Male Black-throated Green Warblers are prolific singers, with one male counted as singing over 400 songs in one hour. Two song types are used, and both may be given in sequence. Female Black-throated Green Warblers do not sing, although they make a variety of call notes.
Black-throated Green Warblers will call loudly when a predator is near. If the predator is a bird such as a hawk or owl, the calls are higher pitched than if the predator is a snake or mammal.
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Description of the Black-throated Green Warbler
The Black-throated Green Warbler has green upperparts, gray wings with two white wing bars, a green crown, dark face patch outlined with yellow, white underparts with a yellow wash on the vent, and black-streaked flanks.
Males have a black throat.
Females have a mostly white throat.
Seasonal change in appearance
Fall and winter birds are quite similar in appearance, but may be duller.
Immatures are similar to fall adults.
Black-throated Green Warblers inhabit coniferous forests and, rarely, deciduous forests. During migration, they occur in a variety of woodlands.
Black-throated Green Warblers eat insects, particularly caterpillars.
Black-throated Green Warblers forage among the leaves and branches of trees.
Black-throated Green Warblers breed across much of southern Canada, the northeastern U.S., and the Appalachians. They winter in the Mexico, Central America, and the Caribbean. The population appears stable or declining slightly.
Bent Life History
Visit the Bent Life History for extensive additional information on the Black-throated Green Warbler.
Black-throated Green Warblers split up fledged broods, with each parent caring for half the young for about a month.
Black-throated Green Warblers are usually quite tame.
During migration and winter, Black-throated Green Warblers often eat poison ivy berries.
The song is a rapid series of buzzy notes. A high-pitched flight call is also given.
Will visit water features.
Townsend’s Warblers have a darker crown and do not have yellow in the vent area.
The Golden-checked Warbler has a dark eyeline, no yellow on underparts. Range of Golden-checked limited to central Texas.
The Black-throated Green Warbler’s nest is a cup of grasses, twigs, and spider webs and is lined with finer materials. It is placed in the fork of two small branches near the trunk of a conifer.
Number: Usually lay 4 eggs.
Color: Whitish with darker markings.
Incubation and fledging:
The young hatch at about 12 days and fledge at about 11 days, though remaining dependent on the adults for several weeks.
Bent Life History of the Black-throated Green Warbler
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 Black-throated Green Warbler – the common name and sub-species reflect the nomenclature in use at the time the description was written.
DENDROICA VIRENS VIRENS (Gmelin)
The northern black-throated green warbler I have always associated with the white pine woods, the delightful fragrance of fallen pine needles carpeting the forest floor, and the murmuring of the warm summer breeze. The song has been written as “trees, trees, murmuring trees,” appropriate words that seem to call vividly to mind the pretty little bird in its sylvan haunts and its delicious and soothing voice.
In southeastern Massachusetts, from late April until after midsummer one can seldom wander far in the thick groves of white pine (Pinus strolus), either in the open stands or in mixed woods where these pines predominate, without hearing the delightful drawling notes of this warbler, though the tiny singer in the treetops is not so easily seen. It is not, however, exclusively confined even in the breeding season to such woods, for sometimes we find it in open stands of pitch pines (Pinus rigida) or in old neglected pastures and hillsides where there is a scattered growth of red cedars (Juniperas virginjava).
Gerald Thayer wrote to Dr. Chapman (1907) that, in the Monadnock region of New Hampshire, the black-throated green warbler is “a very common or abundant summer bird through all the region, high and low; ranging from the pine woods of the lowest valleys to the half open copses of spruce and mountain ash along Monadnock’s rocky ridge: 2,500 to 3,160 feet. * * * Though decidedly a forest Warbler, it favors second growth, and pasture-bordering copses, rather than the very heavy timber, and is particularly partial to dry white pine woods.”
Farther north, in the Canadian Zone, these warblers are at home in the forests of spruce and fir, but even here they seem to prefer pines, if they can find them, for Ora W. Knight (1908) says that in Maine “in the breeding season they resort to the pine woods by preference, and as a result are rather common in the pine barrens of the coastal plain. Inland the species is common, and while preferring the pines still, also occurs in rather open mixed woods where cedars, hemlocks and spruces predominate, and in northern Maine is found in spruce woods, seemingly because no other kinds are available.”
Farther west, in northern Michigan, this warbler breeds on the open jack pine plains and in mixed growths containing a fair percentage of other conifers. Frank A. Pitelka (1940b) writes: “During the breeding season the Black-throated Green Warbler is one of the more frequent Compsothlypids in the conifer regions of northern lower Michigan, though it is by no means to be included among the common birds. Locally it occurs in spruces of mature bog communities and in upland developmental forests of mixed pine and deciduous growth.”
In western Pennsylvania, “its local breeding range is correlated rather closely with the distribution of the white pine and the hemlock. ‘Where these conifers prevail, the Black-throated Green appears, although in the mountains it is by no means averse to hardwood timber, if high and dense” (Todd, 1940). And, in the Pymatuning Swamp region, “wherever tall black birches and equally tall, slender hemlocks grew side by side, the Black-throated Green Warblers were almost sure to be found, and no less than twenty pairs were located” (Sutton, 1928). Referring to the central Allegheny Mountain region, Prof. Maurice Brooks (1940) says that “this species, in its distribution within our area, presents one of the most puzzling problems with which we have to deal. It occurs everywhere at high elevations, in spruce, hemlock, northern hardwoods, white pine, oak-pine scrub, and oak-hickory.”
Still farther south, on Mount Mitchell, in western North Carolina, Thomas D. Burleigli (1941) found it to be “a plentiful breeding bird in the thick fir and spruce woods at the top of the mountain, appearing in April when the ground is frequently still covered with snow and lingering in the fall until early October.”
