Published by the Smithsonian Institution between the 1920s and the 1950s, the Bent life history series of monographs provide an often colorful description of the birds of North America. Arthur Cleveland Bent was the lead author for the series. The Bent series is a great resource and often includes quotes from early American Ornithologists, including Audubon, Townsend, Wilson, Sutton and many others.
Bent Life History for the Magnolia Warbler - the common name and sub-species reflect the nomenclature in use at the time the description was written.
DENDROICA MAGNOLIA (Wilson)
Wilson secured only two specimens of this pretty warbler, one of which was shot among some magnolia trees near Fort Adams, Miss. He gave it the scientific name Sylvia magnolia but called it the black and yellow warbler. This stood for many years as the common name. Nuttall, who had seen it only occasionally in Massachusetts, regarded it as rare. Audubon, on the other hand, found it quite common and even abundant in several places, as we now know it to be. His lively plate of this beautiful bird, one of his best, has always been a favorite of mine; and it seems to me that in the magnolia warbler, more than in any one of the many beautiful species of American wood warblers, are best combined daintiness of attire with pleasing combinations and contrasts of often brilliant colors. Particularly are these qualities apparent when this warbler is seen amongst the dark green firs and spruces of its summer home, where its brilliant array of colors are displayed to advantage as it flits about, sometimes within a few feet of us.
Spring: From their winter quarters in Mexico and Central America, some magnolia warblers migrate straight across the Gulf of Mexico to the Gulf coast between Louisiana and western Florida; they seem to be accidental in Cuba and very rare anywhere in Florida. Another migration, probably of some importance, occurs along the coast of Texas from the mouth of the Rio Grande to Louisiana; I saw a few magnolia warblers in the great migration wave noted on an island in Galveston Bay on May 4, 1923. Professor Cooke (1904) remarks: "The dates of arrival of the magnolia warbler in spring furnish the best evidence yet available in support of the theory that birds migrating across the Gulf of Mexico do not always alight as soon as they reach the shore. The species is a common spring migrant from the Mississippi River to the Atlantic, between latitudes 370 and 390, South of this district it becomes less and less common, except in the mountains, until in the Gulf States it is rare." It is significant that the earliest date of arrival at Atlanta, Ga., is the same as at the lower Rio Grande in Texas, April 20.
William Brewster (1877) writes:
The Black-and-Yellow Warbler arrives in Massachusetts from the South about the 15th of May. During the next two or three weeks they are abundant everywhere In congenial localities. Willow thickets near streams, ponds, and other damp places, suit them best, but it is also not unusual to find many in the upland woods, especially where young pines or other evergreens grow thickly. Their food at this season is exclusively insects, the larger part consisting of the numerous species of Dipt era. The males sing freely, especially on warm bright mornings. They associate Indifferently with all the migrating warbiers, but not unfrequently I have found large flocks composed entirely of members of their own species, and in this way have seen at least fifty individuals collected In one small tract of woodland. By the first of June all exceplug a few stragglers have left.
On its migration as well as on its breeding grounds the magnolia warbler seems to avoid the taller treetops and to prefer the lower levels in the forests and in the thickets along the borders of woodlands; it is sometimes seen in garden shrubbery and in orchards, where it adds a brilliant touch of color to the blossoming fruit trees. When it reaches its breeding haunts it prefers low hemlock thickets, or more especially, where these can be found, the dense thickets of small spruces or balsam firs that spring up thickly in old clearings, or grow profusely along the more open woodland paths; the density of the forest depths seems to be avoided in favor of the more open spaces.
In Allegany Park, N. Y., according to Aretas A. Saunders (1938); "Magnolia warblers seem to have territory and a definite singing location, but I have seen no animosity toward each other or other species of warblers, such as the black-throated green and blackburnian, birds that have very similar habits and live in the same habitat and sometimes sing regularly in the same tree. * * * Territories are evidently vertical as well as horizontal, that is measured in volume rather than area, so that a clump of big hemlocks furnishes space for several pairs and several species of hemlock-loving warbiers."
Courtship: William H. Moore (1904) says: "During the mating season the males are pugnacious little fellows, and many fights do rivals have. They attack each other with much fierceness, seizing hold with their beaks, and hitting with half-opened wings they sprawl about on the ground, until thoroughly overcome. When pressing his suit to the female of his choice, the male displays his colors to great advantage, as they show in fine contrast among the bright green foliage of the trees."
Nesting: All the 14 or more nests that I have seen, in Maine, New Brunswick, Quebec, and Newfoundland, have been in small spruces or balsam firs growing in old clearings, in reclaimed boggy pastures, or along the edges of coniferous woods. These little trees were often less than 6 feet high and generally stood in dense thickets. The lowest nest I find recorded in my notes was only 12 inches above the ground in a tiny fir, and the highest was 8 feet up in a slender balsam in a thick clump of these trees in rather open woods; more nests were below 5 feet than above it. The nests usually rested on horizontal branches or twigs and against the trunk but in a few cases they were placed a few inches or a foot out on a branch.
Similar nesting habits seem to be characteristic of the magnolia warbler in other parts of northern New England, Nova Scotia, and southern Canada according to information received from others; and most of the nests have been placed at similar low levels, though Mr. Brewster (1938) found one near Lake Umbagog that was 25 feet from the ground. In this northeastern region an occasional nest has been found in a cedar, a larch, or a small hemlock, but at a height usually less than 5 feet.
