of the Mississippi, flying north toward the river, suggesting that they may have come straight across the Gulf from Yucatan. There seems to be a heavy migration, also, along the coast of Texas.

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Name

Painted Redstart
Lesson Plan

Food

Insects

Feeding Techniques

Forages from the ground to the trees

Habitat

Streamsides, especially in canyons, oak woodlands

Plumage

Male and female have the same plumage

Distribution

Southern Arizona, New Mexico, Texas

Breeding

About the Notes from A.C. Bent

Josselyn Van Tyne -

"As they hunted insects in the pine trees their actions were often very Creeperlike, but with the additional spreading of the tail so characteristic of S. ruticilla." - compares the actions of the Painted Redstart to that of the Brown Creeper which looks for insects along the trunk of a tree by starting at the base of the tree and moving up it. S. ruticilla is the scientific name of the Painted Redstart.

Notes from A.C. Bent

One of the most attractive birds to be found in the mountain canyons of southern Arizona is this pretty little redstart, painted in striking contrasts of shining black, pure white, and brilliant red. It seems well aware of its beauty, as it flits about the rocky slopes and in the low undergrowth, constantly fanning its pretty tail, spreading its wings, and fluffing out its plumage to show off its colors in a charming display. We found it very common in the canyons of the Huachuca Mountains, from 5,000 up to 7,000 feet, but most abundant in the narrow, damp, shady parts near the mountain streams. H. W. Henshaw (1875) says: "It appears not to inhabit the high mountains nor the extreme lowlands, but to occupy an intermediate position, and to find the rocky hills covered with a sparse growth of oak most congenial to its habits." William Brewster (1882) reports that Frank Stephens found this redstart in the Chiricahua and the Santa Rita Mountains at an elevation of fully 7,000 feet; they occurred most frequently among pines in a canyon, where they had been seen in April.

Mrs. Bailey (1928) says: "Those seen by Major Goldman in the Burro Mountains [in New Mexico] in the fall were found 'among the oaks and pines on the northeast slope from 7,000 feet to the summit. One was working over the face of a cliff, its location and motions suggesting those of a Canyon Wren." Josselyn Van Tyne (1929) added the painted redstart to the avifauna of Texas by finding it breeding in the Chisos Mountains, where a young bird was seen that was barely able to fly. "The species was seen only in the heavy pine and cedar forest at 7,000 [feet]. As they hunted insects in the pine trees their actions were often very Creeperlike, but with the additional spreading of the tail so characteristic of S. ruticilla." Later (1937), he writes:

Great fluctuations in the numbers of a species of bird in an apparently unchanged habitat are difficult to explain. The case of this species in the Chisos Mountains is especially interesting. In 1901 Bailey, Fuertes, and Oberholser saw no Painted Redstarts during their three weeks' exploration of these mountains. In 1928 Van Tyae and Gaige found the species fairly numerous at Boot Spring, and yet Van Tyne, Poet, and Jacot spent the whole of May at the same locality four years later without getting more than an unsatisfactory glimpse of one; and the Carnegie Museum party, in 1933 and 1935, did not record the species at all. On June 24, 1936, however, Tarleton Smith saw an adult male at the head of Blue Creek Canyon.

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Name

Magnolia Warbler
Lesson Plan

Food

Insects

Feeding Techniques

Forages in trees along branches

Habitat

Mixed coniferous forest

Plumage

Male and female have the same plumage

Distribution

Eastern United States

Breeding

Nests in trees

About the Notes from A.C. Bent

Chewink is a former name of the towhee; in this case the Eastern Towhee

Notes from A.C. Bent

Behavior: The magnolia warbler is not only one of the most beautiful: to my mind, the most beautiful of wood warblers, it is one of the most attractive to watch. It frequents, especially on its breeding grounds, the lower levels in its forest haunts, where it can easily be seen. It is most active and sprightly in its movements as it flits about in the small trees or bushes, with its wings drooping and its tail spread almost constantly, showing the conspicuous black and white markings in pleasing contrast with the brilliant yellow breast, the gray crown, and the black back; it seems to be conscious of its beauty and anxious to display it. Its rich and vivacious song, almost incessantly uttered during the early part of the nesting season, attracts attention and shows the nervous energy of the active little bird. It is not particularly shy and is quite apt to show itself at frequent intervals, as if from curiosity. The female sits closely on her nest until almost touched, and then slips quickly off to the ground and disappears.. But both of the parents are devoted to their young and quite bold in their defense, as mentioned above by Miss Stanwood. At the nest that Mrs. Nice (1926) was watching the warblers paid no attention to a red squirrel that several times came within 15 feet of the nest. "In general the relations of these warblers with other birds was not unfriendly; no attention was paid to passing Chickadees nor to Chewinks and Maryland Yellow-throats that nested near. The only birds towards whom the male showed animosity were a male Myrtle Warbler that he drove away both during incubation and while the young were in the nest, and the male of his own species who came to call July 2. On July 8 the female warbler gave short shrift to an inquisitive female Black-throated Green Warbler that seemed to wish to inspect the household."

The intimate studies made by Mrs. Nice and Henry Mousley indicate that these warblers will tolerate a reasonable amount of human intimacy without showing too much timidity.