Spring: From its winter home in Mexico and Central America, the black-throated green warbler, starting early in March, migrates northward through eastern Texas and up the Mississippi Valley, mainly in the forested areas. I noted it in the great wave of warblers migrating along the Texas coastal islands early in May. The fact that it is so rare in southern Florida, and still rarer in Cuba, suggests that many individuals must make the perilous flight from Yucatan across the Gulf of Mexico to the Gulf States. From Louisiana it takes a more northeasterly route, mainly along the Alleghenies, to New England and beyond. It is one of the earlier warblers to arrive in Massachusetts, often during the last week in April. The birds come along in waves, the first wave consisting mainly of males and later waves containing the females in larger numbers. The passage of individuals seems to be fairly rapid, but the species may be present for nearly a month at any point along its migration route. While migrating it may be seen, like other warblers, almost anywhere: in the tops of woodland trees, in roadside trees and shrubbery, in gardens and in parks, before it settles down in its favorite breeding haunts. There must be a very heavy migration through Ohio, for Milton B. Trautman (1940) says that in the “larger flight 50 to 125 were daily recorded, and it was evident that there were several thousands present.”
Nesting: Although the black-throated green warbler is one of our commonest breeding warblers, I have never found its nest in my home territory, though I have spent many hours hunting for it in its favorite pine woods. While hunting through a somewhat open tract of pitch pines on Martha’s Vineyard, Mass., on June 8, 1919, with Frank C. Willard, we found a nest with four fresh eggs 8 feet from the ground in a small pine; it was saddled on an upward-slanting limb and partially supported by a whorl of three small branches. It was a pretty nest, made of grasses, seaweed, and strips of inner bark, and was lined with fine grasses, cowhair, horsehair, and a few white feathers. The male was incubating and was very tame, coming within a few feet of us; he also returned and sat on the empty nest after Mr. Willard had removed the eggs.
On June 4, 1910, Herbert K. Job showed me a nest near New Haven, Conn., in mixed deciduous woods; it was about 11 feet from the ground, built against the trunk of a large chestnut sprout and supported by a small dead branch and two live twigs; the leaves on this twig screened the nest from above, one leaf forming a complete canopy over the nest, the tip of it being tucked into the rim. It was made largely of materials similar to those in the one previously described, there being three large feathers on the rim and many small feathers in the lining.
The only other nest I have ever seen was found on the island of Grand Manan, New Brunswick, on June 11, 1891; it was placed only 3 feet from the ground between two horizontal branches and against the trunk of a small spruce beside a cowpath in coniferous woods. It was a compact, deeply hollowed, structure made of flue twigs, mosses, birch bark, strips of inner bark, and weed stems, and it was lined with white cowhair and a few feathers.
There is a set in my collection, given to me by Fred H. Carpenter, said to have been taken from a nest only 8 inches from the ground in a small red cedar in an old neglected pasture in Rehoboth, Mass. The nest, now before me, seems to be typical of the species.
The nests mentioned in some notes sent to me by Miss Cordelia J. Stanwood, of Ellsworth, Maine, were in spruces or hemlocks at low or moderate heights, but Knight (1908) says that “near Bangor the species builds fifty to seventy feet up in the larger, taller pine trees.” Robie W. Tufts tells me that, of some 20 or 30 nests that he has seen in Nova Scotia, “all have been built in conifers, including hemlock, spruce, and pine.” In New York and Pennsylvania, hemlocks seem to be the favorite nesting trees, but nests are sometimes placed in beeches or yellow birches; the nests in hemlocks are usually placed on horizontal branches at a considerable height from the ground and generally well hidden in the foliage. A nest examined by Dr. George M. Sutton (1928) at Pymatuning Swamp “was saddled on a horizontal bough only about twenty-five feet from the ground, in a comparatively small hemlock. The nest was very deep and beautifully constructed, its lining including bits of hair, fur, and soft feathers, and its foundational material consisting chiefly of slender and uniform twigs of dead hemlock.”
The two nests studied by F. A. Pitelka (1940), in northern lower Michigan, were on horizontal branches of Norway pines (Pinu8 re8i nosa), 28 and 12 feet from the ground, respectively. The materials used in the nests were largely similar to those mentioned above, with the addition of woollike plant fibers and short pine twigs in the lining, and with “a considerable quantity of hypuaceous mosses and bits of birch bark” used as trimmings.
Dr. Paul Harrington writes to me: “I have found this bird nesting in pure deciduous forests on two occasions.” One nest was 40 feet up in the crotch of an ironwood, and the other was 20 feet from the ground in a small elm, both in Ontario. Edward R. Ford has sent me the following note: “On Gull Island, about ten acres in extent, which lies in northwestern Lake Michigan, we found the blackthroated green warbler in an unusual nesting niche. About half of the island’s area is northern hardwood forest, whose floor cover is largely of American yew (Ta~ru~ canadensi.s). At a height of but two or three feet, among the sprays of this ground-hemlock, we discovered two nests of the species named. Each of these, July 12, 1918, held four eggs. There was a third nest, empty but evidently used that season.”
Nests have also been fomA in maples, in white, gray, and black birches, in alders and probably in other deciduous trees and bushes. And the following unusual nesting sites are of interest: William Brewster (1906) mentions a nest that he found “in a barberry bush growing in an open pasture at Arlington Heights, one hundred yards or more from the nearest woods.” He also has a nest, taken by C. H. Watrous in Connecticut, that was on the ground “among a large clump of ferns in a very low and damp place under a heavy growth of hemlocks” (Brewster, 1895). John C. Brown (1889), of Portland, Maine, mentions a nest that was built in a grapevine growing luxuriantly about a pagoda at some distance from any woods; it was well hidden from the outside by the foliage, but in plain sight from inside the pagoda. And B. S. Bowdish (1906) records a New Jersey nest that “was built between the stems of a ‘skunk cabbage’ plant, and fastened to a catbriar and the twigs of a dead bush, and was about fourteen inches from the ground, in a very wet part of the swamp.”