In New York and Pennsylvania hemlock seems to be the favorite tree, and the magnolia warbler more often places its nest ata higher ]evel and well out toward the end of a horizontal branch, where it is usually shaded and sometimes well concealed in dense foliage. Verdi Burtch, of Branchport, N. Y., wrote to Dr. Chapman (1907) that he found nests "in hemlocks usually on a horizontal limb from eight to twenty feet up and over an opening in the woods. Several nests were found in the top of little hemlock saplings from one to five feet from the ground. One nest was found by Mr. C. F. Stone in a birch sapling, this being the only instance to my knowledge of its nesting in a tree other than a hemlock." He has sent me a photograph of a nest in a wild blackberry bush.
T. E. McMullen has given me the data for 14 nests of the magnolia warbler found in the Pocono Mountains, Pa.; 10 of these were located in hemlocks from 30 inches to 30 feet above the ground and from 6 to 12 feet out on the branches; one nest was 30 feet up and one 18, but the others were all less than 10 from the ground. The other 4 nests were in rhododendrons, in woods, or along the banks of creeks, and were from 2 to 3 feet up.
Edward A. Preble (Todd, 1940) says that "all but one of more than fifty nests of this warbler that B. B. Simpson has examined near Warren [Pa.] were placed in hemlocks. One nest was at the exceptional height of thirty-five feet; another was only a foot from the ground in some low hemlock brush." Mr. Simpson's other nest was in a witch-hazel, and Mr. Saunders reported one in a pin cherry, both under hemlocks.
The magnolia warbler is a poor nest builder; its nests are apparently carelessly built and are very flimsy affairs, much like poorly built nests of the chipping sparrow; and they are usually insecurely attached to their supports. Brewster (1877) gives the following good description of a typical nest: "The framework is wrought somewhat loosely of fine twigs, those of the hemlock being apparently preferred. Next comes a layer of coarse grass or dry weed-stalks; while the interior is lined invariably with fine black roots, which closely resemble horse-hairs. In an examination of more than thirty examples I have found not one in which these black roots were not used. One specimen has, indeed, a few real horse-hairs in the lining, but the roots predominate. This uniform coal-black lining shows in strong contrast with the lighter aspect of the outer surface of the nest."
Miss Cordelia J. Stanwood, of Ellsworth, Maine, who has sent me some elaborate notes on the magnolia warbler, gives me this description of one of her best nests: "In this some hay and the fine tips of cinquefoil served as a foundation, but the greater part of the nest consisted of a fine black, vegetable fibre, resembling horsehair. So much of this hairlike material was used that, when the rim was frescoed with down from the willow pod, a person looking at the dainty abode in its setting of fir twigs could see nothing but the jetblack lining and the fluffy, silvery plant-down around the throat of the nest. The structure was partly pensile, being bound with spiders' silk to the two branches at right angles to the main stem.
"The front part of the base rested on the branches beneath. It was placed in a small fir, 2 feet from the ground, surrounded by a growth of fir and gray birches. * * * The nests were about 2 inches wide at the top on the inside and 11/4 deep. The wall at the top was æ inch thick."
A series of eight nests now before me vary considerably in size, compactness, manner of construction, and in the materials used. The largest two measure 4 inches and 33,4 inches, respectively, in outside diameter, and the smallest ones measure from 23,4 to 3 inches. The inner diameter seems to be more constant, varying from 1æ to 2 inches. All of my nests are shallow, hardly more than an inch deep internally in most cases. Some of them are fairly well made, but most of them are very flimsy and more or less transparent. The neatest nests have the sides and rims well built up with dry grass or weed stems of varying degrees of fineness and density. In some there is no grass, but the sides are well made of the very finest hemlock or larch twigs interwoven with fine, red, fruiting stems of mosses and many fine, black rootlets; they are often slightly decorated or camouflaged with a few weed blossoms or bits of wool or plant down. The lining of black rootlets is present in these and in all other nests of the magnolia warbler that I have seen; it seems to be characteristic of the species and will distinguish the nests from those of other warblers. This jetblack lining forms a fine background against which the handsome eggs are shown in striking contrast.
Miss Stanwood gives in her notes the following account of nest building: "The birds fly with much jolly chattering through the trees and examilne any nesting sites that appear desirable. The dainty female, after fitting her little body into many spaces among the twigs, finds one that is entirely adapted to her prospective domicile, and the birds proceed to fashion a basketlike frame of long, fine potentilla or cinquefoil runners, or culms of fine hay. These they fasten to the twigs and needles around the selected space with spiders' web, or tent caterpillar silk, leaving the long ends free. Around the top of the basketlike frame on the interior is laid a culm of hay in the form of an imperfect circle, which is secured to the frame with spiders' silk; many of the long ends are then turned down within, or crumpled into the space for the foundation of the superstructure. In the frame is fashioned the cradle, which is symmetrical and cup-shaped on the inside, but may be formed like the bowl of a spoon on the outside, according to the space which it is designed to fill. The preferred lining materials appear to be a jet-black, hairlike vegetable fibre, and horsehair, but on occasion, the dull orange setne of the birdwheat moss, or the brown fruit stems of maples are used for this purpose.
