Consider the Yellow-rumped

Yellow-rumped Warbler, Berlin, MD. Jeff Gordon

by JeffGordon on October 27, 2010 · 6 comments

in Birding North America

Hello, everyone!

Below is a 49 second video of a Yellow-rumped Warbler. It’s a Yellow-rumped Warbler that was hanging around in the vicinity of a lot of noisy, noisy Canada Geese, so you might want to turn the volume down before clicking play.

(If you don’t see the video player above, try reloading the page. Or just go straight to it on YouTube:

This is a blog with a decidedly diverse geographic perspective, so for some of you, Yellow-rumped Warbler might be wholly unfamiliar. Or it might be a sought-after vagrant where you are. Or, if you’re like me, you might have to clear a path through the Yellow-rumpeds with a snow shovel.

Whatever your level of experience, my point here in posting this video is to point out just how much can be learned about a bird through repeated observation, even if it’s only on video. In fact, video offers one advantage over real life—unlimited replays. I’ve watched this short clip perhaps a dozen times and I’m struck by how I pick out new details each time.

Early on, I found myself entranced by the concealed yellow crown patch of the bird, which is clearly visible at several points. Then I noticed how, even with the din of honking in the background, you can hear many repetitions of the sip flight call and the chup note. Another time, my eye was taken with the bold blackish centers to the uppertail coverts, the feathers just below the yellow rump patch. Then, I started to notice the amount of grayish feathering around the rump and shoulder.

I wondered if I could age or sex the bird. I consulted Jon Dunn and Kimball Garret’s Field Guide to Warblers of North America (Peterson series) and then Pyle et al’s Identification Guide to North American Birds and began to look more closely at details. Seems like the bird should have even more of a yellow crown if it were an adult male. Perhaps the blue gray feathering but brown-tipped crown argues for this being a first year male. Then again, those black centers on the uppertail coverts are pretty extensive, so maybe it’s an adult after all.

It’s something I love about bird videos—you don’t have that sinking feeling that the bird is imminently going to depart, leaving you with an uncomfortable number of unanswered questions. True, it’s never as exciting as honest to goodness birding in the field, but I find it really relaxing and a great mental puzzle to look again and again at the same bird, always knowing that I can come back for another view.

And so I invite you to consider the Yellow-rumped. Watch the clip again, then perhaps a third time. Jot down how your impressions change and, if you would, share them in the comments.

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