Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Yellow Warbler

Today, 19 April 2010, I caught three Yellow Warblers, one male and two females.  To my delight, the male was already banded, by me at the same location, on 13 May 2008.  Thus this male was at least 3 years old--well short of the 10 year, 11 month oldest banded Yellow Warbler on record (a bird both banded and retrapped in New York).  The closest my banded Yellow Warbler spent the winter is the coast of central Mexico, and probably further south--yet it returned to my banding station!
For the beginning birder, female Yellow Warblers are a bit more difficult to identify than the male.  As you can see in the top photo, males sport fairly distinctive chestnut stripes down their breasts.  Females are similar to a number of other yellowish warblers, but none of the other birds have yellow in their tails (see photo below). An exception is a female American Redstart, but I hope you will not be confusing redstarts and Yellow Warblers.
I was curious about catching the male and two females at the same time.  Occasionally, male Yellow Warblers are polygamous, and males with two mates defend larger territories than those with one female.  Rarely male Yellow Warblers simultaneously maintain two territories, each with a single nesting female.  Some males trespass into neighboring territories and attempt to mate with females mated with other males, resulting in nests containing young with different fathers.  On the other hand, Yellow Warblers will occasionally maintain mates in successive years.

Much of this information has been gleaned from Lowther, P. E., C. Celada, N. K. Klein, C. C. Rimmer and D. A. Spector. 1999. Yellow Warbler (Dendroica petechia), The Birds of North America Online (A. Poole, Ed.). Ithaca: Cornell Lab of Ornithology; Retrieved from the Birds of North America Online: http://bna.birds.cornell.edu.bnaproxy.birds.cornell.edu/bna/species/454.

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