Miss Stanwood (1910) watehed a pair of black-throated green warblers building a nest in a fir tree, of which she writes:
First they laid knots of spider’s silk and little curls of white birch bark in the shape of the nest, on the horizontal fork about midway of a branch sIx feet long. Next bits of fine grass, a little u~nea moss, and cedar bark fibre. Both the male and female worked on the nest, until observed, the female shaping It with the breast each time they added a bit of material. Around the top were carefully laid the finest gray spruce twigs. These were bound together with masses of white spider’s silk. The white curls of birch bark, the much weathered twigs, the fluffy shining bands and knots of spider’s silk, made a very dainty looking structure. After the first morning, I did not see the male about the nest. As a general thing, I find that, if birds are observed building, the male usually leaves his part of the work to the female. The lady bird continued to shape the nest with her breast, turning around and around, as if swinging on a central pivot, just her beak and tail showing above the rim. If I came too near, she stood up In the nest as If to fly. If I withdrew to a respectful distance, say three yards, she went on with her work of shaping the nest. On the second day the rim of the nest seemed about completed. It was narrower than the rest of the cup and beautifully turned. Nothing to speak of had been done to the bottom. On the fourth day, by touching the Inside of the nest with the tips of my fingers, I judged that the lining was about finished. It consisted of rabbit-hair and horse-hair, felted or woven together so as to be very thick and firm. Between the foundation of twigs and bark and the hair lining was a layer of fine hay of which the mouth of the nest was chiefly shaped. I never saw a more suhstantial looking little nest. It was also one of the most heautiful I have ever found, a perfect harmony In grays.
A very pretty nest in my collection is largely made, externally, of usnea and is profusely decorated with masses of the curly outer bark of the yellow birch. The larger of two nests before me measures about 4 by ~½ inches in outer diameter, the smaller about 3 inches; both are about 2 inches high, nearly 2 inches wide and 11/2 deep inside.
Eggs: The black-throated green warbler usually lays 4 eggs to a set, but quite often 5. These are ovate to short ovate and slightly glossy. The ground color is grayish white or creamy white. The markings consist of specks, spots, blotches, or small scrawls of reddish browns, such as “auburn,” “chestnut,” ~~bay,~7 “Mars brown,” or “russet,” with underlying spots of “light brownish drab,” “deep brownish drab,” or “light purplish drab.” Generally the markings are concentrated at the larger end, where they usually form a wreath, but occasionally the spots are well scattered over the entire egg. There is considerable variation. Some eggs have a faint wreath of the pale drab coloring which is relieved with a few bold spots or scrawls of dark “bay” or “Mars brown.” Others are richly spotted and blotched equally with browns and drabs, or they may have a solid ring of “russet” blotches which completely covers and conceals the drab undertones. The measurements of 50 eggs average 17.0 by 12.7 millimeters; the eggs showing the four extremes measure 18.8 by 12.8, 17.2, by 13.4, 15.5 by 12.2, and 18.0 by 12.0 milliii~eters (Harris).
Young: It is generally conceded that the period of incubation is about 12 days and that the young remain in the nest from 8 to 10 days, depending on the amount of disturbance. Probably the female does most, or all, of the incubating and brooding, but both sexes assist in feeding the young and in swallowing or removing the feca.l sacs. Miss Stanwood (1910b) refers to the development of the young as follows: “On the third day the young birds grow rapidly, burnt-orange in color, covered with an abundant supply of burnt-umber down. The quills and pin feathers showed blue-gray through the skin, and the eyes were just beginning to open.” At another nest, “on the eighth day, the nest was simply stuffed full of little green-gray birds, strikingly like the color of the nest.
* * * On the eleventh day, quite early in the morning, as I neared the nesting place, I heard the fledglings calling from the treetops. Soon I caught a glimpse of the Black-throated Green Warblers marshalling their little band away.”
Margaret M. and L. B. Nice (1932) made detailed studies of two nests of this warbler, to which the reader is referred. I quote from their summary:
1. The young In the first nest were raised with no assistance from the male until the last two days, when he brought 11 meals in contrast to his mate’s total of more than 245. The young in the second nest were raised entirely by the female. 2. The first female incubated for periods ranging from 34 to 50 minutes, absenting herself for periods ranging from 9 to 26 minutes. The second female once Incubated for 99 minutes at a stretch; her absences varied from 13 to 20 minutes. 3. Both females brooded for longer periods than the majority of arboreal Warblers that have been studied, averaging 15.1 and 18.3 minutes respectIvely. 4. Both females fed at slow rates, the average for the first being once In 19.7 minutes, for the second once in 16.3 minutes. * * (6). Both females made definite efforts to get their last young out of the nest and to lead them to a distance.
Pitelka (1940b) gives many interesting details on the home life of the black-throated green warbler, illustrated with charts and tables that are not suitable for inclusion here, but his paper is well worth careful study.
Reading and Hayes (1938) made some intimate studies of these warbiers at their nest; referring to the food of the young, they say: “Observations at less than two feet revealed the tremendous value of these birds as insect destroyers. Spiders, mayflies, green caterpillars (Anisota), ants, small noctuid moths, ichneumon flies, crane flies, and many smaller diptera made up the whole of their menu. While the few spiders and ichneumon flies were harmless or possibly beneficial, many of the other insects were injurious.”
Plumages: Dr. Dwight (1900) calls the natal down sepia-brown and describes the juvenal plumage, in which the sexes are alike, as “above, sepia-brown or drab. Wings and tail dull black, edged with ashy or olive-gray; two wing bands white; the outer three rectrices largely white. Below, dull white, dusky on the throat, spotted on the breast and sides with dull olive-brown. Indistinct grayish white superciliary line. Dusky transocular streak.”
A partial postjuvenal molt, beginning in July and involving the contour plumage and the wing coverts but not the rest of the wings or the tail, produces the first winter plumage, in which the sexes are distinguishable. He describes the young male as: above, greenish olive-yellow, the upper tail coverts ashy or plumbeous gray edged ~vith olive yellow. The feathers of the crown and back especially have concealed black shaft streaks. The wing coverts are black, edged with olive green; two broad white wing bands tipped faintly wIth yellow. Below, faint primrose-yellow, white on the crisaum; the breast and a spot on the flanks canary, the chin, sides of head and neck and superciliary line bright lemonyellow; a variable area on the throat seldom Including the chin, black, veiled by long narrow edgings, the sides and flanks broadly streaked and similarly veiled. Transocular and rictal streaks dusky; lores grayish. * * In first winter plumage the female Is browner than the male, without the black throat and the side streaks obscure; some specimens with much black may, however, easily be mistaken for dull first winter males.
