Learn your boreal birds-Blackpoll WarblerPosted on May 31st, 2010 Add a comment >>
What has bright yellow legs and is black and white all over? And by the way you have to travel up a mountain to see it in our neck of the woods.
The blackpoll warbler leads an interesting life as far as warblers go. During fall migration most species of warbler travel down the eastern US, often following the coast or higher elevations of the Appalachian Mts. But our little blackpoll has a different route.
After nesting just below the treeline on many of our Adirondack High Peaks in the thick spruce-fir forests, the black poll will often wind its way south and east to the New England coastline or farther south to the Long Island coast.
Here, if the winds are just right-meaning a good tail wind from the north, our tiny two-ounce bird takes flight into the night-time skies. Loaded down with fat layers on its body, the blackpoll starts on an incredible migratory journey that takes it out over the open Atlantic Ocean and it may not land on solid ground until it reaches the Caribbean Islands and northern South America for it’s winter holiday. If it’s tired it may stop off in Bermuda for a brief rest and refuel….whew!…that’s almost 90 hours of non-stop flight.
If your birding pursuits take you on a search for Bicknell’s thrush on, let’s say Whiteface Mt, take a moment to stop along the trail or roadside and listen for the extremely high-pitched song of this bird. A quick repetition of “tsi-tsi-tsi-TSI-TSI-TSI-tsi-tsi-tsi” rising in strength in the middle of song.
Once you pinpoint the song, scan the tops of the stunted trees before you and look for a small black-capped bird, not unlike the black-capped chickadee, but with black stripes on the breast and dark wings. Then look for the definitive ID clincher of yellowish legs.
I often describe the blackpoll song as a fast-moving squeaky wheel going by you as you stand still (soft at first, then growing in volume, then softening) as compared to the flat, monotone squeaky-wheel of the black and white warbler.
If you look for this bird during fall migration you’ll be fooled by its appearance. Just before summer ends it will molt into light-green-yellowish colored feathers with some white and dark striping.
Hopefully you’re planning a hike up your favorite Adirondack Mt. this early June, maybe in search of a Bicknell’s thrush, and as you do you’ll take the time to look and listen for this little, inconspicuous, black and white bird, with the unpretentious song.
Photo Credit: Blackpoll warbler-WikipediaBirding, Wildlife adirondacks, bird migration, birds, boreal bird, Cornell Laboratory of Ornithology
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