Friday, September 5, 2014

The Warblers of Duke Gardens

Blackburnian warblers migrate through North Carolina in the spring. Photo by Erika Zambello
By Erika Zambello

Every spring, brightly feathered neotropical migrants descend on North Carolina and across the United States, here for the summer to raise families on the plentiful food available in the warmer months. Warblers, with their blues, yellows, reds, oranges and greens, are little residents of Central and South America, who make impressive annual pilgrimages of hundreds and thousands of miles.

While many species of warblers move through North Carolina on their way to New England and Canada, many other species spend the summer right here in Duke Gardens. The common yellowthroat, with a yellow body and a black mask across its eyes, can be seen around the bird feeders in the Gardens and are indeed quite common. 

Common Yellowthroat. Photo by Erika Zambello
My personal favorite, the northern parula, is also a common sighting in the summer throughout the eastern United States. One of the most colorful warblers, parulas have blue backs with bright yellow and orange throats. Their signature white eye ring gives them the air of a cartoon character, and even when they are difficult to see their signature buzzy call alerts everyone to their presence.

Northern Parula. Photo by Erika Zambello
There are many of species of warblers, and visitors to the Gardens should keep their peepers peeled for black-and-white warblers, worm-eating warblers, and American redstarts, just to name a few. Though their colors are not as bright as their first visit in the spring, all the migrating warblers will pass through again in the fall, giving birders an opportunity to see those species that spend much of their time north of the Carolinas.

Pine Warbler. Photo by Erika Zambello
Missing the warblers when they migrate away in the fall? Don't worry, both pine and yellow-rumped warblers make their winter homes in Duke Gardens. Though the yellow-rumped warblers sport much more drab colors in the winter, pine warblers are still the brightest of yellows, like little droplets of sunshine against the white snow. They are most often seen on the feeders located in the Steve Church Endangered Species Garden.

If you've seen beautiful warblers this summer, or are looking out for them in the fall, be sure to fill out an eBird checklist of your counts! There have been more than 100 bird species recorded in Duke Gardens from 109 checklists, and we'd love to see yours!

Blogger and photographer Erika Zambello is a graduate student studying Ecosystem Science and Conservation at Duke's Nicholas School of the Environment.

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