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Name

Blackpoll Warbler
Lesson Plan

Food

Insects

Feeding Techniques

Forages in trees along branches

Habitat

Plumage

Male and female have different plumage

US Distribution

Primarily in the Eastern US

Breeding

About the Notes from A.C. Bent

Notes from A.C. Bent

Enemies: The blackpoll is subject to the usual enemies of other woodland birds, but all these apparently exact an insignificant toll when compared to the hazards experienced during migration. In crossing the wide expanses of the Caribbean Sea from the winter quarters in South America, some of them take refuge on passing boats during bad weather, but the vast majority after battling adverse winds and storms reach the Florida and Gulf coast in a weakened or exhausted condition. C. J. Maynard (1896), who landed April 27, 1884, on a small key in the Bahamas, found great numbers of blackpolls, some of which he found dead apparently due to exhaustion.

W. E. D. Scott (1890) in writing of the spring migration at Tarpon Springs in 1888 states:

It is so rare that one finds any hirds dying or dead from other than accidental causes, generally connected in some way with innovations caused by the settlement of a country, as telegraph wires, light-houses, and the like, that it seems worth while to give the following details of an epidemic. It was apparently confined, as far as I am aware, to the representatives of this species alone, and only to those individuals which visited the Anclote Keys and Hog Island. These keys are four In number, and are four miles from the main land, in the Gulf, and extend in a north and south line for about twenty-five miles. I found in late April and early May many Dendroica striata dead, and others apparently ill unto death on these islands. * * * I picked up dead on April 29, 1885, in a short walk on South Anclote Key, upwards of twenty-five.

Scott presents no evidence of disease or cause of the so-called epidemic, and I am inclined to believe these birds were members of a late migratory wave that had met with adverse conditions and died of exhaustion.

The habit of migrating at night is indirectly a cause of great mortality when waves of these birds encounter lighthouses and lighted towers. Often very serious conditions prevail during cloudy or foggy nights when the birds, losing their bearings and attracted by the bright light, descend from their high-level flight and are dashed to death on striking some part of an illuminated tower. William Dutcher (1888) writes that of the 595 birds killed by striking the Fire Island Light on Long Island on September 23, 1887, no less than 356 were blackpoll warbiers.

W. E. Saunders (1930) has reported great destruction at the Long Point Lighthouse, Ontario, on Lake Erie, during September 1929. On September 7 there were 31, on September 9, 6 and on September 24 - 29, 199 blackpolls that met their death by flying into the light. Similar conditions prevail along the Maine coast where during cloudy and stormy nights many warblers, including a large percentage of blackpolls, are killed.

High towers such as the Washington Monument also exact a heavy toll on night-flying birds. Robert Overing (1938) reports that in the course of an hour and a half, 10 :30 p. m. to midnight of September 12, 1937, 576 individual birds, chiefly warblers and including the blackpoll, were dashed to their death. At this time the humidity ranged from 65 to 75 percent, and a mist enveloped the top of the shaft. These and numerous other instances indicate that lighthouses and towers are a great menace to a night-migrating bird such as the blackpoll. Probably more individuals meet violent death in this manner than by any other way.

I have not been able to find any record of a case of parasitism of the blackpoll by the cowbird. This, however, is to be expected as the ranges of the two birds do not greatly overlap. The cowbird is of no importance in its relation to the life of this warbler.

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Name

Yellow-throated Warbler
Lesson Plan

Food

Insects

Feeding Techniques

Forages in trees along branches

Habitat

Open woodland

Plumage

Male and female have the same plumage

Distribution

Southeastern US

Breeding

About the Notes from A.C. Bent

I am not aware of too many other accounts of spiders catching birds in their webs.

Notes from A.C. Bent

Enemies: The yellow-throated warbler is open to the various dangers which beset any of the smaller passerine species, but I know of no single enemy that operates against it particularly. However, it occasionally falls into a somewhat novel trap, becoming entangled in tough spider-webs. In much of the cypress country of the southeast the large Carolina silk spider makes its home and spins a magnificent golden web high up amid the straight-trunked columns of the trees. Some of these webs may stretch for many yards and on two occasions I have seen this warbler caught therein. In one instance it was the convulsive fluttering of the bird, apparently stationary in midair, which attracted attention and after some moments of violent activity, it succeeded in breaking the strands which held it. In the other, a dead specimen was found inextricably entangled. Although two experiences such as this are by no means conclusive of any marked mortality, it at least indicates that this may occur more often than one would realize.

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Name

Ovenbird
Lesson Plan

Food

Insects

Feeding Techniques

Forages mostly on the ground.

Habitat

Open forests with good understorys.

Plumage

Male and female have the same plumage

Distribution

Eastern US

Breeding

About the Notes from A.C. Bent

Polyandry - When a female breeds with more than one male. DNA studies have confirmed that eggs within a nest quite often have different fathers.

