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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{ 6 comments… read them below or add one }

BirdGalAlcatraz October 27, 2010 at 1:25 pm

The thing that stands out to me after watching the video a couple of times is how this Yellow-rumped seems to be reacting to the cacophony around him. He turns and repositions himself, his head turns and tilts several times. It’s almost as if he’s wondering if his tiny little call can possibly be heard amid the noise of all the Canada Geese carrying on. It’s like he’s evaluating the situation and thinking, “If I can’t even hear myself, how can anyone hear me?”


Anonymous October 27, 2010 at 2:21 pm

Actively looking for insects to eat, or simply keeping a watchful eye for a Sharp-shinned Hawk? Fascinating head-cocked angles to look at things. It made me wonder if it had a dominant eye, so I watched it again. It didn’t seem to use one eye more than the other, but then again, I have no idea if it was using one eye to look up and the other down simultaneously. Now I am left with more questions about how birds see things. Thanks…I guess. 😉


Birdernaturalist October 27, 2010 at 3:02 pm

Great exercise. I think it’s funny how its wing gets caught on the branch as it turns around – not quite all bird maneuvers are perfect.


Dawn October 30, 2010 at 3:01 pm

I am considering the Yellow rumped.:) I watched the video again and again..and I saw different things each time. It was also helpful reading the comments.i didn’t catch the wing getting caught the first few times…amazing how much is missed with one look.


Gendrondominic October 30, 2010 at 8:30 pm

Very interesting video, and very nice quality to.


Helmmd November 3, 2010 at 2:19 am

Nice video Jeff, I watched it several times and it seemed like the bird was following something flying overhead ( sec 7-18). A very observant bird.


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