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My Life’s Birds: #394

May 19, 2010
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April 23, 2006 – Hemlock Bluffs Nature Preserve, NC – Warblers in North America are famous for their myriad colors and patterns that echo the tropical lands where they spend most of the year.  In our rush to gawk at beautiful Blackburnians and magnificent Magnolias it’s easy to forget that not every warbler comes in technicolor hues.  I freely admit that my own bias towards the colorful led me to work at tallying the pretty ones first.  I don’t think it’s anything to apologize for either.  If a birder is made by gorgeous greens and yellows and reds and blues than so be it.  Certain birds require a subtler appreciation and a keener eye and even if it takes some time, eventually the binoculars turn to them and gain a deeper awareness of the full range of bird diversity along with the perils and pitfalls of their identification.  That’s birding.  So nearly 13 years later, and with the handful of warblers with empty checkmarks on my radar largely clad in brown and gray, I followed a tip from my friend Nolan and went hunting for Worm-eaters.

Worm-eating Warbler is an all-together odd name for an all-together odd bird.  Whereas so many of it’s paruline relations are long and lean birds of the bright sunshiny tree tops, the Wormie is short, stubby tailed and prone to lurking in dark dense underbrush where it pokes at the undersides of leaves looking for caterpillars.  With little in the way of distinction beyond a quartet of sharp racing stripes running down the length of its head, it looks more like the drab green and brown “warblers” of the Eastern Hemisphere but in the right light, perhaps in the re-emerging dappled sunshine following a mid-morning rain, the brown takes on the appearance of old leather and practically glows as it hangs upside down on the end of a dogwood branch.

At least that’s the way I remember it the morning Nolan and I came across my first Worm-eating Warbler, and though I reacquaint myself with them nearly every year in North Carolina, I haven’t seen one so well since.  And even though my eyes are turned largely to the treetops for hints of gold and red, no longer can I deny the pull of the little brown bird in the shadows either.

WOEAWA from wikipedia

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One Comment
  1. May 20, 2010 3:23 am

    Look, if you don’t like the Wormies for being “more like the drab green and brown “warblers” of the Eastern Hemisphere”, just send ’em over. We’d be happy to welcome them all here in the Good Old Europe, particularly so as I have heard it twice in Michigan but never seen it.

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