"Both twittering birds bring the materials while it is damp, if possible, and place it, but being very timid, they work little while an observer is near. At such times the birds come silently, one at a time, deposit the bit of cinquefoil or hairlike fibre hurriedly, the female who is oftentimes less timid than the male, doing most of the modelling, turning around and around in the tiny dwelling and shaping it with her breast. Two birds that I timed carefully spent 4 days building their habitation, and another pair 6 days in doing the same work. The amount of time occupied by the task is determined by the abundance or scarcity of materials and the weather; continuous, heavy, cold and retard the work greatly."
Eggs: Four eggs almost always form a full set for the magnolia warbler, but sometimes there are only three and occasionally five. They vary in shape from ovate to short ovate, or rarely to elongate ovate, and are only slightly glossy. The ground color is white or creamy white and in some instances greenish white. Their markings vary considerably, some being very lightly speckled, while others are boldly spotted, blotched or clouded with "huffy brown," "cinnamonbrown," "Mars brown," "Prout's brown," "mummy brown," "Brussels brown," "chestnut," "auburn," or "tawny-olive," with occasional scrawls of "bay" or black, and with undertones of "vinaceous-drab," "deep brownish drab," or "Quaker drab." There is a tendency for the markings to be concentrated at the large end, where they often form a wreath, or sometimes a solid cap. Many interesting effects are found on the boldly marked eggs, where the large brown blotches are superimposed on the drab undertones. The measurements of 50 eggs average 16.3 by 12.3 millimeters; the eggs showing the four extremes measure 17.9 by 13.2, 15.0 by 12.0, and 15.8 by 11.6 millimeters (Harris).
Young: The period of incubation for the magnolia warbler is said, by different observers, to be 11, 12, or 13 days, and it is evidently performed by the female only. Miss Stanwood tells me that incubation sometimes begins after the second egg is laid. One egg is laid each day until the set is complete. The young remain in the nest from 8 to 10 days, usually the latter. The eyes of the young are opening on the third or fourth day. On the sixth day, the feathers are breaking the sheaths, and by the eighth or ninth day the young are well feathered. The female does all the brooding of the young, of which Miss Stanwood writes in her notes:
"At first the mother bird covered the young much of the time, as the infant birds were fragile and the weather was cold and damp. Every few minutes the brooding bird moved back on the nest far enough to feed the nestlings regurgitated or digested food, and to cleanse the nest of biting pests such as ants, which might endanger the lives of the baby birds. The father bird sang gaily, far away and near at hand, throughout the long summer day. When he came to the nest with food, he flirted his tail, fluttered his wings, quivered all over and twittered very prettily to his mate, who responded in like manner.
"He presented his first tender moths and juicy caterpillars to the mother bird, who ate part of them, but the remainder she crushed and mixed with digestive juices in her mouth and placed well down the throats of the baby birds.
"The little ones were not many hours old before the male insisted on presenting to them a few tidbits himself; and in a few days the parents fed the young almost exclusively on fresh insect food, which grew larger and tougher as the days went by."
She mentions two attempts of the parent birds to draw her away from their young: "Once I accidentally flushed a brooding magnolia. The bird disappeared into the underbrush, but soon attracted my attention to herself by calling from the top of a second-growth fir, a few yards from where her precious secret was concealed. Then she fell from branch to branch, striking the boughs with a thud, like a dead weight, and dragged an apparently helpless leg or wing over the ground, but always away from where her treasures were hidden. On another occasion, when I visited a family of magnolias that were quite ready to fly, the little ones spilled over the side of the cradle into the surrounding grasses and ferns. Both parent birds, with spread wings and tail, tumbled from all the seedlings in the vicinity and trailed around in widening circles, calling piteously. At last the male bird poised himself in air on fluttering wings between me and a callow youngster, but the moment I lessened the distance between us he vanished."
Henry Mousley (1924) recorded his observations on two nests of magnolia warbler; and found that during a period of 15 hours, at one nest containing very young birds, the male fed the young 34 times and the female 58 times; the average rate of feeding was once in 9.8 minutes; the female did all the brooding for a total of 0 hours and 19 minutes; the faeces were eaten 9 times and carried away 17 times, about equally by each sex.
Margaret Morse Nice (1926) made a very elaborate study of the happenings at another nest; her account, containing many interesting observations, to which the reader is referred, is too detailed to be quoted here. Her table shows that she watched the nest for a total of 26½ hours, spread over a period of 9 days; during this time, the young were fed by the male 118 times and by the female 91 times; the average rate of feeding was once in 7.8 minutes; the female brooded 33 times for a total of 352 minutes; the faeces were eaten 8 times and carried away 38 times.
Aretas A. Saunders (1938) writes: "After the young have left the nest, they are much in evidence in the forests. As soon as this happens, whatever territory there was is abandoned. The young wander away, keeping together, and the parents care for them1 feeding them frequently for the first few days. Both sexes feed the young, but after a day or two only the male is likely to be in attendance. Young in this stage are easily located by the incessant hunger calls. These calls consist of three or four high-pitched notes, tsee tsee its: isee isee tees tw: tsee tees, etc. I cannot distinguish the call made by young of this species from those made under similar circumstances by the young of the black-throated green and blackburnian warblers."
