Brightly colored and about five inches long, they vary widely in markings. Often called “the butterflies of the bird world,” warblers flit tirelessly through the trees, feeding mostly on insects.
These neotropical migrants have arrived for the spring in North America. They spend their winters in Latin America, travel north for breeding.
We have slightly over 100 warbler species in the New World, and about 55 species travel to North America. These tiny birds travel hundreds of miles every spring and every fall.
There are many different species of warblers in this world. This family is classified as Parulidae, or New World warblers, and are not related to the warblers in the Old World or Australia.
More warbler info here.
Here in northern California we have a few warblers living in our moderate winter climate year round. Other warblers are passing through on their spring journey northward, and still others are settling into the backyard for summer breeding.
In the peak of the mating season (now), they are heartily singing from sunrise to dusk. On still-dark spring mornings I stand on the deck and listen intently, identifying the newly arrived species.
But it is the eastern U.S. that is the mecca for migrating warblers. They generally land in about the same places every year, around the same time. (Hotspot list below.)
Sometimes there are 20 or 30 different warbler species in one spot, and it is a frenzy trying to find or photograph these fast-moving tiny birds.
I have traveled to some of the warbler migration hotspots in the U.S. And I have also traveled to the warblers’ winter home territories in Central and South America, and Mexico. It’s all fun.
Another great joy is greeting the spring warblers in our back yard.
They are attracted to our big black oak tree, specifically the leafroller worms: deftly find a leaf in which the worm has rolled up, use their bill to snap up the tiny worm, slap it against the tree limb, then swallow it.
Every few days we linger, sometimes picnic, under the black oak tree, watching the warblers do their thing.
Below is a list of a few popular spring warbler hotspots. If you live near one, you are lucky.
And whether you are a birder or not, take a moment to look up, there is magic happening in the trees.
Photo credit: Athena Alexander unless otherwise noted
Migrating Warbler Hotspots and info:
- Cape May, New Jersey
- Magee Marsh, Ohio
- Point Pelee, Ontario
- Central Park, New York
- High Island, Texas
- Website, Greg’s Warbler Hotspots