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Bay-breasted Warblers

Posted on May 29, 2017

We are getting to the end of the spring migration season, and as hard as that is to believe our later arriving species are trickling through as many of the species that arrived earlier are getting down to nesting. One of my favorite passing migrants is the Bay-breasted Warbler (Setophaga castanea), a large and gorgeous species that I believe seems more rare than it is. Bay-breasted Warblers start passing through the region as most of the other spring birds are peaking. These birds remain mostly high in the canopy – above eye-level and out of sight behind recently emerged leaves, and consequently these two photos were the best I could do this spring.

As they devour caterpillars, the males belt out a very high-pitched and soft l “seety” or “teezy”-like song similar to that of the Black-and-white Warbler but even harder to detect.  Because of their elusive habits and their hard-to-hear tunes, I believe that more Bay-breasted Warblers pass by us than many birders are able to detect and record. However, it is certain that their population is highly dependent upon outbreaks of the spruce budworm and how much humans attempt control this native insect that is regarded as a “pest”. We all benefit from thriving populations of birds like the Bay-breasted Warbler; they pest control without the monetary and environmental costs associated with the use of pesticides.  The natural balance of our world is in many ways coming undone due to poor choices by humanity.  We need to focus more on protecting these incredibly important and very valuable birds during every step of their journey, particularly during migration as this is the most perilous time in the life of most bird species. I hope these guys arrived safely in the boreal forest to continue their role in keeping our planet in balance.

Scott Kruitbosch
Conservation & Outreach Coordinator