I have also received from Mrs. Doris Huestis Speirs and from Mrs. Louise de Kiriline Lawrence very full reports on their observations at two nests of magnolia warblers in Ontario. Many of their observations were similar to those mentioned; however, the following should be noted here: Mrs. Lawrence found the incubation period to be about 11 days, incubation and brooding being by the female only. The young were fed by both parents by regurgitation for the first 3 days, and after that on solid food, mostly caterpillars; in 49 minutes, the male fed them 7 times and the female 5 times. During ~½ hours, the male ate or carried away the fecal sacks 15 times. The young left the nest on the ninth day after hatching, and were fed by their parents up to the twenty-fifth day after leaving the nest; after that they were seen feeding themselves. Mrs. Speirs kept an accurate record of the brooding periods, which were from 8 to 45 minutes in length, but seldom less than 20 minutes, the female leaving the nest for periods of from 3 to 15 minutes. At times she closed her eyes and seemed to doze; occasionally she rose and turned the eggs with her feet or bill. The presence of birds of other species approaching or flying over did not seem to disturb her but the movements of a red squirrel in the vicinity kept her alert. The story of this nest ended in tragedy; some predator destroyed all but one of the young, the female finally disappeared and eventually there ivas nothing in the iiest but an unhatched egg. A sharp-shinned hawk had been seen flying over.
Plumages: Dr. Dwight (1900) calls the natal down "sepia-brown," and describes the juvenal plumage as "above, dark sepia-brown, soon fading, usually paler on the crown and obscurely streaked with clovebrown. Wings and tail dull black, chiefly edged with ashy or plumbeous gray, the secondaries, tertiaries and wing coverts with drab, two wing bands pale buff; the rectrices white on inner web of basal half. Below, pale sulphur-yellow, dusky or grayish on the throat, and streaked or mottled except on the abdomen and crissum with deep olive-brown. Lores and orbital region ashy brown."
The amount of yellow on the under parts is quite variable, the youngest nestlings showing very little or none at all. The sexes are practically alike in the juvenal plumage, but become recognizable during the first fall.
The postjuvenal molt begins early in July and involves all the contour plumage and the wing coverts, but not the rest of the wings or the tail.
This produces the first winter plumages, in which the young of each sex closely resemble their respective adult counterparts at that season but the colors are all duller, the crown and back are browner, there is a dusky band on the upper breast, and the black streaking is paler or obscure.
Dr. Dwight (1900) says: "First nuptial plumage acquired by a partial prenuptial moult which involves most of the body plumage, the wing coverts and sometimes a few tertiaries, but not the rest of the wings nor the tail. Young and old become practically indistinguishable except by the wings and tail, especially the primary coverts, all of which are usually browner and more worn than in adults." According to Dickey and van Rossem (1938) this takes place in El Salvador early in April and is completed very rapidly.
Subsequent molts of adults consist of a complete postnuptial molt in July and August and an extensive prenuptial molt in April, as described above. Dr. Chapman (1907) says that the adult male in the fall is quite unlike the spring male; "crown and nape brownish gray; eye-ring whitish [instead of white spot below and a white line behind the eye]; * * * rump yellow; tail as in Spring; wingcoverts tipped [instead of broadly marked and forming a conspicuous white patch] with white forming two white bars; below yellow, sides with partly concealed black streaks, upper breast with a faint dusky band." The fall female differs in a similar way from the spring female, having a browner crown and the dusky band on the upper breast well developed, much as in the young male in the fall. The female is always much duller than the male in all plumages.
Food: Ora W. Knight (1908) writes: "The food consists largely of beetles, grubs, flies, worms and similar insects. I have seen the birds prying frequently into the deformities on spruce and fir produced by a species of licelike insects (Adelges), and feel very sure that they do good work in destroying these pests, which are becoming very numerous in some sections of the State [Maine] and injuring the spruce and fir trees."
W. L. MeAtee (1926) praises its good looks as well as its usefulness by saying: "The beautiful Black and Yellow Warbler is a common summer resident of the higher parts of the Catskill and Adirondack regions, and breeds sparingly in local cool spots elsewhere in the State [New York]. * * * So far as known its food in our region consists entirely of insects and associated creatures, as spiders and daddy-long-legs. Almost all of its known items of insect food are sorts injurious to woodlands. It takes weevils, leaf bettles, and click beetles, leaf hoppers, plant lice, and scale insects, sawfly larvae and ants, and caterpillars and moths. Surely a record of good deeds to match the excellence of appearance of this feathered gem."
F. H. King (1883) reports from Wisconsin: "Of seventeen specimens examined, three had eaten four hymenoptera, among which were two ants; one, one moth; six, seventeen caterpillars; six, fifteen diptera; six, twelve beetles; and one, two larvae. Two tipulids were represented among the diptera." Professor Aughey (1878) counted as many as 23 locusts, probably in nymphal stages, in the stomach of a magnolia warbler collected in Nebraska. And F. L. Burns (1915a) included this species with the Cape May warbler as feeding on cultivated grapes.
