Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Black-and-white Warbler

Finally a not so confusing fall warbler.  This Black-and-white Warbler visited our water feature on Tuesday afternoon.  She is a young female, as indicated by her buffy cheeks. (Not visible in this photo are her buffy flanks.)  Contrast the sides of her face with the black and white head of a winter-plumaged male below. 

Only in 1859 did ornithologists recognize that this bird is not a creeper, but, rather, an aberrant warbler.  Its generic name, Mniotilta, means "moss-plucker."  This species is the only warbler that forages like a nuthatch or creeper along tree boughs, searching for small arthropods under the bark.  Hence its bill is relatively long for a warbler, and slightly down-curved.  Another creeping adaptation is this bird's unusually long back toes (at least among warblers). The toes are almost equal in length to the tarsus (again, see the photo below).

Because it winters along the Gulf Coast and in Florida (and all the way down through northern South America), this warbler is one of the first warblers to appear in the spring.  Last January, Erika photographed this Black-and-white Warbler foraging in Florida.

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