The first nuptial plumage is acquired by a partial prenuptial molt, “which involves chiefly the head, chin and throat and not the rest of the plumage. The black chin is assumed by the male and the forehead becomes yellower by moult, wear removing the edgings everywhere so that the streakings below and the throat become jet-black. Young and old become practically indistinguishable, except that the wings and tail of the young bird will average browner and more worn with the edgings duller.” In the female, “the first nuptial plumage differs very little from the first winter, wear bringing out the streaking, while a few feathers are assumed by moult on the chin.”
A complete postnuptial molt occurs in July, producing the adult winter plumage, in which the male “differs somewhat from the first winter, the black of the throat extending uninterruptedly to the apex of the chin, further down on the throat, and in broader stripes on the sides; the wings and tail are blacker and the edgings grayer, especially on the tertiaries; the concealed black of the back more extensive. The veiling is conspicuous on the throat.” The adult winter female is much like the first winter male, “and may have considerable black on the throat, and even the chin.”
The adult nuptial plumage is acquired mainly by wear, with only slight indications of molt, as in the young bird. Dr. Dwight says of the female: “The adult nuptial plumage is, in extreme examples, hardly distinguishable from the male, but usually the black is much restricted and the chin yellow, merely spotted with black.”
Food: We have only scattering reports on the food of the blackthroated green warbler. S. A. Forbes (1883) examined the stomach of one taken in an orchard infested with canker-worms in Illinois, and found it to contain 70 percent of these destructive caterpillars, 15 percent beetles, 5 percent Ilemiptera, and the remaining 10 percent Hymenoptera, gnats, coleopterous larvae and mites. Five stomachs of Nebraska birds, collected by Professor Aughey (1878), contained an average of 23 locusts and 21 other insects. Of twelve specimens examined by F. H. King (1883) in Wisconsin, “one had eaten a moth; three, seven caterpillars; one, two diptera; one, six larvae: probably caterpillars; three, eleven beetles; and one, a heteroptera.”
Knight (1908) from Maine writes: “The food consists almost entirely of insects, including beetles, flies, moths, spiders, grubs, larvae and in general the sorts of insects found on the limbs and foliage of the various evergreen trees and especially on the pines. Only rarely do they take their prey in the air, preferring to diligently seek it out among the branches and foliage.”
Probably all the items mentioned in the food of the young are also eaten by the adults. Forbush (1929) adds to the list leaf rollers, leaf eating caterpillars of various kinds, and plant-lice. Evidently these warbiers are among the best protectors of our forest trees. W. B. Barrows (1912) says that they are “particularly fond of the berries of the poison-ivy, and to a less extent of those of the junipers.” J. K. Terres (1940) saw them tearing open the nests of tent caterpillars, devouring large quantities of the larvae, which were about three-quarters of an inch long.
Behavior: AIthough the black-throated green warbler is one of our tamest and most confiding wood warblers, as shown by the intimate studies of its home life made by several observers, it is much more often heard than seen, for it is ~. tiny mite and spends most of its time in the tree-tops, gleaning in the foliage of both coniferous and deciduous trees. As Miss Stanwood (1910b) says: “The bird is quick in its movements, but often spends periods of some length on one tree, frequently coming down low to peep inquisitively at an observer, once in a while flying toward a person as if to alight on his hand or head.” Forbush (1929) draws a picture of its confidence: “Like all the wood warblers it is fond of bathing, its bath tub often some pool in a mountain trout brook. One day as I stood beside such a brook, a very lovely male, disregarding my presence, alighted on a stone at my feet, and at once hopped into the clear spring water and performed his ablutions, dipping into the stream and throwing off the sparkling drops in little showers. As he stood there in the sunlight which streamed through an opening in the tree-tops, he left an enduring picture in my memory.~~ Those who have studied the home life of the black-throated green warbler have noted its intolerance of some avian intruders in the vicinity of its nest, and its tolerance of others. Pitelka (1940b) writes:
On the eighth day after the hatching, a red squirrel (SoUsrua ftud,aonAous) was observed to approach the blind, coming to within seven feet of the nest. At this time, the female simply left the vicinity of the nest at once and gave no alarm notes. Later the same day, when a young Black and White Warbler approached the nest to a distance of five feet, the female pounced upon it and struck with considerable force. When the Intruder returned a second time the female flew at It and drove it away. The indifference to red squirrels and at the same time the offensive reaction toward small passerine intruders (Vireo olivace/u8 and Penthoateo at.*ap~flus) has also been noted by the Nices (1982: 160).
Reading and Hayes (1933) write: “While at the nest, we noticed an inquisitive Chestnut-sided Warbler in a maple a short distance away. He hung around for several minutes, peering at us, until suddenly the male, ably seconded by his mate, attacked him and drove him off. A male Blackburnian met the same fate a little while later, while peacefully hunting insects in the big spruce and, about an hour after that a Red-eyed Vireo changed his intended route at the first warning note and promptly wifhdrew. Curiously enough, a small family of Black-capped Chickadees travelling slowly through the spruce was totally disregarded.”
The black-throated green warbler is seldom bothered by the cowbird, although mentioned by several writers as imposed upon.
Voice: Aretas A. Saunders has sent me the following full account of the two songs of the black-throated green warbler: “The quality of the songs is sweet and musical and exceedingly pleasing. With the possible exception of the yellow warbler, this species has the most attractive of the Dendroica songs. The quality has something indescribable that is all its own and enables those familiar with it to recognize the song, however variable the form.
“The black-throated green warbler has two dist.inct forms of song. Both ma.y be sung by the same individual, and both are equally common in the migration and through the nesting season, so that they cannot be considered as territory and nesting songs. I distinguish them as first and second, but my choice is purely arbitrary. Both are delivered in the same quality. The first is a little longer than the second, for it contains more notes; but it is not proportionately longer, for the notes are shorter.
