This week’s Bird of the Week, compliments of the Weminuche Audubon Society and Audubon Rockies, is the Grace’s warbler.
Attempting to locate this bird by following its song may result in a case of warbler’s neck, a condition describing the discomfort of scanning the treetops with neck bent back. These birds typically stay in the upper third of pine trees and don’t sit still for long.
This inaccessible location has made them one of the least studied species in the United States. These specialists of mature pine forests have a range in the United States which is limited to the southwest, including parts of Nevada, Colorado, Utah, Arizona and New Mexico. They winter and are year-round residents in Mexico and Central America.
Like other warblers, Grace’s warblers eat insects and spiders. Most of their foraging is limited to small branches, twigs and needle clusters away from the trunk of the tree, reducing competition with other treetop birds. They will also fly out and catch insects in midair.
After arriving in their breeding grounds in mid May, males sing to advertise relatively large territories and to attract mates. It may be several weeks before nest building begins. The small nest, built by the female, is well-hidden among a cluster of pine needles near the outer edge of the tree.
The small Grace’s warbler is mostly gray on top with broken black streaks across the back and sides, has two white wing bars and a brilliant yellow throat and breast. The yellow extends over the top of the eye and there is a yellow crescent-shaped patch under the eye.
According to the North American Breeding Bird Survey, in the United States populations declined by 52 percent between 1968 and 2015, likely due to the loss of mature pine forests.
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