Oh Canada! The Warbler.

Male Canada Warbler Photo by Tim Carstens

This bejeweled species pictured above is part of a large group of passerines or perching birds that include many New World or Western Hemispheric and Old World Eurasian varieties.  

The Canada Warbler (Cardellina canadensis) is a migratory bird that winters in South America and follows North American flyways in the spring to breeding grounds far to the north.  Over 80 percent of “Canadas” breed in Canada and fewer than 20 percent do so in the U.S. although that lesser breeding range includes the Highlands Plateau. Because they are the last of the migratory birds to arrive in the spring and are among the first to depart in late summer and early fall, they are a rare and prized sighting in our area.

The plumage is distinctive and delightful – the throat, breast, and belly are yellow while the back is dark gray; the long dark tail has white underneath matching its white eye ring; and the dark markings on the upper breast comprise a necklace fit for royalty.  Males and females are similarly adorned with the female being muted as is the case with most warblers.  

According to Sibley, the distinctive song features “high, clear, liquid notes; varied: sputter, descending, and ending loudly; all notes different…erratic with scattered, sharp chips inserted.”  This is not your average songbird!

Canada Warblers are creatures of the forest, feeding on insects gleaned from the foliage.  They nest on the forest floor, laying a large clutch of up to six eggs.  Pair bonding appears to be monogamous with the mated pair staying together year-round.   Banded Canada Warblers have lived as long as 8 years, making the trip from South America to Canada and the U.S. every year.

These lovely denizens of the forest, like hundreds of avian species, are in sharp decline.  The years of 1966 through 2015 saw a loss of 65 percent of their population.  They are now on threatened lists and are considered to be at risk of extinction.  Ours could be the last generation to catch a glimpse of this rare avian gem. 

Happy July birding from the Highland Plateau Audubon Society.

The mission of the Highlands Plateau Audubon Society is to provide opportunities to enjoy and learn about birds and other wildlife and to promote conservation and restoration of the habitats that support them.  HPAS is a 501 (c) (3) organization, a Chapter of the National Audubon Society. Visit highlandsaudubonsociety.org for information on membership and all activities.