Townsend’s Warbler


Townsend’s Warbler

Dynamic flashes of yellow and black flitting through the treetops and leafy bushes announce the presence of a vibrantly colorful winter visitor, the Townsend’s Warbler. At a less than 5” in length, this diminutive, active feeder continuously gleans insects, spiders and moth larvae from the leaves and branches in densely forested environments. It travels about woodlands in mixed-species flocks throughout its wintering grounds.

A confirmed sighting of a Townsend’s Warbler might well coincide with the viewing of a distant or closely related warbler species similarly gleaning insects in the forest canopy. It has been noted that the Townsend’s Warbler can often switch to a nectar-rich diet on its wintering grounds, particularly favoring “honeydew,” a sugary substance produced by scale insects. Individuals will fiercely defend territories around trees infested with these insects. These warblers can also feed on berries, and sometimes visit bird feeders for suet and occasionally seeds.

The male Townsend’s Warbler is distinguished by its striking black and rich yellow head, yellow underparts and striped sides. The female is separated by its largely yellow, not black throat and a well defined dark patch on a yellow face. The Townsend’s Warbler’s northern, summer breeding grounds range from Alaska to Washington, Idaho and Wyoming. It overwinters from Oregon south to Central America with a significant presence in Coastal California forests and parklands.

We find it in our own tree filled neighborhoods and parks from late September through April when hormonal changes compel a hasty return to northern and mountainous coniferous forests to breed anew.

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Betty Kanne

Betty Kanne is a passionate birder based in Huntington Beach, California, known for her captivating "Bird of the Month" features authored for the HB Tree Society. With a keen eye and a deep appreciation for avian life, Betty brings to life the diverse array of bird species that call the Huntington Beach area home.

Betty's contributions play a vital role in raising awareness about the importance of birds in our ecosystems. Her dedication to sharing her knowledge and enthusiasm for birding inspires others to engage with nature and become stewards of their local environment, fostering a deeper connection between the community and the rich avian diversity of Huntington Beach, California.

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