Notes from A.C. Bent

Polyandry: Ordinarily the male and female ovenbirds have single mates but H. W. Hann (1937) cites a case where one male had two mates at the same time, and another in which a female copulated with two neighboring males in her own territory, then later visited a neighboring male in his territory during her incubation period. In a later paper Hann (1940) records an observation in which two males as well as the female were carrying food to the young in the nest. After these complicated relations were noted a third male, not banded, appeared on the scene. He repeatedly came near the nest, although chased by the other males. His intent seemed centered chiefly in the female, as he was not seen to feed the young, and apparently, according to Mr. Hann, he was successful in some of his attempts at copulation. Hence this female had three mates, although the third might well be considered an interloper. When the young left the nest the two banded males took charge of one young each and the female cared for the other three. No one else has made such an intensive study of the family interrelationships of the ovenbird as has Mr. Hann, with the aid of marking and banding the individuals. Polyandrous matings may be more common than has been supposed among species, such as the ovenbird, that we have always thought to be monogamous.

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Name

Northern Waterthrush
Lesson Plan

Food

Insects

Feeding Techniques

Forages for insects on the ground; usually in wet habitats

Habitat

Wooded ponds, swampy bogs

Plumage

Male and female have the same plumage

Distribution

Primarily in Northeastern US

Breeding

About the Notes from A.C. Bent

Notes from A.C. Bent

Behavior: Forbush (1929) describes the behavior of the waterthrush, much better than I can, in the following words: "Though not really a thrush, the Water-Thrush is well named. It is a large wood warbler disguised as a thrush and exhibiting an extreme fondness for water.

"Like the Oven-bird it walks, and seems fond of walking on a log, but prefers to pass down a slanting log, the lower end of which enters the water. It is unlike the Oven-bird, however, in its almost continuous teetering of the body and wagging of the tail, which it seems to move up and down almost as unconsciously and regularly as it draws the breath of life; this action is accompanied by a springy motion of the legs."

Dr. Cones (1878) aptly refers to the timidity and retiring habits of the waterthrush during the nesting season and adds:

But this is only when he feels the cares and full responsibilities of home and family. Later in the season, when these things are off his mind, he is quite another fellow, who will meet you more than half-way should you chance to find him then, with a wondering, perhaps, yet with a confident and quite familiar, air of easy unconcern. Anywhere by the water's edge: in the debris of the widestretched river-bottom, in the flowery tangle of the brook, around the margins of the little pools that dot the surface where tall oaks and hickories make pleasant shade: there rambles the Water-Thrush. Watch him now, and see how prettily he walks, rustling among the fallen leaves where he threads his way like a mouse, or wading even up to his knees in the shallow miniature lakes, like a sandpiper by the sea-shore, all Intent in quest of the aquatic insects, worms, and tiny molluscs and crustaceans that form his varied food. But as he rambles on in this gliding course, the mincing steps are constantly arrested, and the dainty stroller poises in a curious way to see-saw on his legs, quite like a Titlark or a Spotted Sandpiper.

We always think of the waterthrush as living on or near the ground and in the immediate vicinity of water, in such places as those mentioned, but there are exceptions to the rule, especially during migrations. Wendell Taber tells me that he heard two of them singing, and saw one of them "sitting near the top of a birch tree which rose out of the swamp and which towered above all other trees about except balsams." He estimated that the bird was about 35 feet above the ground. On another occasion, he saw one in a hemlock grove, a long distance from any water. The bird was very tame, and was "walking around, bobbing, on hemlock limbs."

Mr. Brewster (1938) gives the following account of the behavior of a bird about a nest he was photographing:

The female was very nervous and fussy, chirping and calling up her mate the first thing. She would not go on the nest when the camera was near it but kept running rapidly about around the bank and the camera, examining the latter as well as the bulb of my rubber tube which lay several yards off with evident distrust. When started from the nest she would regularly run six or eight yards, crouching close to the ground and moving with a slow gliding motion, spreading her tall and half spreading and quivering her wings, sometimes turning back and gliding past me or just under the nest, making no sound nor tilting while behaving thus, but presently flying up to some branch or root to tilt and chirp with her mate.

Again, he writes: "As I was sitting in my canoe this afternoon in a sheltered cove one appeared on the shore within three yards of me. By degrees it approached even nearer running about over some driftwood, now and then pausing to look at me intently with its large dark eyes. Even when I moved abruptly it showed no fear of me."

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Name

Prothonotary Warbler
Lesson Plan

Food

Insects

Feeding Techniques

Forages mostly in the trees.

Habitat

Wooded swamps

Plumage

Male and female have different plumage

Distribution

Eastern United States

Breeding

About the Notes from A.C. Bent

Black and White Creeper is a former name for the Black and White Warbler.

Notes from A.C. Bent

Food: Very little seems to have been recorded on the food of the prothonotary warbler. It is evidently highly insectivorous, obtaining most of its food from the trunks and branches of trees and shrubs and from fallen logs. Brewster (1878) says: "This Warbler usually seeks its food low down among thickets, moss-grown logs, or floating debris, and always about water. Sometimes it ascends tree-trunks for a little way like the Black-and-White Creeper, winding about with the same peculiar motion."

Dr. Roberts (1936) lists "ants, and other insects and their larvae," as its food. Some of the food of the young is mentioned above, most of which is doubtless included in the food of the adults. Spiders, beetles, mayflies, and other insects should be included, as well as many caterpillars and the larvae of water insects. Audubon (1841) says: "It often perches upon the rank grasses and water plants, in quest of minute molluscous animals which creep upon them, and which, together with small land snails, I have found in its stomach."