“The first song has notes on three different pitches. The first notes, three to nine but commonly four or five, are all on the same pitch, usually the highest; the next note, usually a major third lower, is the lowest; the next, and last, is between them. Such a song might be written sree sree sree sree sree tro tray, all the notes being of equal length. I have 34 records of this song, 23 of which follow this form. A few are arranged with the last note highest, or lowest, or on the same pitch as the first. The first notes are sometimes varied by alternating short and long notes or sometimes are united in a long trill.
“The second song consists of four or five notes only, with a definite time arrangement: 3 2 1 1 or 3 2 1 1 1; that is, the first note is three times as long as the last and the second note twice as long. The third and fourth notes are on the same pitch, but the others are on different pitches, so that the song might be written treee tray to to, or a 5-note song treee tray tray to-to tay. The notes, as in the first song, are on three different pitches, but they vary in every possible way as to which note is highest and which lowest, so that there are six possible arrangements of these different pitches in a 4-note song where the last two notes are always on the same pitch. In my collection of 52 records of this song I have samples of all six, and of these 33 are of four notes, while only 19 have the fifth note added~ “Songs of this species vary from 11/5 to 2 seconds in length, the first song from 1% to 2 seconds, and the second 11/s to 14A seconds. The pitch varies from F”‘ to E””, a half tone less than an octave. One peculiar song of the first type, however, was prefixed by a wren like chatter that was pitched on B”, but the remaining song was normal in pitch. Single songs average about one and ïa half tones in range, but the majority of the songs of the first type range two tones, and those of the second type two and a half tones.
“The song is to be heard from the first arrival of the species in migration until shortly after the first of August. In 14 seasons the average date of late song in Allegany State Park is August 2, the earliest is July 25, 1927, and the latest August 11, 1935 and 1937. While there is no regular revival of full song after the molt, there is occasional singing of a primitive character.”
C. Russell Mason tells me of a song in which the high, musical note was given six times instead of the usual once. Francis H. Allen has heard some variations in the songs and has sent me these notes: “One bird added at the end of the familiar zee see see zoo see a coda of an intricate and wrenlike quality, and sang this beautiful song constantly. Another introduced a trill after the second note of the ‘trees, trees’ song and ended it with a low note. Another bird sang a variant of the ‘trees, trees’ song, in which it substituted for the final high note a lower-pitched su-eet su-eet without the familiar s quality.” He and Dr. W. M. Tyler heard one that “sang in addition to one of the characteristic songs of the species an entirely unrecognizable one that went something like ti-ti-ti-ti-ti-s p. The first five notes were very thin and slight with a very short pause before the last one, and the final note was a short emphatic buzz. Once this song ran into a characteristic song without a pause between.” He refers to the ordinary call-note as a distinctive diet, suggesting that of the myrtle warbler, but thinner. “On the occasion in early June, I heard from a male bird a succession of chippering notes which I had formerly attributed to the young alone. He alternated these notes with singing.”
Many other somewhat similar renderings have appeared in print, both in syllables and in human words, most of which seem to recall the song to mind. Some of the best of the wordings are trees, trees, murmuring trees and sleep, sleep, pretty one, sleep (Torrey, 1885); good Saint Theresa (Maynard, 1896); and take it, take it, leisure-ly (Stanwood, 1910b). Miss Stanwood pays this tribut.e to the charm of the song: “His voice is suggestive of the drowsy summer days, the languor of the breeze dreamily swaying the pines, spruces, firs, and hemlocks. It recalls the incense of evergreens, the fragrance of the wild strawberry, the delicate perfume of the hinnea. No other bird voice is so potent to evoke that particular spell of the northern woods.”
The black-throated green warbler is a most persistent singer. The Nices (1932) say that the first warbler “gave 466 songs in a single hour and more than 14,000 in the 94 hours of observation.” According to Albert R. Brand (1938), the approximate mean number of vibrations per second in the song is 6,025, in the highest note 6,750 and in the lowest note 5,125. This compares with a mean of 8,900 for the black-polled warbler, which is the shrillest passerine bird song.
Field marks: The conspicuous, bright yellow cheeks, the olivegreen back, the prominent black throat, the two white wing bands, and the white outer webs of the lateral tail feathers will distinguish the male in breeding plumage. The female is duller and has less black, or none at all, on the throat. Young birds in the fall are much like the female. See the descriptions under Plumages.
Fall: The fall migration of the black-throated green warbler begins during the latter part of August, continuing through September and often through much of October. It seems to be a reversal of the route followed in the spring. Similar haunts are frequented in the fall in the company of vast congregations of other species. A remarkable flight of various species of warblers was seen by Rev. W. F. Henninger in Scioto County, Ohio, an account of which is quoted by W. L. Dawson (1903) as follows:
On September 28, 1899, I ran into a company of warbiers which I would place conservatively at two thousand individuals. It was like a regular army as it moved up a long sloping hillside, and with wonderful rapidity. The wind was blowing almost a gale from the north, and the birds allowed themselves to be urged before it in the direction of their ultimate retreat, like hall-stubborn autumn leaves. Lisping, chipping, whirling, driving, they hurried on and I after at full speed, panting, and wishing devoutly for a better chance to identify the fleeing forms. Arrived at the top of the hill the army suddenly halted and when I arrived breathless I had time to note the arrangement by species, not rigid indeed, but su~ciently striking to command attention. In the center were seen Hooded Warblers and a sprinkling of Chestnut-sides. On either side of these in turn were Black-throated Greens and Sycamores, about two hundred of each; while the wings proper were held by Bay-breasts and Black-polls In enormous numbers. * * As the birds deployed to feed the specific lines were not quite obliterated.
Winter: The following notes are contributed by Dr. Alexander F. Skutch: “The black-throated green warbler is an abundant winter resident in the Central American mountains, where it is well distributed on both the Caribbean and Pacific Elopes. In Guatemala, it winters from 1,000 to about 8,500 feet above sea-level, but is not abundant at either of these extremes of altitude. Farther south, in Costa Rica, it prefers slightly higher elevations. Here I have not recorded it between 2,000 and 2,900 feet, although the greater part of my birdwatching in the country has been done in this altitudinal belt. From 2,900 feet, where it is rare as a winter resident, it ranges up to nearly 10,000 feet. At this elevation, I found it abundant on the Volc~n Iraz6 in late November. Less sociable than the Townsend warbler, it does not form flocks, and except during the actual period of migration, is more often seen alone than in the company of others of its kind.
