Yellow-rumped warbler Dendroica coronata
Far and away the most abundant wintering warbler in Florida, the yellow-rumped warbler is a common sighting from October through April. A clue to its abundance lies in one of its nicknames, the myrtle warbler. It is the only warbler able to digest the waxes found in bayberries and wax myrtle trees, both of which are a common shrub across Southwest Florida.
An extremely versatile feeder, the yellow-rumped warbler takes advantage of a wide array of habitats and the various foods it might encounter there. Sometimes found on beaches picking through the rack line, sometimes skimming insects from the surface of rivers and ponds, and even gleaning insects from piles of manure, this warbler is adept at taking a meal anywhere it can.
Its summer breeding plumage is much more colorful than its plainer winter coats, but it seldom molts into that plumage before arriving in its nesting area. That being said, its yellowish rump can still be found during the winter months, though it is far more subdued in color.
Like all smaller birds, most predation occurs at the nest, both to the chicks and eggs, and the adult yellow-rumped warbler is occasionally taken by kestrels, merlins and small owls. Overall this very adaptable bird is thriving and is not likely to be placed on any threatened lists anytime soon.
Other names: myrtle warbler, Audubon’s warbler / Status: FL=stable, IUCN=LC / Life span: to 8 years / Length: 4.7-5.5 in. (12-14 cm) / Wingspan: 7.5-9.1 in. (19-23 cm) / Weight: 0.4-0.5 oz. (12-13 g) / Nests: throughout Canada and in the Rocky Mountains during the summer / Found: All counties, coastal, near coast, mainland / Months found: jfmaMJJASond.
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American redstart Setophaga ruticilla
Aptly nicknamed the flamebird, the American redstart is one of the most colorful and distinctive warblers. Only the male displays the black and Halloween-orange coloring on its tail and wing feathers. The female coloration is much more subdued, and is best described as a pale yellow.
The male redstart, perhaps because of his flashy wardrobe, is a bit of a rogue. While many redstarts are monogamous, this boldly patterned warbler has also been known to mate with more than one female simultaneously. He attracts the second mate shortly after the first begins incubating the eggs, and sets up a second nest, generally within 500 meters of the first.
According to some bird books, the only place the redstart winters in Florida is the very southern portion of the peninsula, from southern Collier County, Dade County, and the Florida Keys (Monroe County). That doesn’t mean you won’t see any of the thousands of redstarts that pass through Southwest Florida on their annual migration from as far north as the Yukon Territory to the Caribbean and Central and South America. The redstart is observed every fall and spring across all six counties covered in this book. The only county it remains in over the winter is Collier.
Predation of this small warbler comes from sharp-shinned hawks, small owls, and domesticated and feral cats. Its northern nests are often raided by red squirrels, blue jays, fishers, chipmunks, and snakes. Other names: flamebird / Status: FL = stable, IUCN = LC / Length: 4.3-5.1 in. (11-13 cm) / Wingspan: 6.3-7.5 in. (16-19 cm) / Weight: 0.2-0.3 oz (6-9 g) / Life span: to 10 years / Nests: in the southern U.S. north to Alaska, mostly east of the Mississippi / Found: All counties: coastal, near coast, mainland / Months found: JFMamjjasOND (caps indicate when found in the region).
This article is an excerpt from “The Living Gulf Coast - A Nature Guide to Southwest Florida,” which is available online and throughout Southwest Florida.Charles Sobczak can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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