Yellow-rumped Warbler

The Yellow-rumped Warbler is one of the best known warblers in the United States, and easily the most widespread and numerous in winter.

Eastern birds of this species used to be called “myrtle” warblers, while their western counterparts were known as “Audobon’s” warblers.  They are now all called yellow-rumped warblers, or facetiously referred to as “butterbutt” by some birders.

The Yellow-rumped warbler is less than 6 inches long, with a sharp thin bill and slightly notched tail.  In breeding plumage, the eastern male is blue-gray with a white throat and belly, black streaking on the back, a black face patch, two white wing bars, black bib, and yellow markings on the crown, shoulders, and rump.  All females (and Fall males) are browner and duller than the breeding male, but the one constant in all plumages is the bright yellow rump (a la “butterbutt”.)  That, along with a frequent and distinctive check! note will quickly identify these birds.

Breeding in the far north, the eastern race of the yellow-rumped warbler is known in most of the country (and in the foothills to lowlands of North Carolina) only as a migrant or winter resident.  Migrants can be found in woodlands, hedgerows, and thickets.  Winter birds congregate wherever they can find berries, their principal cold weather food.  However, yellow-rumped warblers may also visit feeders to eat suet, hummingbird nectar, orange halves, or grape jelly in winter.

Winter and early spring is a good time to catch a view of any warbler with the foliage off the trees.  Look for small quick sudden movements and it’s a good chance you’ve spotted a warbler.  I find all warblers a challenge to photograph and identify due to their small size and quick movements, not to mention the neck pain, colloquially referred to as “warbler neck”, affliction that often accompanies a day of searching for these fast moving birds.   Patience is the key…along with a cooperative and somewhat still bird. Although only 5 to 6 inches in length, the yellow-rumped warbler is one of easier warblers to identify due to the patch of yellow on the tail area.  I photographed this breeding male in Morse park in early February.  Have I mentioned the good work the Town of Lake Lure’s Parks & Recreation staff is doing in Morse Park?  It has become an excellent locale for birding, especially in late fall and early spring when many migratory birds are passing through our area. So, when you’re in the mood for a nice walk and some good birding, grab your binoculars and your camera and head over to Morse Park for a stroll through the wooded wetland area…you won’t be disappointed.

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