“As a rule the black-throated green warbler arrives late, and has rarely been recorded before mid-October. But on August 9, 1933, I found a lone male in full nuptial plumage with a mixed flock of small resident birds in an open oak wood on the Sierra de Tecp(rn in the Guatemalan highlands. lie sang his dreamy, unsubstantial song as he foraged along with his newly found companions. I saw only one other of his kind: or possibly it was the same individual again: before early October, when the species began to arrive on the Sierra de Tecp6ai in numbers.
“Another early arrival appeared on September 28, 1938, in the yard of the cottage I occupied at Vara Blanca, at an altitude of 5,500 feet on the northern slope of the Cordillera Central of Costa Rica. During the following days, it came every afternoon to forage in the low cypress hedges that surrounded the dwelling. Possibly it was attracted to these because of associations with its native land, for these trimmed cypresses were the only coniferous trees in the vicinity: indeed, in Costa Rica, the warbiers find no native conifers save two species of Podocarpus, a genus whose center of distribution is in the Southern Hemisphere rather than in the North. At times the newly arrived warbler descended to the bare ground in the flower garden, where it appeared to find something edible. On October 2 it was for the first time accompanied by a second of its kind. Throughout the winter months a black-throated green warbler continued to visit these cypress hedges.
“This is another migrant warbler that plucks the dainty white protein corpuscles from the velvety cushions at the bases of the long petioles of the Cecropia tree. In excessively humid highland regions, as at Vara Blanca, the wide, hollow internodes of these trees are much of the time flooded with water, and therefore uninhabitable by the Azteca ants which at lower elevations usually colonize them. In the absence of the ants, whose food these tiny morsels are, the birds find an abundance of them on the Cecropia trees. A number of small native birds, including finches, tanagers, warbiers, honeycreepers and ovenbirds (Furnariidae), share them with the migratory warbiers.
“By mid-March the males are in resplendent nuptial plumage. On April 27, 1933, I heard a male black-throated green warbler singing among the alder trees beside a rivulet on the Sierra de Tecp~n. On April 4 and 5, 1938, a male sang repeatedly at the edge of the forest at Vara Blanca; and from this date until the disappearance of the species from the region on April 141 often heard their song.
“There is a certain amount of evidence that with the increasing aridity of the dry season the black-throated green warblers withdraw early in the year from districts on the Pacific slope where they were present during the wetter closing months of the preceding year. Thus, on the Sierra de Tecpiin I met none between December 7 and April 20, when the northward movement was in progress, and the birds seen were doubtless transients rather than winter residents. And in the higher parts of the Basin of El General in southern Costa Rica I have recorded the species only in October, November, and DecenTiber, after which the nearly rainless season begins. But in the wetter climate of Vara Blanca, they were seen throughout February and March until their northward departure in April.
“The black-throated green warbler withdraws from Costa Rica about the middle of April, and by the end of the first week of May has vanished from Guatemala.
“Early dates of fall arrival in Central America are: Guatemala~: passim (Griscom), October 15; Sierra de Tecp~n, August 9, 1933; Finca Mock, October 29, 1934. Honduras: Tela, October 26, 1930. Costa Rica: Vara Blanca, September 28, 1937; San Jose (Underwood), October 16; Basin of El General, October 22, 1936.
“Late dates of spring departure from Central America are: Costa Rica: Juan Vifias (Carriker), April 17; Vera Blanca, April 14, 1938. Guatemala: passim (Griscom), May 4; Sierra de Tecp~n, May 6, 1933.
The following account of its winter haunts in El Salvador by Dickey and van Rossem (1938) is also interesting:
All through the mountainous districts, both in the interior and coastwlse, the black-throated green warbler is an extremely common winter visitant; In fact, it constitutes, at levels between 3,500 and 5,000 feet, fully 90 per cent of the nonresident warbler population. The numerous flocks of from a dozen to half a hundred individuals Invariably formed the nuclei about which gathered smaller numbers of other insectivorous species resident and nonresident. The hlack-throated green warbler showed decided preference for the oak and pine association at the altitudes mentioned, although it was by no means confined to such environments.
Many were seen In the coffee cover down to 3,000 feet on Mt. Cacaguatique and 2,300 feet at San Salvador. A few birds reach as high as 8,000 feet, at which level they were found in both pines and cloud forest on Los Esesmiles. * S * The average winter range of viren.s lies approximately 3,000 feet below that of townsen di, although strays and vagrants make the extremes of altitude nearly the same in both cases.
Range: Eastern North America from southern Canada to Panama. Breeding range: The black-throated green warbler breeds north to central western and northeastern Alberta (Grande Prairie, Peace River and Chipewyan) ; central Saskatchewan (Big River and Emma Lake); southern Manitoba (Brandon and Hillside Beach); southern Ontario (Lac Seul, Rossport, Chapleau, and Lake Abitibi; casual or accidental at Moose Factory) ; central Quebec (Mistassini Post, Upper St. Maurice River, Godhout, Mingan, and Natashquan); and casually m southeastern Labrador (Battle Harbor). East to southeastern Quebec (Natashquan); southwestern Newfoundland (Spruce Brook and Tompkins) ; Nova Scotia (Sydney, Halifax, and Barrington) ; the coast of New England; Long Island (Miller’s Place) ; northern New Jersey (Demarest and Dover) ; central Pennsylvania (Pottsville and Carlisle); central Maryland (Thurmont) ; central and southeastern Virginia (Charlottesville and Dismal Swamp) ; North Carolina (Lake Mattamuskeet); and central South Carolina (Charleston). South to South Carolina (Charleston) ; northern Georgia (Pinelog Mountains and Lookout Mountain); northeastern Alabama (Sand Mountain); southeastern Kentucky (Big Black Mountain and Jackson); central Michigan (Bay City and Mason County); northern Wisconsin (New London and Ladysmith); central Minnesota (Lake Minnetonka, Mille Lacs, and Cass Lake); southwestern Manitoba (Aweme); and southern Alberta (Brooks). West to western Alberta (Brooks, Glenevis, Sturgeon Lake, and Grande Prairie).
