Monday, April 25, 2011

Townsend's Warbler

Townsend's WarblerTownsend's Warbler, Beaverton, Oregon, 22 January 2011 by Greg Gillson.


A rare sunny day this winter enticed me outside, camera in hand. At a nearby park I came across this feathered ray of sunshine.

Townsend's Warblers nest in mountains from SE Alaska, western and southern British Columbia, Vancouver Island, Olympic Peninsula, Cascades south to central Oregon, northeastern Oregon, northern Idaho, western Montana.

In winter, a coastal population is found from Vancouver, British Columbia (rarely), western Washington and western Oregon south along the coast to southern California, and into Baja California (a few). A large population winters in the Central Valley of California.

Surprisingly, there is an inland wintering population found from northern Mexico to Panama.

Though there are no named subspecies, the coastal wintering birds average shorter wings and larger bill and tarsus, and may breed mainly on the Queen Charlotte Islands to SE Alaska. A good reference on these birds is the Peterson Field Guides series book from 1997: Warblers by Jon Dunn and Kimball Garrett.

Is the bird in the photo above a female, as one might deduce from the field guides? Perhaps not.

There is an interesting note in the Sibley Guide about warblers. In the "Big Sibley," page 437, under the heading of "Warbler Plumages" he states that there is quite a bit of variation and overlap in plumage between males, females, immature, breeding, and non-breeding birds. He cautions: "field observers should not attempt to label individual birds without experience and reference to detailed literature on determining the age and sex of birds."

Never one to worry about blundering in over my head, I suggest that this bird is likely a first year male. I base this on the blackish (rather than greenish) facial mask, along with what appears to be worn outer primaries (brownish) on another photo I have of this bird. I could be wrong.

There is more to be said about the Townsend's Warbler, but I'll save that for the next post...