Behavior: The magnolia warbler is not only one of the most beautiful: to my mind, the most beautiful: of wood warblers, it is one of the most attractive to watch. It frequents, especially on its breeding grounds, the lower levels in its forest haunts, where it can easily be seen. It is most active and sprightly in its movements as it flits about in the small trees or bushes, with its wings drooping and its tail spread almost constantly, showing the conspicuous black and white markings in pleasing contrast with the brilliant yellow breast, the gray crown, and the black back; it seems to be conscious of its beauty and anxious to display it. Its rich and vivacious song, almost incessantly uttered during the early part of the nesting season, attracts attention and shows the nervous energy of the active little bird. It is not particularly shy and is quite apt to show itself at frequent intervals, as if from curiosity. The female sits closely on her nest until almost touched, and then slips quickly off to the ground and disappears.. But both of the parents are devoted to their young and quite bold in their defense, as mentioned above by Miss Stanwood. At the nest that Mrs. Nice (1926) was watching the warblers paid no attention to a red squirrel that several times came within 15 feet of the nest. "In general the relations of these warblers with other birds was not unfriendly; no attention was paid to passing Chickadees nor to Chewinks and Maryland Yellow-throats that nested near. The only birds towards whom the male showed animosity were a male Myrtle Warbler that he drove away both during incubation and while the young were in the nest, and the male of his own species who came to call July 2. On July 8 the female warbler gave short shrift to an inquisitive female Blackthroated Green Warbler that seemed to wish to inspect the household."
The intimate studies made by Mrs. Nice and Henry Mousley indicate that these warblers will tolerate a reasonable amount of human intimacy without showing too much timidity.
Voice: My earliest impression of the song of the magnolia warbler was written in 1891 as wee-chew, wee-chew in full, rich notes. Later I attempted to syllabilize it quite differently; once I wrote it awitter, awitter, 8WirT, or swiclier, swwk, a-swiri'. On another occasion it sounded like wheet, tit, c1u~w, or 'wheet, wlteet, tU, eh~w.
Mrs. Nice (1926) noted only two songs, "the day song and perch song weecky weech and the feeding and vesper song sing sweet with its variation sing sing sweet. He used three different notes: tit the alarm note, kree the love note, and eep, the significance of which I never fathomed."
Gerald Thayer wrote to Dr. Chapman (1907)
The Magnolia belongs among the full-voiced Warbiers, and is a versatile singer, having at least two main songs, both subject to much and notable variation. The typical form of the commoner song is peculiar and easily remembered: Weeto wecto we~tee-cct,: : or Witch I, witchi, witchi tit,: the first four notes deliberate and even and comparatively low in tone, the last three hurried and higher pitched, with decided emphasis on the antepeault wed or witch. The other song has the same general character, and begins with nearly the same notes, but instead of ending with the sprightly, high-pitched w&tce-cct', It falls off in a single perfunctory-sounding though emphatic note, of lower tone than the rest. In syllables it Is like WIIU wilU w~t,': wce1ee weetee wur.
He proceeds to mention some variations:
One such variant I have fixed in my own recollection by the syllables Ter-whlz wee-it; and another, almost unrecognizable, by the syllables Wei-ycr wed-yer wee-yer. Still another beginning like Wecehi w~ech, ended with a hurried confusion of small notes, some low, some high. But throughout these and all the many other surprising variations I have heard about Monadnock, the characteristic tone-quality was preserved unchanged, and so were certain minor tricks, scarcely describable, of emphasis and phrasing. The tone Is much like the Yellow Warbler's and nlso the Chestnut-side's, though distinctly different from either. In loudness it averages lower than the Yellow's and about equal to the Chestnutside's.
Then he mentions a lieculiar call note, tiep, tiep, a lisping note with a slight metallic ring, that reminded him of the siskin or of Henslow's sparrow.
The following remarkable list of seven distinct songs recognized by Stewart Edward White (1S93) is included because it represents either some very unusual variations or very keen observation:
1. Three notes followed by one lower: che-weech che-zccecl~ che-6. 2. Three sharp clear whistles with a strong r sound, then a warble of three notes, the middle the highest, the latter clear and decisive: pre pra pra r-~-oo. 3. Two quick sharp notes followed by a warble of three notes, the middle the hIghest: the warble is soft and slurred: pr~it pill purreeo. 4. A soft falsetto warble, different in tone from any other bird song: purra-~-whny-a. 5. Of the same falsetto tone uttered rapidly: prut-at-ut-ut-uf. 5. A harsh note like, In miniature, the cry of a Jay: d kay Icay kay. 7. A harsh k-e-c-c-dl, the last syllable higher by a shade, quick, and subordinated to the first part. The alarm note Is a sharp reek.
Mr. Brewster (1877) has written his impression of the song in words as, "she k~zew she was right; yes, she krteu, 8he was right."
Elsewhere, he writes it: "Pretty, pretty Rachel." The latter version seems to suggest the rhythmic swing of the song very well.
Francis H. Allen (MS.) gives me several somewhat similar renderings, and mentions a migrating bird that sang for a long time early one morning in the spruces and hemlock near his house: "It was such steady and unintermittent singing as I have seldom if ever heard from any other warbler, and the bird alternated very regularly between the first and second songs: 'weetle wee tie wee tie weet, then will' you w& sip, or will' you will' you w~e sip, the latter song not so emphatic as usual and weaker than the other." This alternation is not uncommon with some species of warblers, as the redstart, but I have no records of it for the magnolia. He also mentions a common call note, "a dry 2-syllabled note, tizic, a little suggestive, perhaps, of the song of the yellow-bellied flycatcher", which he thinks has no counterpart among our warbler notes.