Winter range: The black-throated green warbler is found in winter north to southern Texas (Arroya Colorado, Willacy County); and Yucatan (Tunkas and Chich~n-Itz~). East to Yucatan (Chich~n-Itz~) ; the coast of Quintana Roo; northeastern El Salvador (Mount Cacaguatique) ; eastern Costa Rica (Volc~n Irazfi) ; and central Panan~ (Veragua) ; casual or accidental to northern Colombia (one record; Cincinnati, Santa Marta region). South to Panama (Veragun and Volc~n de Chiriqui). West to western Panamd (Volc6~n de Chiriquf); western Costa Rica (El General); western El Salvador (San Salvador) ; western Guatemala (Volc~n do Agua and Duefias); Oaxaca (Tehuantepec); western Morelos (Gurnavaca); Puebla (Metlatoyuca); southern Tamaulipas (Altamira); probably eastern Nuevo Le6n (Linares) ; and southern Texas (Santa Maria and Arroya Colorado).
The black-throated green warbler has apparently extended its winter range northward in recent years. Except for a single specimen taken at Brownsville in January 1911, it was not known to winter in Texas until 1933: 34, when about 30 birds were seen. Since then it has increased and spread over most of Cameron County and to the southern border of Willacy County. One was recorded on Bull’s Island, S. C., on January 8 and 9, 1940.
The species is also rare or casual in winter or migration in the West Indies: Cuba (Habana and Isle of Pines); Jamaica; Haiti (lie ~ Vache); Puerto Rico (Adjuntas); and the islands of St. Croix, Guadeloupe, and Dominica; also Watling Island, Bahamas.
The ranges as outlined apply to the entire species of which two geographic races are recognized. The northern black-throated green warbler (D. ‘i’. ‘zirena) is found in all the breeding range except the coastal region, from southeastern Virginia to South Carolina, which is occupied by Wayne’s black-throated green warbler (D. ~v. waynei).
Migration: Late dates of spring departure from the winter home are: Costa Rica: Juan Vii’ias, April 17. Guatemala: Tecp6~n, May 6. Tamaulipas: Xicot~ncat1, May 11. Cuba: Habana, May 1.
Early dates of spring arrival are: Florida: Key West, March 3. Alabama: Eutaw, April 1. Georgia: Atlanta, March 26. South Carolina: Mount Pleasant, March 22. North Carolina: Raleigh, March 22. Virginia: Lawrenceville, April 3. West Virginia: French Creek, April 10. District of Columbia: Washington, April 18. Pennsylvania: Erie, April 19. New York: Rhinebeck, April20. Massachusetts: Cambridge, April 19. New Hampshire: Tilton, April 26. Maine: Portland, April 26. New Brunswick: Scotch Lake, May 1. Nova Scotia: Wolfville, May 3. Quebec: Montreal, May 4. Louisiana: Avery Island, March 23. Mississippi: Oxford, March 10. Tennessee, Chattanooga, March 19. Kentucky: Eubanks, March 23. Arkansas: Delight, March 26. Missouri: Forsyth, April 8. Illinois: Murphysboro, April 11. Indiana: Bicknell, April 16. Ohio: Oberlin, April 13. Michigan: Vicksburg, April 13. Ontario: Guelph, April 20. Wisconsin: Milwaukee, April 19. Minnesota: Brainerd, April 25. Texas: Rockport, February 5. Kansas: Independence, April 1. North Dakota: Fargo, May 5. Manitoba: Aweme, April 30. Alberta: Edmonton, May 5.
Late dates of the spring departure of transients are: Florida: Pensacola, May 7. Alabama: Long Island, May 16. Georgia: Athens, May 14. South Carolina: Greenwood, May 17. North Carolina: Chapel Hill, May 24. Virginia: Norfolk, May 26. West Virginia: Fairmont, May 23. District of Columbia: Washington, June 10. Pennsylvania: Beaver, May 27. Louisiana: Lobdell, May 9. Mississippi: Horn Island, May 12. Tennessee: Knoxville, May 31. Arkansas: Delight, May 30. Missouri: St. Louis, May 22. Illinois: Chicago, June 3. Indiana: Notre Dame, June 2. Ohio: Toledo, June 5. Texas: Brownsville, May 15. Oklahoma: Tulsa, May 18. Kansas: Lawrence, May 16. Nebraska: Syracuse, May 27.
Early dates of fall departure are: Alberta: Glenevis, August 30. Manitoba: Brandon, September 24. North Dakota: Fargo, September 19 (bird banded). Nebraska: Stapleton, October 17. Oklahoma: Oklahoma City, November 2. Minnesota: Minneapolis, November 2. Wisconsin: Madison, November 1. Michigan: Detroit, November 1. Ontario: Ottawa, October 25. Ohio: Columbus, October 31. Illinois: Rantoul, October 31. Kentucky: Madison yule, October 24. Tennessee: Memphis, October 28. Mississippi: Gulf port, November 18. Louisiana: New Orleans, November 4. Newfoundland: Tompkins, October 4. Nova Scotia: Sable Island, October 7. New Brunswick: Saint John, October 12. Quebec: Quebec, October 3. Maine: Ellsworth, October 19. Vermont: Woodstock, October 19. Massachusetts: Harvard, November 2. New York: Scarsdale, October 26. Pennsylvania: McKeesport, OcLober 25. District of Columbia: Washington, October 21. North Carolina: Weaverville, October 31. Georgia: Athens, November 1. Alabama: Fairhope, November 19. Florida: Sombrero Key, November 10 (two struck lighthouse, one killed).