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Name

Mourning Warbler
Lesson Plan

Food

Insects

Feeding Techniques

Forages in trees

Habitat

Brushy undergrowth

Plumage

Male and female have similar plumage

Distribution

North-eastern US

Breeding

About the Notes from A.C. Bent

Notes from A.C. Bent

Alexander Wilson (1832) discovered this warbler "on the border of a marsh, within a few miles of Philadelphia," hence the scientific name philadelphia; he called it the mourning warbler on account of the black markings on its breast, which suggested a symbol of mourning. The name is not happily chosen, however, for as Forbush (1929) says, "this crepe-like marking about the breast is the only thing about the bird that would suggest mourning, for it seems as happy and active as most birds, and its song is a paean of joy." Wilson never saw another specimen, and Audubon handled very few; Nuttall was apparently not sure that he even saw a single one. This is not strange, for it is not common in the Eastern States, where it occurs as a late migrant and is not easily detected in the dense shrubbery that it frequents at a time when vegetation is in full leaf.

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Name

Canada Warbler

Lesson Plan

Food

Insects

Feeding Techniques

Foraging

Habitat

Dense woods, brush

Plumage

Distribution

Northeast US

Breeding

About the Notes from A.C. Bent

Notes from A.C. Bent

In spite of its name, this pretty, necklaced warbler is not confined to Canada, but finds congenial haunts in many of the cooler spots in the Northern States and at the higher altitudes in the Alleghenies as far south as northern Georgia. Gerald Thayer wrote to Dr. Chapman (1907): "It is a bird of rich deciduous undergrowth in the deep, damp forest, - a ranger between the bush-tops and low tree-branches and the ground. It avoids purely coniferous woods, and so is almost wholly wanting from the closely-spruce-clad northern slopes of Mt. Monadnock, though abundant in the deep mixed timber all about its northern base. On the eastern slopes of the mountain, where the forest is nore laregely deciduous, the Canada is fairly common almost up to the rocky backbone ridge, at heights of from 2,300 to 2,700 or so feet.

 

Name

Pine Warbler

Lesson Plan

Food

Primarily insects

Feeding Techniques

Foraging

Habitat

Common in pine forests - especially in Florida

Plumage

Sexes are similar - but male is more brightly colored than female

Distribution

Throughout the east but primarily in the southeastern US

Breeding

About the Notes from A.C. Bent

Notes from A.C. Bent

Food: A. H. Howell (1932) reports that the examination of seven stomachs of pine warblers, some of which might have been of the Florida subspecies, all taken in Florida, "showed the food to consist largely of insects and spiders, with small quantities of vegetable debris. The insects taken included grasshoppers, grouse locusts, moths and their larvae, beetles, ants and other Hymenoptera, bugs, flies, and scale insects." It has been known to eat the cotton boll weevil, aphids, and the eggs and larvae of other insects. As it obtains most of its food on the pine trees, it is evidently very useful in ridding these trees of the various insect pests that injure them, seeking them in the crevices in the bark of trunks and branches and, in the cluster of needles and under the scales of cones.

 

Name

Cape May Warbler

Food

Primarily insects throughout most of the year. But during fall migration has been known to cause damage to grape crops.

Feeding Techniques

Foraging

Habitat

Black Spruce Forest

Plumage

Male and female have different plumage

Distribution

Uncommon.

Breeding

 

About the Notes from A.C. Bent

 

Notes from A.C. Bent

This is the bird that made Cape May famous. Dr. stone (1937) suggests that it has "served to advertise the name of Cape May probably more widely than has been done in any other way." The inappropriate name Cape May Warbler was given to it by Alexander Wilson (1831), who described and figured it from a specimen of an adult male taken by his friend, George Ord, in a maple swamp in Cape May County, N.J. in May, 1811. He never saw it in life and never obtained another specimen. Audubon never saw it in life, the specimens figured by him having been obtained by Edward Harris near Philadelphia. Nuttall apprently never saw it. .

 

Name

American Redstart
Lesson Plan

Food

Insects

Feeding Techniques

Actively forages after insects

Habitat

Open woods

Plumage

Male and female have different plumage

Distribution

Primarily eastern US

Breeding

Female picks site and builds nest.

About the Notes from A.C. Bent

Notes from A.C. Bent

Enemies: The redstart's habit of nesting in rather tall slender trees, usually at a considerable distance from the ground, frees it from most of the enemies to which ground-nesting birds are subject. However, I know of one nest of the redstart, built in a shrub about 4 feet above the ground, that was destroyed by a cat, and of another, also located in a shrub near a house, that was quite probably destroyed by one. However, since the vast majority of redstarts build in locations remote from human habitations, cats are not an important factor in affecting the redstart population as a whole.

John and James M. Macoun (1909) cite a case of a redstart's nest, built in an exposed position, that was presumably destroyed by an olive-sided flycatcher that had a nest on an overhanging branch a few rods away.