Aretas A. Saunders has lately sent me a full account of the song of this warbler, saying, in part: "The song of the magnolia warbler is a short one, commonly of six or seven notes, of a weak~ rather colorless, but musical quality. My 49 records of this song show that the number of notes varies from 4 to 9, all but 8 of them being of either 6 or 7 notes. The 6-note songs usually consist of three, 2-note phrases. The first two are just alike, the 2 notes of each phrase on different pitehes. The third phrase is either higher or lower in pitch, and frequently with the order of pitch from low to high or from high to low reversed.
"The majority of the songs have a range, in pitch, of two or two and a half tones, nearly always between A' ' ' and D ' ' ' '. A few songs range as much as three and a half tones, and may be as low as F' or up to E flat ' ' ' ',but the range for the species is only five tones.
"The songs are quite short, ranging from % second to 1% seconds. Individual birds often sing two or three different songs, or vary songs by dropping or adding notes.
"The song period extends from the arrival of the bird in migration to late July or early August. The average date of the last song in 14 years in Allegany Park is August 1. The earliest is July 26, 1933, and the latest August 15, 1937."
Enemies: Dr. Friedmann (1929) mentions only a few cases in which the magnolia warbler has been imposed upon by the cowbird, but E. H. Eaton (1914), says that the cowbird "seems to make a specialty of presenting this Warbler with one or more of its eggs, generally puncturing the eggs of the Magnolia before leaving the nest." However, it is probable that this warbler is a rather uncommon victim, perhaps because the cowbird is not particularly coinmon in the places where the warbler breeds.
Harold S. Peters (1936) lists two lice, Degeeriella ewtigma (Kellogg) and Myrsidea incerta (Kellogg), as external parasites on this warbler.
Field marks: The adult magnolia warbler of both sexes is so conspicuously marked that it should be easily recognized. The gray crown, black back and cheeks, yellow breast and rump, the two broad white wing bars and the large amount of white in the tail, midway between the base and the tip, are all good field marks. The female is only a little less brilliant thab the male. The young bird in juvenal plumage is quite different, but the position of the white in the tail is distinctive.
Fall: When the young birds are well able to take care of themselves, they and their parents join the gathering throngs of warblers and other small birds in preparation for the southward migration. Brewster (1877) writes:
In Eastern Massachusetts this species occurs as a fall migrant from September 21 to October 30, hut it is never seen at this season in anything like the numbers which pass through the same section in spring, and the bulk of the migration must follow a more westerly route. Its haunts while with us in the autumn are somewhat different from those which it affects during its northward journey. We now find it most commonly on hillsides, among scrub-oaks and scattered birches, and in company with such birds as the Yellow-Rump (Dendroeca coronata) and the Black-Poll (D. striate). A dull, listless troop they are, comparatively sombre of plumage, totally devoid of song, and apparently intent only upon the gratification of their appetites.
Brewster was probably correct in assuming that the main trend of the fall migration is more westerly. Milton B. Trautman (1940) says of the fall migration of the magnolia warbler at Buckeye Lake, Ohio: "A persistent search in mid-August always resulted in recording a few early transients, and by the last of the month several were seen each (lay. The numbers increased gradually through early September. From September 10 to 25 the greatest daily numbers were attained, and 50 to 125 birds a day were noted. The numbers were slightly higher than they were in spring. The fall transients frequented the same types of habitat as did the spring birds, except that more were found in brushy fields or pastures, especially those dotted or thicketed with hawthorn and wild plum."
Prof. W. W. Cooke (1904) writes:
Over much of the southern part of the United States the magnolia warbler, though rare in spring, is common in fall. ï ï The general path of migration of the species seems to cross the middle of the Gulf of Mexico. It Is bounded approximately on the east by a line drawn from the north central part of Georgia to eastern Yucatan, while few individuals seem to proceed farther west than the coast line from eastern Texas to southern Vera Cruz. In common with some twenty other species of birds the magnolia warbler seems to make its flight between the United States and Yucatan without taking advantage of the peninsula of Florida or using Cuba as a stopping place. At the southern end of the Allegheny Mountains it Is a common migrant, while it has been noted only three times In Florida and only once in Cuba.
Winter: Dr. Alexander F. Skutch contributes the following from Costa Rica: "The magnolia warbler is one of the abundant winter visitants of northern Central America. Although its known winter range extends to Panarn~, it only rarely migrates so far south. I have never seen the bird either in Panama or Costa Rica; nor did Carriker have any record of it when he prepared his list of the birds of the latter country. But in the Caribbean lowlands of Honduras and Guatemala, it is common and widespread from October to April, sharing with the yellow warbler the distinction of being the member of the family most often seen during this period. While it appears to be present in somewhat smaller numbers than in the Caribbean region, it is still far from rare on the Pacific side of Guatemala. Here I found it fairly abundant, during the winter months, on the great coffee plantations between 2,000 and 4,000 feet above sea-level. It was not uncommon in the bushy growth about the shores of Lake AtitlAn (4,900 feet), at the end of October; and I even found a few among the pines and oaks at Huehuetenango, at an altitude of 6,600 feet in the western highlands, on November 12, 1934; but I am not at all certain whether they remained so high during the cooler months that followed. In its winter home, this sprightly bird lives singly rather than in flocks. It frequents open groves, light second-growth woodland, thickets, and the riverside vegetation, rather than the heavy forest.
