The Prairie Warbler -June 2019

A Moveable Feast – and Feaster

by: Virginia Andrews

One of Nantucket’s few species of nesting warblers, the Prairie Warbler is a summer treat for birders. The male sports a greenish back with chestnut accents, a bright yellow breast, a black shoulder patch and streaking along the flanks.

But the most distinctive feature is a bold facial marking, composed of a dark line through the eye, connected to one outlining a half-circle of bright yellow below the eye. It looks a little bit like a fighter whose black eye is in the late technicolor phase of healing.

But aside from a bit of bill-snapping between challenging males, they are not particularly scrappy birds. The bright color and distinctive markings make it a treat to watch the male as he sits teed up on a branch overlooking his territory. Females have essentially the same pattern of eye-liner, but in a more subdued olive green. Another feature bird-watchers look for is behavioral: a frequently wagging tail with mostly white undertail coverts.

But perhaps the quickest way to find one is by listening. Their song, if it can be called a song, is a series of notes described as “zee-zee-zee-zee-zee-zee-zee,” rising in succession. More of a declarative statement than a melody, it is the male’s way of announcing his availability in the breeding season.

Subscribe to Nantucket Today to read the full article.

Latest issue...

To view the magazine full size, click the image above.