C. H. Morrell (1899) states that two redstart nests which he observed were deserted after the eggs had been laid because caterpillars had taken possession of the nesting tree and had completely overrun the nests. E. H. Forbush (1907) in connection with a gipsy moth infestation at Medford, Mass., writes: "There was a nest of the American redstart and the tree had been stripped of leaves by the caterpillars. There were four young in the nest. I saw the old birds take but one very small gipsy moth caterpillar to the young, but they would pick the large ones off the nest and drop them to the ground very often. There were no pupae near the nest that I could see." Mr. Forbush does not state whether the redstarts succeeded in winning their fight against this caterpillar infestation.

Louis Sturm (1945) says that one nest that he observed "was robbed by a small fox snake (Elaphe vulpina gloydi) which had swallowed all three eggs when discovered coiled in the nest."

The redstart, like most birds, is host to a number of external parasites, of which Harold S. Peters (1936) has identified the three species of lice Menacanthus sp., Myrsidea incerta (Kellogg), and Philopterus sulflavescens (Geoffroy) and the tick Haemaphysalis leporia-pahistris Packard.

Perhaps the greatest menace to the redstart is the parasitic cowbird, of which this warbler is one of the commonest victims. According to Herbert Friedmarin (1929) at Ithaca, N. Y., the redstart was the most imposed upon species. Out of 34 nests he found 23 of them contained one or more of the parasitic eggs and it was not uncommon to find sets composed of but one or two of the rightful eggs, the rest being the cowbird's.

Occasionally the redstart builds a new floor over the cowbird's eggs, as is often done by the yellow warbler. This procedure is especially likely to take place if the cowbird succeeds in laying its eggs before the redstart's eggs are present. More often the redstart does not seem to be annoyed by the strange eggs but goes on laying its own. It is unusual for the redstart to desert its nest because of the presence of cowbird's eggs.

A nest was found on June 9, 1922, with two young cowbirds 5 days old, completely filling and covering the nest. In the bottom beneath the young parasites were four addled eggs of the warbler. If some of the rightful eggs hatch, the young are usually starved or suffocated by the young cowbirds, although nests are occasionally found in which one or more of the young survive along with the interloper.

In discussing the effect of this parasitism on the redstart Friedmann adds: "When a cowbird is raised by a one-brooded species such as the redstart it represents the total product of its pair of foster-parents for the year. The loss here is a very decided one if we consider the food consumed by one cowbird and that which would have been eaten by four Redstarts. However, judging from the constancy of the numerical status of the Redstart from year to year it seems as though three of the four young would succumb anyway to various dangers before the next year. Also we must remember that the Redstart is in many places more abundant than the cowbird."

Joseph J. Hickey (1940) writes: "Males were silent in the presence of female Cowbirds, but females reacted with sharp hisses, a rapid snapping of the bill and much spreading of the tail." Friedmann (1929) writes: "On July 2, 1921, a young Cowbird, full grown in size and fully fledged was seen following a Redstart and begging for food from it. The Redstart paid absolutely no attention to it although several times the two were very close together. All this time the Redstart was busy gathering food and when it bad as much as it could carry it flew off and the young Cowbird did not follow."

Dayton Stoner (1932) gives an account of an interesting experience of the behavior of redstarts as follows: "I saw one female carrying food for young. Another female was seen feeding a young cowbird that was out of the nest and able to fly, while an adult female cowbird sat on a limb nearby and apparently watched the proceedings. The female cowbird did not offer the young one any food, but after the latter's wants had been satisfied in some measure by the diminutive redstart, she moved close to the young one and at least appeared to be solicitous of its welfare. But any maternal solicitude involving real care of the young was utterly foreign to this parasitic bird."

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Name

Hutton's Vireo
Lesson Plan

Food

Mostly insects and other invertebrates.

Feeding Techniques

Forages in trees for insects

Habitat

Oak woodlands

Plumage

Male and female have the same plumage

Distribution

Pacific coast

Breeding

Nests in trees

About the Notes from A.C. Bent

Notes from A.C. Bent

Behavior: Hutton's vireo is a quiet, modest, unobtrusive bird that must be sought for to be seen in its shady retreats, where its olivegreen plumage blends so well with the foliage that it is far from conspicuous and it is not sufficiently active to attract attention. Mr. Van Fleet (1919) describes its behavior very well as follows:

The Hutton Vlreo is not a bird likely to draw attention to himself. There is no fluttering of wings or hasty glances here and there for food, such as distinguishes the Kinglet; no hammering or pounding and gay chattering or scolding, in the manner of the Plain Titmouse. His sober mantle of olive green is not less subdued than his movement from branch to branch, and tree to tree, his quiet peering under leaves and bark scales, where he takes toll of the teeming insect life. Occasionally a large insect will fail his prey; he will then stop and diligently snip off the wings and legs before attempting to swallow it. Rarely, he will dive forth from the protection of the trees at a passing insect, very much in the manner of a flycatcher; but on his return to the protection of the green foliage his flycatcher propensities desert him and he usually goes full tilt into the cover rather than show himself longer than necessary.

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Name

Red-eyed Vireo
Lesson Plan

Food

Mostly insects and other invertebrates.

