Nantucket’s Winter Warbler -Winter 2017

by: Virginia Andrews

Warblers in the winter? We usually think of these feathered scraps of dynamic movement as treats for the eye in the spring, summer or fall. But yes, there are warblers on Nantucket in the winter.

Most species of warblers do migrate, leaving the island by the end of November. But there is one hardy representative of the family that regularly spends whole winters here: the Yellowrumped Warbler. Enduring sleet and snow, wind and fog, chills and thaws, this small bird gives birders something to enjoy amidst the grayest of gray days on the Gray Lady.

Although their winter plumage is mostly a drab blend of grays and browns, these guys have a large square patch of bright yellow right on the rump at the base of their tail. In flight, or when they perch and let their wings droop, it is as if they are displaying a tiny scrap of pure sunlight to a cold world.

They have an amazing ability to find the lee even in the worst weather. A few years ago during winter-storm Juno, when the island was blanketed in heavy, wet snow with high winds and thigh-deep drifts, these tiny birds found protected spots along pond edges where tangled vines made a shelter. Ignoring the blast, they picked their way through the bushes, gleaning whatever scraps they could find.

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