2014-05-22 / Nature

Warblers Trek Through Aquidneck

By Jack Kelly


LEFT: Yellow-throated Warbler. ABOVE: Blue-winged Warbler. (Photos by Bob Weaver LEFT: Yellow-throated Warbler. ABOVE: Blue-winged Warbler. (Photos by Bob Weaver Spring migration continues across Newport County and bird watchers and wildlife enthusiasts are reporting the stopover of many songbirds, shorebirds, seabirds and raptors. Miantonomi Park is still a hotbed of avian activity and as many as 18 warbler species were recorded in the habitats there on a single day. Most warblers winter in the warmer climes of Central and South America and migrate to various parts of North America to breed and nest.

A male Cerulean Warbler, a rare visitor to Rhode Island, was recently sighted in the park by experienced birder Joe Koger. His report brought many other observers to the park, some from as far away as Connecticut and Massachusetts. Prevailing northwest winds kept the brightly colored bird in the park for a two-day stay, allowing scores of admirers to witness its behaviors.

The average adult Cerulean Warbler is 4.75 inches long and has a wingspan of 7.75 inches. The male is vivid blue above and pale below, with white wing bars, a thin blue breast band that borders the throat, and streaked flanks. This is a scarce species, that normally nests and breeds in the complex canopies of mature forests and deciduous woodlands much farther inland, and is rarely seen along the East Coast. It is usually found throughout the northeastern and central United States, as well as parts of southeastern Canada. It forages high in trees, slowly gleaning insects from leaves and bark. Males sometimes sing for hours from high perches, trying to attract females. Its song is a wiry, modulated, and rapid “zheer, zheer, zhezhe zhe-zheee,” with the last part rising.

The Blue-winged Warbler is another recent visitor to Miantonomi Park. The average adult is 4.75 inches in length with a wingspan of 7.5 inches. The males have bluishgray wings with prominent white wing bars, a vivid yellow face and breast, and a long, slender bill. The female is colored like the male, but its head, breast, and wing pattern colors are muted. This species favors dense forest understory and brush. It will forage for insects from twigs, leaves and buds, often while hanging upside down. The unique song of this bird is a modulated “bzeeee bzzzzz,” with the second note lower.


Cerulean Warbler . (Photo by Glen Bartley) Cerulean Warbler . (Photo by Glen Bartley) The Yellow-throated Warbler has been sighted many times in the Miantonomi Park area, usually in trees near the tower. The average adult is 5.5 inches long with a wingspan of 8 inches. It is gray above with white wing bars, an egg-yolk yellow throat and breast, and a white belly. Other identifiable characteristics include a long bill, black eye line and a single white, lower eye arc. This species seems to be expanding its range farther north and is a more frequent visitor than in the past. It nests in various habitats containing cypress, tupelo, pinewoods and sycamores from the southeastern United States to the Midwest and into eastern parts of the country. Its song is a series of rich, distinctly sweet notes that descend stepwise, finishing with a quick, upward flourish at the end.


Black-winged Warbler. Black-winged Warbler. The Black-and-white Warbler is a common migrant through our region in both spring and fall. The average adult is 5.25 inches in length and has a wingspan of 8.25 inches. The male has vibrant black and white streaking above and below, with black auriculars, or cheeks. Breeding males also display a black throat. Females are colored somewhat similarly but are muted and lack throat and breast streaking, black auriculars. Both sexes have slightly decurved bills that are employed digging into crannies in the bark of trees in search of insects and larvae. This species has a unique form of “scansorial” locomotion, which allows the birds to creep woodpecker-like around trees. Its song is a series of high, thin “sewee” or “weesee” notes, usually on one pitch and with little variation in speed.


Jack Kelly, a native Newporter, is a wildlife photographer and nature enthusiast who enjoys sharing his experiences with others. Jack Kelly, a native Newporter, is a wildlife photographer and nature enthusiast who enjoys sharing his experiences with others. Spring migration will continue for a few more days as thousands of northbound birds, representing scores of species, continue journeys to their, ancestral breeding grounds; with some species arriving within feet of where they were raised to fledglings.

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