This week’s Bird of the Week, compliments of the Weminuche Audubon Society and Audubon Rockies, is the Townsend’s warbler.
The Townsend’s is one of our colorful fall wood-warblers, seen here from early August to mid-October, with numbers peaking in September. They stop here to rest and feed on their long migratory journeys from breeding grounds in coniferous forests of the Pacific northwest into Canada and southern Alaska. From here these small birds fly to central Mexico and Central America for the winter. An excellent presentation on the marvels of bird migration, by noted ornithologist Kenn Kaufman, can be viewed on the Denver Field Ornithologists’ website, dfobirds.org.
In breeding season, these warblers feed and nest high in the canopy of tall conifers, gleaning a variety of insects and spiders. In winter, they prefer a nectar-rich diet and seek out honeydew, a sugar rich-solution secreted by scale insects feeding on plant sap. This food source is so important that Townsend’s warblers will defend a territory around infested trees.
A prominent black eye patch surrounded by yellow gives the Townsend’s warbler a masked-bandit look. An olive green back; black head cap; gray wings with thick, white wing bars; yellow breast streaked with black; and a yellow crescent below the eye complete the color scheme. Females and immatures are paler versions of the males.
John Townsend, for whom this bird is named, was an American naturalist who, at the age of 25, set off in 1834 on an expedition of the west and Hawaii that lasted 3 1/2 years. He collected around 30 species previously unknown to science. He died at the age of 41 from toxic exposure to arsenic, used in a bird preservative powder that he developed.
For information on future events, visit www.weminucheaudubon.org and www.facebook.com/weminucheaudubon/.