While we await the return of millions of warblers and other birds that have been wintering beyond our southern border, let’s turn our attention to a warbler that is a permanent resident throughout the state. The bird I am referring to is the pine warbler.
Interestingly pine warblers are far more abundant throughout the state in winter than at any other time of the year. This is because, in addition to our resident pine warblers, our backyards and woodlands are currently hosting most of the continent’s pine warblers. Indeed, your backyard is part of the winter home of this beautiful bird.
Throughout most of the year, the pine warbler generally does not venture far from pine trees. As such, they can be seen looking for food on the ground, tree trunks, and pine boughs alike.
However, during the winter I sometimes encounter them feeding on the ground in harvested fields. For some reason, at this time of the year, they often move about and feed with eastern bluebirds.
The pine warbler is roughly five and a half inches long. The male has a bright yellow breast. As such, right now, if you catch a flash of bright yellow in the tops of the pine trees growing in your yard, chances are you are looking a male pine warbler. The male’s back is olive-green. Females are duller versions of the males. Both males and females sport yellow rings, often called spectacles around their eyes. In addition, both sexes display two white wing bars. With the help of a good pair of binoculars, you will be able to see pine warblers also have dark cheeks and faint streaks on their sides.
Pine warblers are sometimes tricky to identify because individual birds show varying amount of yellow. Some birds will be extremely yellow, while others show little yellow. With that in mind, don’t get hung up on the amount of yellow displayed by different birds. Instead, concentrate instead on those field marks that don’t vary such as wing bars and the spectacles around their eyes.
The bird’s song can be best described as a musical, slow trill. Once you see a pine warbler singing, you will be able to associate it with its clear, loud song. When you learn the song, I am sure you will hear the bird more often than you will see it. Also, you will discover that the small songbird is probably more common in your neighbor than you ever realized.
Pine warblers will visit backyard feeders. They are particularly fond of sunflower seeds and suet.
This is a great time to learn to identify the pine warbler. The reason for this is once the spring migrants begin passing through your backyard the pine warbler will be only one of many warblers that display a yellow breast.