How To Identify Yellow Rumped Warblers
Birdwatching and Identifying Birds
Warblers can sometimes be mystifying to identify as their bodies are so small. Most of us just get to see a fleeting glimpse of them and then try to capture it in our mind so we can look it up later in our bird book or on the Internet.
However, this author was fortunate enough recently on a trip to Fort Rock State Park in Central Oregon to not only see a flock of them at work feasting on the last bits of thistle and brush available but with a little patience (and a lot of photo shots), I was able to catch an entire flock of yellow-rumped warblers in action.
It would seem that since there was a flock, it should have been easy to catch them but due to their flitting type of behavior and constant motion, it took a great deal of patience and I finally gave up and just remained where I was. That worked the best!
I should also point out also that as beautiful as these little fellows were, in the springtime, you would see an even more dazzling array of color as they go from the blander yellow here to bright yellow, charcoal gray, black and bold white.
This author was fortunate enough to get enough photos to correctly identify the birds I was snapping photos of. Sometimes, especially with smallish birds, it can be very difficult to pinpoint what they are because they look so similar to other birds.
My husband's guess was that this was a flock of goldfinches but even in autumn, the males are still all yellow and don't have the unique yellow markings these warblers do. His next guess was a kind of pine siskin or a finch of some kind. I guessed a vireo of some kind or a warbler. Turns out the latter was the right answer.
Range for Yellow-Rumped Warbler
Facts About the Yellow-Rumped Warbler
Having never encountered a flock of feasting yellow-rumped warblers before, I was fascinated to learn more about them.
- They are not endangered, being on the least concern list as their populations remain stable or are on the increase in many areas
- They are probably the winner when it comes to going the furthest north--as far as Newfoundland--they can survive off things like bayberries and wax myrtles which many warblers cannot
- Yellow-rumped warblers are little guys at only 4-1/2 to 5 inches in length with a wingspan of about 7-1/2 to 9 inches
- They are fast moving birds, flitting from bush to bush quite rapidly and seem to be always in motion--I found the pet or sports setting on my camera the best finally to capture anything
- These warblers create a nest horizontally on the branch of a tree that can be anywhere from 4 feet to 50 feet in the air--they like trees like spruce, Douglas fir, hemlock, and white cedar--they will nest in but do not favor maple, birch or oak trees
- The nests can be far out on a main branch or tucked in close in a secure spot
- Here in the Northwest and also in the Northeast, they tend to stick to mountainous areas but go where conifers are plentiful
- They like to eat insects in summer but in winter or when migrating, switch to fruits including juniper berries. They also eat wild seeds as these birds were doing in Central Oregon though they will come to feeders for suet, sunflower seeds and peanut butter
- Not necessarily aggressive by nature, yellow-rumped warblers nevertheless usually don't tolerate other birds joining their flocks. However, this author observed a swallow on the outskirts of this large flock who seemed to be accepted and allowed to dine with them
- Palm, magnolia and black-throated green warblers are more accepted within yellow-rumped warbler flocks whereas pine and blackburnian warblers usually provoke reactions from the little yellow birds
- Only the Audobon warbler and the myrtle warbler have the same yellow rump or saddle patch as I call it--it is very distinguishable if you see the bird from the back and it flashes the bright yellow square just below where its wings meet
- They migrate or are resident depending on food sources and what's available where
Photography Shooting Tips for Small Birds
This author is still learning when it comes to bird photography. Usually because of the movement factor, the shot is over before you get your lens up to shoot it.
Here are a couple of tips on what I've learned:
- Zoom is essential if you are trying to photograph birds--especially small birds
- It's better to stand and wait and let the subject come to you--sometimes you'll miss the shot altogether but going after the bird never seems to work
- Gauge your trajectory as to where you think the bird may go and shoot there rather than right at it or trying to follow it
- If you have rapid fire settings, you can follow the bird's movements better than if you don't have that capability but again, it's usually better to be aimed "at the spot" you've guessed he will hit and hit the shutter button rather than trying to get the shot as the bird moves
- Sometimes you just get lucky--I recommend repeat firing over and over and dealing with the 800 pictures later!
- I try to move my body with the motion of the bird to compensate for angles and/or get lower on the ground and try to shoot up at it if it is flying overhead
- Any day you get a good bird shot is a wonderful day--it is very hard to photograph moving objects!
- Be aware of your surroundings when focused on shooting bird photographs--this author stepped off the running board of the SUV because I forgot I was perched there and almost fell into the oxidation pond as I tried to photograph a flying heron
- The more you practice, the better you get at it. These were shot with my Nikon 5100 with and without zoom but I finally kept the zoom on. I tried my Coolpix but it didn't have enough zoom on it nor rapid fire capability
- Rapid fire is usually either a sports setting or a pet portrait setting--it allows you to shoot more frames than 1 on one focus of the camera
Yellow-Rumped Warbler Spring Versus Winter
This is one of the most amazing birds in terms of how the plumage changes from spring to fall and winter.
As you can see in the video where the warbler is eating the berries, he or she looks much the same as the ones I recently photographed.
But the other video showing the warbler in his beautiful spring attire is hard to imagine as the same bird species.
Quite a contrast but lovely to listen to and see nonetheless any time of year.