One of a handful of wood warblers that can be found in the Georgia in the winter is the yellow-rumped warbler. Fortunately, for those of us that enjoy seeing warblers, yellowrumps do winter in our backyards. However, attracting them to feeders on a regular basis can be a challenge. One reason why most wood warblers do not regularly winter in Georgia is that they feed almost exclusively on insects throughout the entire year. As we all know, throughout most of our winters this food is in short supply. Although the yellowrump’s spring and summer diet is principally insects (80%), in winter 90 percent of their diet consists of a variety of plant materials such as fruits, berries, and seeds.
Some of the foods this warbler prefers while wintering far from its breeding grounds that extend throughout the vast Canadian forests, as far south as the northern tier of the United States, are the berries of poison ivy, Virginia creeper, and wax myrtle. In fact, when I was learning to identify birds several decades ago, the yellow-rumped warbler fondness for wax myrtle berries earned it the name myrtle warbler. Other choice foods eaten by the bird include red cedar and smooth sumac berries as well as the meats of such nut-bearing trees like hickory, pecan, and black walnut.
Although yellow-rumped warblers winter annually throughout the state, they are often irregular visitors at our feeders. This may be perhaps related to the abundance of food. When their preferred native foods are abundant they seem to have little inclination to partake in our food offerings. One-year decades ago yellow-rumped warblers arrived in the Thomasville, Georgia area only to find wax myrtle berries were far and few between. Faced with a food shortage, the birds sought alternative sources of nourishment. Interestingly, Thomasville residents later reported that year yellowrumps flocked to their feeders in numbers far exceeding anything they had ever seen before.
There are a number of foods yellow-rumped warblers will eat at feeders. The birds are fond of suet (check an earlier blog for the recipe for a suet I have used for years), cornbread, both peanut butter and hearts, white bread, orange halves, and pecan chips. They will also rarely eat sunflower seeds.
By far, over the years I have attracted more yellowrumps with water than anything else. For that reason, I highly recommend that you maintain birdbath throughout the winter. Keep in mind all of your backyard feathered visitors need water throughout the entire year.
If you want to attract yellow-rumped warblers to your yard, I would also recommend that you set out a few wax myrtle plants. Wax myrtle offers food for yellow-rumped warblers and other birds. It also provides nesting and winter cover for a host of birds.