"The magnolia warbiers arrive in Guatemala and Honduras in their dull winter dress, at the end of September or in October. By early April, the males are in full nuptial attire, so bright and gay that their approaching departure will deprive the region of one of its most beautiful birds. They linger until the end of April; and I have seen males as late as females.
"Early dates of fall arrival in Central America are: Guatemala: passim (Griscom), October 12; Colomba, September 30, 1934; Finca Helvetia, October 6, 1934. Honduras: Tela, October 6, 1930.
"Late dates of spring departure from Central America are: Honduras: Tela, April 24, 1930. Guatemala: passim (Griscom), April 15; Motagna Valley, near Los Amates, April 30, 1932."
Dickey and van Rossem (1938) record it for El Salvador as a: rare fall migrant, but common winter visitant and spring migrant in the Arid Lower Tropical Zone. Although found from sea level to 3,500 feet, the species Is much more numerous below 2,000 feet than above that altitude. Dates of arrival and departure are October 12 and April 24. S * *
In December perhaps a dozen all told were seen on Mt. Cacaguatique, always as single birds with small flocks of Tennessee and other warblers. By January they had become very common, and at Puerto del Triunfo during the whole of that month and In February at Rio San Miguel almost every flock of blue honey creepers was accompanied by one or more magnolia warbiers. There was no noticeable decrease in numbers until after the middle of April, and even on the 24th (the last date on which the species was noted) they were recorded as common.
Range: Central Canada to Panam!i.
Breeding range: The magnolia warbler breeds north to southwestern Mackenzie ('Wrigley, Providence, and Resolution) ; northeastern Alberta (Chipewyan) ; central Saskatchewan (Flotten Lake, Emma Lake, and Hudson Bay Junction); central Manitoba (Cedar Lake, Norway House, and Oxford House); northern Ontario (Red Lake, Lac Seul, and Moose Factory) ; southern Quebec (Lake Mistassini, Mingan, and Natashquan); and northern Newfoundland (Northeast Brook, Canada Bay). East to eastern Newfoundland (Northeast Brook, Badger, and rrinceton) and Nova Scotia (Baddeck, Cape Breton Island). South to Nova Scotia (Baddeck, Halifax, and Barrington) ; southern Maine (Ellsworth, Bath, Portland, and Saco) southern New Hampshire (Concord and Monadnock); northwestern Massachusetts (Winchendon and Pelham) ; northeastern Pennsylvania (Lords Valley, Delaware 'Water Gap, and Pottsville) ; western Maryland (Cuinberland); central western Virginia (Sounding Knob) ; central eastern 'West Virginia (Watoga and Pickens); occaslonally western North Carolina (Asheville) ; northeastern Ohio (Pymatuning Bog and Conneaut); possibly northwestern Ohio (Toledo) ; northern Michigan (Grayling, Wequetansing, and the Beaver Islands) ; northern Wisconsin (Kelley Brook, Ashland, and Superior); northern Minnesota (McGregor, Leech Lake, and White Earth) ; southern Manitoba ('Winnepeg and Brandon) ; southern Saskatchewan (Indian Head, 'Wood Mountain, and Maple Creek) ; central Alberta (Stony Plain, Lesser Slave Lake, and 'Winagami) ; and central British Columbia (Field, Quesnel, Mukko Lake, and Hazelton). West to western and northern British Columbia (Hazelton and Liard Crossing); and southwestern Mackenzie (Nahanni Mountains and Wrigley). Accidental or casual north to Fort Franklin.
Winter range: The magnolia warbler is found in winter north to northern Puebla (Metlatoyuca) ; Veracruz (Tlacotalpan) ; and Quintalla Roo (Puerto Morelos and Cozumel Island). East to Cozumel Island; British Honduras (Orange 'Walk and Belize); Honduras (Tela and Ceiba); Nicaragua (Rio Escondido); and Panama (Canal Zone). South to Panam~. (Canal Zone and Almirante). West to western Panama (Almirante); Costa Rica (Guayabo); El Salvador (Puerto del Triunfo); Guatemala (San Lucas); Oaxaca (Tehuantepec); western Veracruz (Motzorongo); and northern Puebla (Metlatoyuca). Occasional or accidental in winter (possibly from delayed migration-), in southern Sonora (Alamos); Texas (Brownsville, Dallas, and Huntsville) ; Mississippi (Edwards and Gulfport) Alabama (Tupelo) ; and Florida (New Smyrna). It has also occurred rarely in migration in the West Indies; Cuba (Habana); Dominican Republic (Puerto iPlata) ; and Puerto Rico (Mayagiiez).
Migration: L ate dates of spring departure from the winter home are: Nicaragua: Eden, March 29. El Salvador: Chilata, April 24. Guateinala: Chuntuqui, April 25. Honduras: Tela, April 24. Veracruz: MinatitlAn, April 27. Puerto Rico: San German, April 20. Cuba: Santiago de las Vegas, May 4.
