Birds – Kentucky Warbler

(Geothlypis formosa) Wood Warbler family

Length—5.5 inches. Nearly an inch shorter than the English sparrow.

Male—Upper parts olive-green; under parts yellow; a yellow line from the bill passes over and around the eye. Crown of head, patch below the eye, and line defining throat, black.

Female—Similar, but paler, and with grayish instead of black markings.

Range—United States eastward from the Rockies, and from Iowa and Connecticut to Central America, where it winters. Migrations—May. September. Summer resident.

No bird is common at the extreme limits of its range, and so this warbler has a reputation for rarity among the New England ornithologists that would surprise people in the middle South and Southwest. After all that may be said in the books, a bird is either common or rare to the individual who may or may not have happened to become acquainted with it in any part of its chosen territory. Plenty of people in Kentucky, where we might judge from its name this bird is supposed to be most numerous, have never seen or heard of it, while a student on the Hudson River, within sight of New York, knows it intimately. It also nests regularly in certain parts of the Connecticut Valley. ” Who is my neighbor ?” is often a question difficult indeed to answer where birds are concerned. In the chapter, “Spring at the Capital,” which, with every reading of ” Wake Robin,” inspires the bird-lover with fresh zeal, Mr. Burroughs writes of the Kentucky warbler: “I meet with him in low, damp places, in the woods, usually on the steep sides of some little run. I hear at intervals a clear, strong, bell-like whistle or warble, and presently catch a glimpse of the bird as he jumps up from the ground to take an insect or worm from the under side of a leaf. This is his characteristic movement. He belongs to the class of ground warblers, and his range is very low, indeed lower than that of any other species with which I am acquainted.”

Like the ovenbird and comparatively few others, for most birds hop over the ground, the Kentucky warbler walks rapidly about, looking for insects under the fallen leaves, and poking his inquisitive beak into every cranny where a spider may be lurking. The bird has a pretty, conscious way of flying up to a perch, a few feet above the ground, as a tenor might advance towards the footlights of a stage, to pour forth his clear, penetrating whistle, that in the nesting season especially is repeated over and over again with tireless persistency.