Birds – Myrtle Warbler

(Dendroica coronata)


Length—5 to 5.5 inches. About an inch smaller than the English sparrow.

Male—In summer plumage : A yellow patch on top of head, lower back, and either side of the breast. Upper parts bluish slate, streaked with black. Upper breast black ; throat white; all other under parts whitish, streaked with black. Two white wing-bars, and tail quills have white spots near the tip. In winter : Upper parts olive-brown, streaked with black; the yellow spot on lower back the only yellow mark remaining. Wing-bars grayish.

Female—Resembles male in winter plumage.

Range—Eastern North America. Occasional on Pacific slope. Summers from Minnesota and northern New England north-ward to Fur Countries. Winters from Middle States southward into Central America; a few often remaining at the northern United States all the winter.

Migrations—April. October. November. Also, but more rarely, a winter resident.

The first of the warblers to arrive in the spring and the last to leave us in the autumn, some even remaining throughout the northern winter, the myrtle warbler, next to the summer yellow-bird, is the most familiar of its multitudinous kin. Though we become acquainted with it chiefly in the migrations, it impresses us by its numbers rather than by any gorgeousness of attire. The four yellow spots on crown, lower back, and sides are its distinguishing marks; and in the autumn these marks have dwindled to only one, that on the lower back or rump. The great difficulty experienced in identifying any warbler is in its restless habit of flitting about.

For a few days in early May we are forcibly reminded of the Florida peninsula, which fairly teems with these birds ; they become almost superabundant, a distraction during the precious days when the rarer species are quietly slipping by, not to return again for a year, perhaps longer, for some warblers are notoriously irregular in their routes north and south, and never return by the way they travelled in the spring.

But if we look sharply into every group of myrtle warblers, we are quite likely to discover some of their dainty, fragile cousins that gladly seek the escort of birds so fearless as they. By the last of May all the warblers are gone from the neighborhood except the constant little summer yellowbird and redstart.

In autumn, when the myrtle warblers return after a busy enough summer passed in Canadian nurseries, they chiefly haunt those regions where juniper and bay-berries abound. These latter (Myrica cerifera), or the myrtle wax-berries, as they are some-times called, and which are the bird’s favorite food, have given it their name. Wherever the supply of these berries is sufficient to last through the winter, there it may be found foraging in the scrubby bushes. Sometimes driven by cold and hunger from the fields, this hardiest member of a family that properly belongs to the tropics, seeks shelter and food close to the outbuildings on the farm.