We Georgians are fortunate that, since the pine warbler is a permanent resident throughout the state, we have the opportunity to see and hear it throughout the entire year. However, it is not a coincidence that we see more pine warblers in the winter than at any other time of the year.
One of the reasons for this is practically all of the pine warblers in the entire continent winter in the South. Consequently, at this time of the year our resident birds are joined by untold numbers of pine warblers that nested outside the Peach State. As such, the mere fact pine warbler populations are much higher the Peach State in the winter enhances the chances that we will see one.
This warbler was named the pine warbler because of its long recognized affinity to pines. This relationship was even known by John James Audubon. Audubon dubbed the bird the pine creeping warbler.
During the breeding season pine warblers rarely venture far from pine trees. In addition, they spend the vast majority of their time foraging for food in the canopy of pine trees. Even when we hear a male loudly singing in the springtime, often we cannot see him since he is hidden in a dark green maze of pine needles.
During the winter, things change dramatically. During this harsh season, the invertebrates and their eggs that pine warblers relish are far more difficult to find than they are during the warmer months. In addition, pine seeds are more difficult to locate. This forces the birds to forage on or near the ground. This makes them easier for us to spot them.
Since the pine warbler is our only warbler that regularly eats seeds, during the winter it can also supplement its diet with grass, shrub, and forb seeds. It is also true that when this warbler can find them, it will also eat berries. In addition, during the winter insects and other invertebrates are often more abundant on or near the ground than atop pine trees.
On a number of occasions, I have found pine warblers feeding in South Georgia far from pines in harvested crop fields. Closer to home, it is not uncommon for me to find pine warblers looking for food in brushy field borders.
Also, during this harsh season the pine warbler will abandon pinelands and venture into hardwoods and even cypress swamps.
The bottom line is whereas those among us that have pines growing in our yards or nearby have a better chance of seeing a pine warbler throughout much of the year than those who live areas devoid of pine. However, in the winter, when the bird is found in a wider range of habitats, and pine warbler populations are at a peak, almost everyone has a legitimate chance of seeing one of these birds.
Of course, you will greatly enhance your chances of seeing this bird if your stock your feeders with foods that the birds prefer. A list of these foods can be found in previous blog. To access this post, simply go to the search feature on the right side of the blog and type in pine warbler. When you press the return key, all of the previous columns dealing with pine warblers will appear.