May: A month for warblers
With spring finally here, many beautiful warbler species are arriving in Illinois.
Wednesday, May 15, 2013 - 10:38
A prothonotary warbler sits on a log above swamp water. (Photo: WarblerLady/Flickr)
There are many beautiful things about spring, but one of my favorite things is the arrival of the songbirds. Warblers are some of my favorite songbirds, and they return from migration in full force in May. There are many different species of warbler that pass through this area of Illinois, so it's fun to keep your eye out for them during the month of May. You might have to do some trekking, though — some species live in areas that are hard to reach. It is definitely worth it to find them, though, because warblers are a beautiful group of birds that add a splash of color to all the green leaves of spring.
The warbler pictured above is a prothonotary warbler, and it is unique in that it is one of the only warbler species that nests in tree cavities. Most other warbler species have cup-shaped nests. This warbler uses swamps as its habitat, and one of the best places to see one around here is Busey Woods, especially after a lot of rain. Prothonotary warblers are also common in southern Illinois, especially in the Shawnee National Forest area. There is a cypress swamp in the Shawnee Forest, which is beautiful in its own right, and it is also home to dozens of these bright yellow birds.
Yellow-rumped warbler (Photo: Kelly Colgan Azar/Flickr)
This warbler is the yellow-rumped warbler, and it is by far the most common warbler in the Champaign-Urbana area. It is a bit harder to spot compared to the prothonotary warbler, because its colors are more muted, but if you spot a flash of yellow on a grey and white bird flying past, it's likely a yellow-rumped warblers. These warblers live in forests, and have also been spotted in forest fragment areas near agriculture. Some places in the Champaign-Urbana area to see these birds is Trelease Woods, as well as Busey Woods. Like the prothonotary warbler, they can also be found in southern Illinois.
American redstart. (Photo: dobak/Flickr)
This bird looks more like an oriole, but it definitely is a warbler! This bird is called the American redstart, and is native to forest environments, like most warblers. According to eBird, there is a much more limited time window to see this species, but since we are in the month of May, we're right in the middle of it. Orioles are in this area during May as well, but you can tell them apart by size - the Baltimore oriole is a lot larger than the American redstart, because warblers tend to be small (about 10-12 cm long). Orioles also have a completely orange belly, whereas redstarts have white on their belly. Orioles have white feathers too, but those are on their wings instead.
There are many more warblers than this, and there are around thirty species of warbler that can pass through this area alone. The majority of warblers have yellow markings, so if you see a flash of yellow, take a closer look. It might just be an interesting species of warbler that's arrived for spring.
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