Birds – Blackburnian Warbler

(Dendroica blackburnice) Wood Warbler family


Length—4.5 to 5.5 inches. An inch and a half smaller than the English sparrow.

Male—Head black, striped with orange-flame ; throat and breast orange, shading through yellow to white underneath ; wings, tail, and part of back black, with white markings.

Female—Olive-brown above, shading into yellow on breast, and paler under parts.

Range—Eastern North America to plains. Winters in tropics. Migrations—May. September. Spring and autumn migrant.

“The orange-throated warbler would seem to be his right name, his characteristic cognomen,” says John Burroughs, in ever delightful “Wake Robin” ; “but no, he is doomed to wear the name of some discoverer, perhaps the first who robbed his nest or rifled him of his mate — Blackburn ; hence, Blackburnian warbler. The burn seems appropriate enough, for in these dark evergreens his throat and breast show like flame. He has a very fine warble, suggesting that of the redstart, but not especially musical.”

No foliage is dense enough to hide, and no autumnal tint too brilliant to outshine this luminous little bird that in May, as it migrates northward to its nesting ground, darts in and out of the leafy shadows like a tongue of fire.

It is by far the most glorious of all the warblers—a sort of diminutive oriole. The quiet-colored little mate flits about after him, apparently lost in admiration of his fine feathers and the ease with which his thin tenor voice can end his lover’s warble in a high Z.

Take a good look at this attractive couple, for in May they leave us to build a nest of bark and moss in the evergreens of Canada—that paradise for warblers—or of the Catskills and Adirondacks, and in autumn they hurry south to escape the first frosts.

The Germans call this little bird roth Stert (red tail), but, like so many popular names, this is a misnomer, as, strictly speaking, the redstart is never red, though its salmon-orange markings often border on to orange-flame.

In a fork of some tall bush or tree, placed ten or fifteen feet from the ground, a carefully constructed little nest is made of moss, horsehair, and strippings from the bark, against which the nest is built, the better to conceal its location. Four or five whitish eggs, thickly sprinkled with pale brown and lilac, like the other warblers’, are too jealously guarded by the little mother-bird to be very often seen.