Feeding Techniques

Forages in trees for insects

Habitat

Plumage

Male and female have the same plumage

Distribution

Primarily eastern United States

Breeding

About the Notes from A.C. Bent

Notes from A.C. Bent

Enemies: In addition to the the danger of capture by small hawks, the red-eyed vireo is subject to attack by the red squirrel, and the chipmunk, as the two following quotations show, respectively. William Brewster (1936) relates this observation made at Concord, Mass., on June 10, 1906:

Again this afternoon Gilbert heard the Vireos crying anxiously. Looking out through the screen door, he saw the Squirrel on the branch within a few inches of the nest, eating something. Presently he dropped a portion of the shell of one of the Vireos eggs. He then wiped his face with his fore-paws and wiped the latter on the branch. The next minutes he bent forward until his head and fore shoulders disappeared in the nest and almost immediately reappeared on the branch with another egg in his mouth. The Vireos assailed him frantically and one of them struck him with her bill when he was in the nest. Probably because of their attacks, he almost immediately took the second egg off with him, running up the main trunk of the tree until lost to sight In the foliage of its crown.

A. A. Wood (1020) records a similar experience, saying: "Last spring (June 8,1918) I noticed a Red-eye excited over something, then saw a chipmunk climbing the sapling the bird was in. When he was about eight feet up, the vireo darted down knocking him to the ground. The other bird was on the nest at the end of one of the branches."

In reference to the cowbird's relation to the red-eyed vireo, Herbert Friedmann (1929) says: "This bird is so frequently imposed upon that it is difficult to think of the Cowbird getting along without the pensile, cup-like nests of the Red-eye. No species suffers more and few as much. * * * Occasionally this Vireo covers over, or buries (under a new nest floor), the parasitic eggs as does the Yellow Warbler, but on the other hand it has been known to incubate Cowbirds' eggs even when none of its own were present, and alnlost always seems not to mind the strange eggs in the least. Three and four of the parasitic eggs are sometimes found in a single nest."

Harold S. Peters (1936) reports the finding of two species of lice and three species of mites in the plumage of this vireo.

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Name

Cassin's Vireo
Lesson Plan

Food

Mostly insects and other invertebrates.

Feeding Techniques

Forages in trees for insects

Habitat

Riparian Woodland

Plumage

Male and female have the same plumage

Distribution

Western United States

Breeding

Nests in trees

About the Notes from A.C. Bent

Formerly called the Solitary Vireo. Solitary Vireo split into Blue-headed Vireo which is found primarily in the East, and the Cassin's Vireo, which is found primarily in the West.

Named after John Cassin.

Notes from A.C. Bent

Behavior: One of the chief characteristics of the blue-headed vireo is its tameness or fearlessness, or perhaps its confidence in man or its indifference to his presence. Its gentle demeanor when its nest is approached is in marked contrast to the aggressive tactics employed by some other vireos and by many other birds. There is seldom any scolding or great excitement and no attempt at attack, but a brave display of parental devotion. Many a bird-lover has enjoyed the thrill of stroking the incubating bird on its nest, or perhaps lifting it off without even being pecked in the attempt, and then seeing it settle down in the nest again with apparent confidence. It is a gentle little parent that soon wins our admiration and our affection. Perhaps it will even sing almost in our faces as it returns. With patience one may be persuaded to take food from our fingers when incubating or brooding. But individuals are not all alike; some will quickly leave the nest, if we come anywhere near it, and will not return to it while we are in the vicinity.

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Name

Warbling Vireo
Lesson Plan

Food

Mostly insects and other invertebrates.

Feeding Techniques

Forages in trees for insects

Habitat

Riparian woodland

Plumage

Male and female have the same plumage

Distribution

Throughout the US

Breeding

Nests in trees

About the Notes from A.C. Bent

Notes from A.C. Bent

Behavior: William Brewster (1906), writing of the bird in eastern Massachusetts, says: "The warbling vireo is a bird of somewhat peculiar and restricted distribution. It shuns extensive tracts of woodland and, indeed, most wild and primitive places, although it nests sparingly in orchard or shade trees near secluded farmhouses, and rather frequently along country roads bordered by rows of large elms or maples. We find it most commonly and regularly, however, in or near village centers such as those of Lexington, Arlington, Belmont and Watertown. Mr. Brewster is referring here to the early years of this century. I remember that in those days I used to hear warbling vireos about half a mile apart along the main street through Lexington, but before many years, about 1912, we noted a diminution in their numbers; every year fewer and fewer breeding pairs returned, until, early in the 20's, the species became practically unknown in the town, and was rare throughout eastern Massachusetts. However, since about 1938, there has been a decided increase in its numbers.

The warbling vireo is so partial to the lines of trees along our village streets and to isolated trees in open country that, thinking back to the time when this land was covered chiefly by unbroken forest, we wonder where the bird could have found in those days a habitat to its liking. It is thought that the well-watered trees on the border of the broad lanes opened by rivers through the forest were the former habitat of the bird, for these would afford a situation not unlike the vireos' present breeding ground. Aretas A. Saunders (1942) expresses this conjecture: "I believe that the warbling vireo originally inhabited trees along stream borders. With the coming of civilization, shade trees along city streets formed a rather similar habitat, and it adopted such places. This will explain its preference for elms and silver maples, trees that originally were found along stream borders."

