Monday, May 30, 2011

Paul, John, and Anna

Orange-crowned WarblerOrange-crowned Warbler (lutescens), Beaverton, Oregon, 4 May 2011 by Greg Gillson.


A previous post on subspecies (Why I disagree with Roger Tory Peterson) generated quite a dichotomy of viewpoints on the local birding listserv. It seems that a good number of birders are not anxious to observe so intently as to identify subspecies. They want to, if I may paraphrase, enjoy the beauty of birds without the burden of making it study. Such work would take away their fun.

Of course, I take the opposite view. Learning something new is the ultimate joy, and nothing is more fun than knowledge gained through intense, rigorous study, thought, and observation. I love puzzles and brain teasers. And bird identification can be such a fun mental challenge!

The difference between certain species and subspecies can come down to little more than the annual opinion of a small group of persons on the AOU checklist committee. So, rather than get too technical with subspecies, I will instead treat the birds pictured here more intimately.

Thus, the bird above is not an Orange-crowned Warbler of the subspecies lutescens. This is a photo of Paul. Paul Lutescens.

Paul and his family all look very much alike. While generally olive-green, they are more yellowish throughout than others of their relatives. They are very young-looking; they never turn gray-headed. They always show a broken yellow eyering.

The men in Paul's family are known for their singing. Actually, the other relatives kind of make fun of them. Paul's family sings their little weak trill faster than other relatives do.

Paul and his family build their little summer nest on the Pacific Coast, anywhere from California to SE Alaska. In winter they travel to western Mexico. One year they even visited Guatemala for their winter vacation.


Orange-crowned WarblerOrange-crowned Warbler (orestera), Cooper Mountain, Beaverton, Oregon, 12 May 2011 by Greg Gillson.


The bird above is John Orestera. Though to many bird watchers he and his family looks just like Paul Lutescens, John is happy to set things straight. His family genes makes his family slightly gray-headed--not too much, mind you--just the right amount. Some of his family members have yellowish eyerings, some white.

John and his family are taller than their relatives. And they have longer noses. (Don't stare--it's impolite!)

John has a proud family heritage as Mountain Men. His family spends the summers in the Rocky Mountains or Great Basin ranges. He doesn't travel as far south in winter, only going down to Arizona or Texas, or into northern Mexico. One year the family even went to Disneyland for the winter!


Orange-crowned WarblerOrange-crowned Warbler (celata), Newport, Oregon, 14 May 2011 by Greg Gillson.


This is Anna. Anna Celata. She and her family have their ancestor's very gray head and white eyering. She takes pride in the fact that someone once mistook her oldest daughter, Jenny, for a Tennessee Warbler. Imagine!

Anna and her family don't like the summer heat. They spend the summers in the cool boreal forests, anywhere from central Alaska east to Quebec. Later in fall than other of their relatives, her family travels south in winter to Florida or the Gulf Coast, Texas, Baja, or sometimes southern Mexico.

Paul, John, and Anna all traveled through western Oregon this May on their way to their summer homes.

Now that you know a little more about them you can be friendly. The next time you see the families of Paul, John, or Anna, don't be snooty and pretend you don't recognize them. "Oh, it's just those Orange-crowned Warblers." You know their full names and what they look like.

Say hello for me.


  1. Enjoyment of birds does indeed come in all forms, the folks enjoyment of birds can change over time. Three years ago, I would not have been interested in a discussion of Orange-crowned Warbler subspecies, but now I am...a little bit at least. In the past I was okay with noting Empidonax Flycatcher on my list while out birding, but now I really want to be able to tell which one. I have seen that some birders never get beyond noting Empidonax and are perfectly happy in their level of birding. The more I bird, the more I want to know and learn. Like you, my enjoyment increases when I learn new things about birds, rather than just seeing them.

  2. Cute Greg. Thanks for the images and explanations of the differences in subspecies. They have been confusing me a bit this Spring.