Early dates of spring arrival are: Florida: Palm Beach, March 3. Alabama: Long Island, April 10. Georgia: Savannah, April 13. South Carolina: Summerton, April 17. North Carolina: Waynesville, April 14. Virginia: Lynchburg, April 18. West Virginia: White Sulphur Springs, April 25. District of Columbia: Washington, April 22. Pennsylvania: Pittsburgh, April 22. New York: Canandaigua, April 23. Massachusetts: Amherst, April 29. Vermont: St. Johnsbury, April 29. Maine: Dover-Foxcroft, May 5. New Brunswick: Scotch Lake, May 2. Nova Scotia: Wolfville, May 6. Quebec: Quebec, May 4. Prince Edward Island: Mount Herbert, May 4. Louisiana: Avery Island, April 6. Mississippi: Edwards, April 17. Arkansas: Helena, A p r i 1 20. Tennessee: Knoxville, April 17. Kentucky: Bowling Green, April 23. Illinois : Le Roy, April 19. Ohio: Oberlin, April 19. Michigan: Grand Rapids, April 26. Ontario: London, April 30. Missouri: Marionville, April 20. Iowa: Iowa City, April 27. Wisconsin: Milwaukee, April 26. Minnesota: Crystal Bay, April 29. Texas: Brownsville, April 3. Nebraska: Lincoln, April 29. South Dakota: Yankton, May 2. North Dakota: Argusville, May 11. Manitoba: Aweme, May 11. Saskatchewan: Wiseton, May 5. Colorado-Derby, May 3. Alberta: Glenevis, May 22. Mackenzie: Simpson, May 23.
Late dates of spring departure of transients are: Florida: Dry Tortugas Island, May 22. Alabama: Leighton, May 10. Georgia: Margret, May 25. South Carolina: Spartanburg, May 18. North Carolina: Raleigh, May 18. Virginia: Naruna, May 25. District of Columbia: Washington, June 4. Louisiana: Cameron Farm, May 15. Mississippi: Deer Island, May 21. Arkansas: Winslow, May 22. Tennessee: Nashville, May 22. Kentucky: Danville, May 27. Illinois: Chicago, June 8. Ohio: Youngstown, June 3. Missouri: St. Louis, June 3. Iowa: Mount Vernon, June 2. Texas: Waco, May 23. Oklahoma: Arnett, May 28. Kansas: Stockton, May 21. Nebraska: Stapleton, May 23. South Dakota: Yankton, June 6. North Dakota: Argusville, June 12.
Late dates of fall departure are: Alberta: Glenevis, September 18. Saskatchewan: Wiseton, September 27. Manitoba: Shoal Lake, September 28. North Dakota: Fargo, October 9 (bird banded). South Dakota: Lennox, October 5. Texas: Cove, November 13. Minnesota: St. Paul, October 2. Wisconsin: Appleton, October 18. lowa: Sigourney, October 20. Ontario: Toronto, October 16. Ohio: Cleveland, November 2. Indiana: Elkhart, October 16. Kentucky: Bowling Green, November 10. Tennessee: Nashville, November 11. Mississippi: Gulfport, November 8. Louisiana: New Orleans, November 4. Newfoundland: Tompkins, September 25. Prince Edward Island: North River, September 8. Quebec: Quebec. September 19. New Brunswick: Saint John, October 12. Maine-: Portland, September 28. New Hampshire: Hanover, October 1(3. Massachusetts: Lynn, October 28. New York: Long Beach, October 27. Pennsylvania: Jeffersonville, October 15. District of Columbia: Washington, October 28. Virginia: Lawrenceville, October 25. North Carolina: Raleigh, October 20. South Carolina: Cherokee Plantation, November 12. Georgia: Atlanta, November 4. Florida: Pensacola, October 31.
Early dates of fall arrival: North Dakota: Fargo, September 3. South Dakota: Aberdeen, August 26. Nebraska: Monroe Canyon, Sioux County, September 12. Texas: Brownsville, September 3. Wisconsin: New London, August 12. lowa: Grinnell, August 20. illinois: Chicago, August 12. Indiana: Indianapolis, August 25. Kentucky: Wurtland, August 8. Tennessee: Nashville, August 27. Mississippi: Edwards, September 7. Louisiana: September 11. District of Columbia: Washington, August 15. Virginia: Charlottesville, September 3. North Carolina: Asheville, August 28. Georgia: Athens, September 7. Alabama: Birmingham, September 13. Florida: St. Augustine, September 3. Cuba: Habana, November 3. Yucat~in: Chicben-Itz~, October 7. Honduras: Truxillo. September 27. Guatemala: Colomba, September 30. El Salvador: Divisadero, October 12. Nicaragua: Rio Escondido, October 27. Panam~: Cocopluin, October 24.
Casual records: A specimen was secured in Bermuda on May 7, 1878; a specimen was collected at Godthaab, Greenland, in 1875; a bird was picked up, recently dead, at Salem, Oreg., in January 1907; and on October 1, 1913, a specimen was picked up dead on the sea ice a mile off shdre from Humphrey Point, Alaska. Eight specimens have I)een taken in California: Farallon Islands, May 29 and June 2, 1911; at sea about 10 miles west of Halfmoon Bay, June 8, 1943; Yosemite Valley, October 6, 1919; Santa Cruz Island, May 23, 1908; Santa Barbara Island, May 15, 1897; and Los Angeles, October 21, 1897, and October 5, 1901.
Egg dates: Maine :95 records, June 4 to 30; 74 records, June 7 to 15, indicating the height of the season.
New Brunswick: 59 records, June 7 to 28; 37 records, June 13 to 19.
New York: 23 records, June 3 to July 1; 13 records, June 5 to 12.
Pennsylvania: 41 records, May 28 to June 13; 32 records, May 30 to June 8 (Harris).
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