In former times, apparently, the warbling vireo was a resident in large cities. Dr. Brewer (Baird, Brewer, and Ridgway, 1874) says: "It is especially abundant among the elms on Boston Common, where at almost any hour of the day, from early in the month of May until long after summer has gone, may be heard the prolonged notes of this, one of the sweetest and most constant of our singers." Henry D. Minot (1895), speaking of the 1870's, also mentions the birds' occurrence "among the elms of Boston Common."

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Name

White-eyed Vireo
Lesson Plan

Food

Insects (see below)

Feeding Techniques

Gleaning

Habitat

Open wooded area

Plumage

Male and female have the same plumage

Distribution

Southeastern United States but now extending to the north

Breeding

About the Notes from A.C. Bent

Notes from A.C. Bent

Food: The food habits of the white-eyed vireo are wholly beneficial, with the exception of the negligible number, 1.36 percent, of the useful ladybird beetles (Coccinellidae) taken, and a few useful Hymenoptera. And it eats no valuable fruits or berries. Dr. Edward A. Chapin (1925) says in his report on the contents of 221 stomachs of this species: "Nearly nine-tenths of all the food eaten by the white-eyed vireos is composed of insects, spiders, and other animal matter; of this all but 3.96 percent is of insects. * * * Moths and butterflies and their larvae (caterpillars) make up slightly less than onethird of the food of this species and form the most important item of the diet. Of this portion, 20.66 percent is represented by caterpillars. * * * The yearly average for the adult forms is 9.83 percent, which with the caterpillars makes a total percentage of 30.49."

Hemiptera (bugs),including stink bugs and scale insects, are preyed upon regularly at all seasons. Beetles of all kinds make up 12.78 percent of the total food; these include the leaf-eating forms, weevils, ladybirds, scarabs, and the wood-boring beetles, all but the ladybirds being injurious. ilymenoptera and Diptera together amount to 11.64 percent, including wasps, bees, ichneumons, and flies. Grasshoppers make up 13.25 percent of the annual food, other insects 3.74 percent, spiders 3.59 percent, and other animal food, including snails and the bones of a small chameleon, 0.37 percent.

"In the spring and fall months foraging for suitable food compels the birds to turn to the berries and small fruits, which are usually to be had in almost any locality. In January 22.93 percent of the entire food is vegetable, in February only 5.62, still less from March to July, in August 16.2, and in the next two months the percentage rises to 32.37. The vegetable food is composed of such berries as those of sumac, dogwood, wild grape, and wax myrtle, and has no economic impact.

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Name

Blue-headed Vireo

Lesson Plan

Food

Insects

Feeding Techniques

Habitat

Mixed woodland

Plumage

Sexes are similar

Distribution

Primarily southeastern US

Breeding

About the Notes from A.C. Bent

Notes from A.C. Bent

Alexander F. Skutch writes to me: "Once in the highlands of Guatemala I saw a blue-headed vireo pick up a very long caterpillar, possibly an inch in length. At first the bird seemed puzzled to know what to do with it, and crossed to the other side of the tree with the larva dangling from its bill., Here he laid it along a twig, held it here with a foot, and took a few nibbles or tugs at it. Then he took it in his bill again, still nearly or quite intact, and swallowed it whole. The habit of using the foot for holding food, while it is torn apart with the bill, appears to be very imperfectly developed among the vireos, but has attained a high degree of efficiency in the related families of shrike-vireos and pepper-shrikes.

 

 

Name

Western Tanager
Lesson Plan

Food

Primarily insects; also fruit

Feeding Techniques

Foraging

Habitat

Woodland areas

Plumage

Male and female have different plumage

Distribution

Western states

Breeding

Female builds nest in tree - male defends nesting territory

About the Notes from A.C. Bent

Notes from A.C. Bent

For many years after its discovery this brilliantly colored bird was known as the Louisiana tanager, as indicated in Wilson's scientific name, which it still bears. The name seems wholly inappropriate today, for it is only a rare migrant in what we now know as the State of Louisiana. But, at the time of its discovery, what was then known as the Louisiana Purchase, or the Territory of Louisiana, extended from the Mississippi River to the Continental Divide and northward to British Columbia. As the bird was widely distributed over much of that territory, the name seemed more suitable.

The first specimens were obtained by members of the Lewis and Clark party on their journey across the northwestern territories of this country, and the frail specimens that they obtained were figured and named by Wilson. Later, Townsend and Nuttall obtained some better specimens, from which Audubon (1841, vol. 3) drew his beautiful plate; Audubon quotes Nuttall as saying:

"We first observed this fine bird in a thick belt of wood near Lorimer's Fork of the Platte, on the 4th of June, at a considerable distance to the east of the first chain of the Rocky Mountains (or Black Hills), so that the species in all probability continues some distance down the Platte. We have also seen them very abundant in the spring, in the forests of the Columbia, below Fort Vancouver. On the Platte they appeared shy and almost silent, not having there apparently commenced breeding. About the middle of May we observed the males in small numbers scattered through the dark pine forests of the Columbia, restless, shy, and flitting when approached, but at length more sedentary when mated."

