Black-Throated Green Warbler (Photos by Don Reimer)
Black-Throated Green Warbler (Photos by Don Reimer)
Spring has arrived! What’s my basic list of annual spring tasks? Install the window screens, ready the lawn mower, retrieve deck chairs and the barbeque grill from storage and (during any spare moment) maintain a sharp eye out for those colorful spring warblers! Late April’s calendar has already delivered limited numbers of select early migrants, including Black and White, Palm, Pine and Yellow-Rumped warblers. The mid-May period will open the warbler floodgates.

Certain warbler types, such as Blackpoll, Tennessee, Bay-Breasted and Cape May, make only brief stopovers in these parts before heading to their spring nest grounds in northern boreal forests. For us fortunate midcoast watchers, however, about a dozen and a half other warbler species will remain here to become summer nesters.

Who’s nesting in our local woods? The tiny Northern Parula is roughly the size of a kinglet. Adult males are bluish gray overall with a yellow-green patch on the back and two white wingbars. A chestnut band separates the bright yellow throat and chest. In the Northeast, Parulas occupy mature evergreen forest canopies where they construct globular nests from usnea moss (Old Man’s beard) found on the north side of trees; Spanish moss is the material of choice in the south portion of their range. The highly vocal males sing a distinctive buzzy song, an ascending “zi-i-i-i-p!!” similar to the sound of a closing zipper.

Another spruce dweller, the Black-Throated Green Warbler is fairly easy to recognize by sight and sound. Its black bib and bright yellow face are diagnostic field marks. Vocalizations are equally apparent: a rhythmic, enthusiastic “zee, zee, zee, zoo, zee.” One ambitious individual was observed to sing 466 songs in a single hour. Like many wood warblers, this species uses an alternate, more relaxed song version once a mate is attained and nesting has begun — a placid, less emphatic “trees, trees, murmuring trees.”


Shifting down to lower-level nesting sites within 6 feet of the ground, the stunning Canada Warbler prefers moist, wooded thickets. Males are solid gray above and bright yellow below, with yellow “spectacles.” Although this species lacks colorful wingbars, the spangled black necklace against its yellow breast more than compensates. Named for where it was first discovered, this warbler is certainly not confined to Canada alone. The species arrives late and departs early, spending less time on the breeding grounds (perhaps as little as two months) than most other warblers. Regretfully, Canada Warblers are currently declining throughout the Northeast at rates of 4% to 7% per year.

The Ovenbird is a chunky olive-clad warbler with a rufous crown bordered by blackish lateral crown stripes. A bird of closed-canopy forests, this species gets its name from the domed nest that it builds in leafy litter on the ground, creating what resembles a Dutch oven. Ovenbirds have relatively large eyes that enhance their visual capacity in darkish shaded environments. They spend the bulk of time foraging on the ground, walking with a herky-jerky motion that is quite entertaining to watch.

The Ovenbird’s loud, clear song is unique and one of the easiest to learn: a resounding tea-Cher, tea-Cher, tea-CHER, Tea-CHER, TEA-CHER that grows louder near the end. Males often sing from open mid-level branches, but can be surprisingly difficult to spot due to their blending so well with the forest scape.

Good luck with your designated spring yard chores. Perhaps you should add some May warbler time to your calendar roster. Happy Spring!