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The Warblers of Payne County, Oklahoma
Warblers in a Nutshell
There are from fifty-two to sixty warblers that are either in this country or will cross the Mexican border legally without a need for a passport. However, in order to keep things relatively simple, we will only concern ourselves with warblers that come to Payne County, Oklahoma, as of this writing. Don’t fear these beautiful little birds, as they can really be identified without a lot of fanfare. Without further adieu, meet the warblers of the area.
The Yellow Warbler is one of the most common in this area, and can be observed in both the spring and fall. It may be one of the tiniest, but it has a song that makes it sound like one of the largest birds in the world. It can be located in moist thickets and bushes in a wetland area.
This gorgeous bird has large, dark eyes that contrast with a bright lemony face with a thin black bill. During breeding season, the male has red or orange vertical streaks on the breast, which the female lacks. This bird is olive yellow on the top, and the undertail coverts are all yellow, which is a big distinguishing characteristic on setting it apart from others in the species.
The Yellow-rumped Warbler is blue-gray with black accents, black face, yellow sides, white belly, two white wingbars, and of course, a yellow rump patch. It likes mixed forest dwelling and edges of clearings, and winters in this area in all sorts of habitat. It has a slow trill that rises and falls. It sometimes uses a birdbath.
The Northern Parula is another tiny warbler with a sharp bill and a short tail that is often raised. This bird is blue-gray on topside, two short white wingbars, green mantle, dark necklace, bright yellow throat and breast, and an orange lower mandible. These beauties can be found in mature woods with water in the vicinity, usually high in the trees.
The Common Yellowthroat adores dense woodland, shrubs, and thickets around clearings with water in the area, but it appreciates drier real estate, too. It likes to feed near the ground, often well concealed, and can flit around, go to ground, grab insects out of the air, and sometimes hover.
This black-masked bandit has light olive upperparts and underbelly, with a bright yellow throat and dark cap with white between it and the mask.. The female is not often seen, has no mask and is much less colorful. The male has a “whitchety-whitchety-whitchety-witch” call.
The Pine Warbler is larger than most with a long tail. The male has a very yellow head and breast, dark cheek patches, yellow eyerings, a white belly and undertail, and sometimes the olive streaks on the sides of the breast are visible.
It favors pine trees and pine woods, and has been known to use feeders and the ground with bluebirds.
The Black-and-white Warbler is streaked exactly like that, but the female is not as brightly colored, more gray streaked. These birds behave like a nuthatch or creeper, sidling up and down branches and tree trunks in search of insects. They will sometimes grab their protein on the wing, too. The bill is long for a warbler and slight downcurved. They are generally found in mixed woods, sometimes interested in the privacy of ravines and slopes. The male calls “weesa-weesa-weesa-weesa.”
The Prothonotary Warbler has a bright yellow-orange head with blue-gray wings, and mostly white undertail and rump. It is common in lowland deciduous forests with standing water or swamps. It stays relatively low in the understory, and is at home around the long and hanging old man’s beard.
The Orange-crowned Warbler’s crown is rarely seen, and it is less colorful than most warblers. It has an olive green upper body, dull yellow underparts, with no visible wingbars. It likes low shrubs and very shady trees by slow-moving water. It is also happy in thickets in deciduous wooded area and second growth in clearings, or burned over sites.
The Nashville Warbler is relatively small, short-tailed, a blue-gray head, complete white eyering, yellow throat, and olive tail and wings. It likes to be near water and is about in the mid-story to higher range of open woods and brush patches. It’s call is “zeeta-zeeta-zeeta-zeeta,” with sometimes a harsh metallic “pink-pink-pink.”
The Prairie Warbler will come in late spring, a small, but long-tailed bird that will flick its tail. It has an arched yellow eyebrow, bright yellow lower half of body with dark streaks from neck to legs, and rufous streaks on the back. This bird enjoys sunny and open second-growth forest in the vicinity of unused fields.
Wilson’s Warbler is small with a long tail and wings and is notorious for flicking the tail. It has big dark eyes, yellow eyering, pale yellow face, dark cap, and olive-yellow upper body. It is also bright yellow from the chin to the undertail coverts and has a dark tail. It is generally found in most brushy or wooded areas. It has a chattered, “chchchchchch” whistle, with a “tlk” call when in flight.
The Yellow-breasted Chat is the largest of the tribe, with bright yellow throat, olive-gray upperparts, white spectacles, heavy dark bill, and white belly. It usually is secretive, hiding in vegetation, woods edges, and brush in open, sunny locales. Singing males perch on higher branches and perform flight displays.
The Yellow-throated Warbler sometimes comes in the spring. It is gray and white with a black mask and frames the yellow throat. It will be found in large pines or sycamores in mature lowland forests. It forages for insects under the eaves of houses and in trees like a creeper or nuthatch. It’s song is a “teedle-tu” variation.
The Blackpoll Warbler has been known to reside here for mid-spring, and from a distance resembles the eastern chickadees. It has a dark crown, white cheeks, gray upperparts with bold black striping, white wingbars, yellow legs, and short tails. The underparts are white with some dark streaking. The female is lighter, minus the dark cap. This bird moves slowly and deliberately while feeding, spending most of its time on inner branches gleaning insects, where it can be found nearly anywhere during migration.
Perhaps this brief synopsis is enough to whet your appetite on exploring Payne County, Oklahoma, if you have an interest in warblers. This is nothing like High Island or South Padre Island in Texas where there are major fallouts, though we do have some upon occasion. This is just an overview of what is seen in this county over the year, which I might add, is still pretty spectacular, considering that we also get close to 500 species of birds in this state. Happy birding, and I hope to see you in my travels.