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Name

Scarlet Tanager
Lesson Plan

Food

Primarily insects; also fruit

Feeding Techniques

Foraging

Habitat

Woodland areas; also suburbia - parks

Plumage

Male and female have different plumage

Distribution

Eastern states. Winters in South America

Breeding

Female builds nest in tree - male defends nesting territory

About the Notes from A.C. Bent

hellgramite - the larval form of the dobsonfly.

Notes from A.C. Bent

Food: Edward H. Forbush (1907) gives an admirable accountof the tanager's food. He says:

In its food preferences the Tanager is the appointed guardian of the oaks. It is drawn to these trees as if they were magnets, but the chief attraction seems to be the vast number of insects that feed upon them. It is safe to say that of all the many hundreds of insects that feed upon the oaks few escape paying tribute to the Tanager at some period of their existence. We are much indebted to this beautiful bird for its share in the preservation of these noble and valuable trees. It is not particularly active, but, like the Vireos, it is remarkably observant, and slowly moves about among the branches continually finding and persistently destroying those concealed insects which so well escape all but the sharpest eyes. Nocturnal moths, such as the Catocales, which remain motionless on the tree trunks by day, almost invisible because of their protective coloring, are captured by the Tanager. Even the largest moths, like cecropia and tuna, are killed and eaten by this indefatigable insect hunter. * * * I once saw a male Tanager swallow what appeared to be a hellgramite or dobson (Corydalis cornuta) head first and apparently entire, though not without much effort. * * * As a caterpillar hunter the bird has few superiors. It is often very destructive to the gipsy moth, taking all stages but the eggs, and undoubtedly will prove equally useful against the brown-tail moth leaf-rolling caterpillars it skillfully takes from the rolled leaves, and it also digs out the larvae of gall insects from their hiding places. Many other injurious larvae are taken. Wood-boring beetles, bark-boring beetles, and weevils form a considerable portion of its food during the months when these insects can he found. Click beetles, leaf-eating beetles, and crane flies are greedily eaten. These beneficial habits are not only of service in woodlands, but they are exercised in orchards, which are often frequented by Tanagers. Nor is this bird confined to trees, for during the cooler weather of early spring it goes to the ground, and on plowed lands follows the plow like the Blackbird or Robin, picking up earthworms, grubs, ants, and ground beetles. Grasshoppers, locusts, and a few bugs are taken, largely from the ground, grass, or shrubbery.

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Name

Summer Tanager
Lesson Plan

Food

Primarily insects; also fruit

Feeding Techniques

Foraging. Has been known to take wasp larvae from wasp nests.

Habitat

Woodland areas

Plumage

Male and female have different plumages

Distribution

The south from Virginia to California

Breeding

Female builds nest in tree - male defends nesting territory

About the Notes from A.C. Bent

Notes from A.C. Bent

Spring: Alexander F. Skutch writes to me: "As it arrives late in Central America, so the summer tanager leaves early. By the beginning of April the species is already becoming rare in Costa Rica; my latest record for this country is April 12. In Guatemala, farther north, it has been recorded as late as April 25 by myself and April 27 by Grissom; but these were stragglers that had lingered behind the main migration."

The summer tanager is one of many species of small birds that evidently migrate directly across the Gulf of Mexico from Central America to the Gulf States. M. A. Frazar (1881) reported that a few of this species were observed while he was cruising from the coast of Texas to Mobile, Ala., and when his small schooner was about 30 miles south of the mouths of the Mississippi. Further evidence of trans-Gulf migration is given in the following contribution from Francis M. Weston regarding the spring migration of the summer tanager, as observed near Pensacola, Fla.: "Abundance of the summer tanager at this season depends upon weather conditions, as is the case with most of the trans-Gulf migrant species that make their first landfall on this part of the coast. A season of long periods of good weather brings us no more tanagers than would be needed to provide our rather sparse breeding population, and it is presumed that at such times great numbers must pass over unseen on their way to more northerly nesting grounds. In bad weather, however, when an incoming flight meets rain, heavy fog, or strong north winds, and halts on the coast instead of continuing on its way inland, tanagers in uncountable abundance swarm in city gardens and parks and in coastwise patches of woods. I recall my amusement, one spring, at the confusion of a visiting ornithologist who, delighted at the sight of several tanagers, set out to count the number he could find in a single vacant, wooded city block. All went well, the birds flitting along before him as he slowly traversed the block. Then, looking back, he saw that more new birds had come into the area behind him than he had already chased out and counted. He finally gave up the project as hopeless and contented himself with noting the species as 'very abundant'. A swarm of tanagers like that can be expected during any or every spell of bad weather from the last week of March through all of April. This spring influx persists even into May, for, on May 8,1945, a mixed flight of incoming migrants, halted by bad weather, included a fair sprinkling of summer tanagers."

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Name

Bananaquit
Lesson Plan

Food

Nectar

Feeding Techniques

Forages

Habitat

Plumage

Distribution

Individuals wander over from the Bahamas into Florida.

Breeding

About the Notes from A.C. Bent

Notes from A.C. Bent

No notes from Bent on this species.

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Name

Lesson Plan

Food

Feeding Techniques

Habitat

Plumage

Distribution

Breeding

About the Notes from A.C. Bent

Notes from A.C. Bent