Early dates of fall arrival are: North Dakota: Wilton, September 4. Kansas: Lake Quivira, September 6. Oklahoma: Tulsa, August 13. Texas: Cove, July 26. Ohio: Toledo, August 20. Indiana: Waterloo, August 14. flilnois: Chicago, August 15. Kentucky: Versailles, August 13. Missouri: Montier, August 25. Arkansas-Winslow, August 13. Tennessee: Memphis, August 7. Mississippi: Hernando, July 30. Louisiana: Breaux Bridge, August 12. Pennsylvania: Pittsburgh, August 20. District of Columbia: Washington, August 22. West Virginia: Bluefield, August 29: Virginia: Charlottesville, September 3. North Carolina: Montezuma, August 27. Georgia: Atlanta, September 6. Florida: Pensacola, September 9. Cuba: Habana, September 30. Mexico: Cuernavaca, Morelos, September 14. Guatemala: TecpAn, August 9. Costa Rica: Vara Blanca, September 28.
Banding: A few interesting records of banded birds are available. One banded at Hanover, N. H., on September 16,1930, was found dead at Milledgeville, Ga., on February 25, 1935. Since the bird was an adult when banded it had lived at least five years and eight months. Another banded at Groton, Mass., on May 24, 1933, was “caught” at West Memphis, Ark., on October 22, 1933. A third bird, banded at Overbrook, Philadelphia, Pa., was killed by an Indian near Tetela, Qaxaca, Mexico, about April 1, 1936.
Casual records: A specimen of the black-throated green warbler was collected on one of the Farallon Islands on May 29, 1911, and another seen on June 1. There are three records for Arizona: one collected in Ramsay Canyon, Huachuca Mountains, on May 9, 1895; one recorded seen in the same mountains in August 1932; and one collected May 30, 1933, in Toroweap Valley, Mohave County, on the brink of Grand Canyon. One was noted on the Teton River below Collins, Mont., on June 4, 1916. A specimen was collected at Parr Lake, Cob., May 20, 1909. In Monroe Canyon, Sioux County, Nebr. one was noted October 8, 1920. At Julianehaab, Greenland, a specimen was taken in 1853; and another at Sukkertoppen in the fall of 1933. There are three records for Bermuda: May 7, 1878; February 1927; and May 1, 1928. A specimen was secured on the island of Heligoland, Germany, on November 19, 1858.
Egg dates: Massachusetts: 26 records, May 21 to July 11; 15 records, May 30 to June 10, indicating the height of the season.
New Brunswick: 13 records, June 13 to 28; 9 records, June 5 to 19.
New York: 19 records, May 30 to July 16; 10 records, June 2 to 11.
Nova Scotia: 13 records, June 7 to 28; 9 records, June 13 to 20 (Harris).
WAYNE’S BLACK-THROATED GREEN WARBLER
DENDROICA VIRENS WAYNEI (Bangs)
CONTRIBUTED DY ALEXANDER SPRUNT, JR.
It was a silent world, this great cypress swamp where I sought the nest of the Wayne’s black-throated green warbler in the company of the man whose name it bears and who first made it known to science. A vast flooded expanse of trees and water: colorful, eerie, and mysterious: it was a realm of gray-green gloom. Huge trunks towered on all sides; long aisles of wine-dark mirror-smooth water stretched illimitably away among the buttressed columns. The grayness that predominated, from the furrowed knees and smoother trunks of the great trees to the shrouds of moss festooned from their branches, was relieved here and there by contrasting splotches of bright green overhead where occasional shafts of brilliant sunlight penetrated the canopy of feathery foliage.
Our dugout made no sound as it slid along. Only the slight splash of the paddle entering and leaving the water gave evidence of any means of propulsion. Now and again the silence was broken by the calls echoing down the flooded aisles: the clear whistle of the prothonotary warbler ringing sweetly, the full-voiced carol of the yellowthroated warbler, the strident call of the pileated woodpecker answered by the distant cry of a hunting red-shouldered hawk. Occasionally the deep, resonant “whoo-aw” of a barred owl reverberated solemnly among the cypresses, and once a sombre anhinga flapped ahead of the dugout to plunge cleanly into the still water in full career.
But above these evidences of swamp life, above the swish of breaking bass, the crashing splash of a disturbed alligator, the clamor of a startled heron or ibis, sounded one persistent call from the high branches: a song of seven notes,flve on the same tone, one ascending, the last descending. It was this call that drew us on, the song of the bird whose nest we sought that morning, Wayne’s warbler, the southern race of the black-throated green warbler.
To find the black-throated green warbler in a cypress swamp might seem strange indeed to one who knows the species in its spruce and balsam highlands, in the rhododendron and laurel thickets of the Blue Ridge, in the evergreens of the Adirondacks and Maine! Yet here it is, one of the characteristic avian dwellers of the warm swamplands of the South Carolina Low Country, arriving in the spring to nest amid the green cypress twigs, the drooping limbs of the magnolias, and the majestic spread of the live oak.
When Arthur T. Wayne of Mount Pleasant, S. C., discovered the first nesting of this race he was sure it was not a typical Dendroica viren~s virene, and on April 25, 1918 he sent a male to Outram Bangs of the Museum of Comparative Zoology in Cambridge, Mass. Later he sent him six other specimens. Upon comparing them with specimens of D. ‘v. virene, Bangs (1918) described it as a different race, giving it the name of the discoverer, waynei. Extracts from his published material are illuminating. He states, for instance, that “this series proves to represent a form easily distinguishable from true Dendroica virens (Gmelin). I take great pleasure in naming it after the keen ornithologist and excellent observer and collector who discovered it, and who noticed its peculiarities even without sufficient material with which to compare it.”
The subspecific differences are mainly a duller coloration, less yellowish, and of a paler shade, and the throat patch more restricted. Its principal variation from virens is its much smaller and more delicate bill. As Bangs points out, “measurements of a bill so small do not convey the same impression that an actual comparison of specimens does. The bill of the new form when compared to that of D. v. viren8, appears not more than two-thirds as large.” Certainly this is true. So marked is the difference that a specimen of waynei placed amid a score or more of virens can easily be picked out even at some distance.
The southern limit of the breeding range of virena appears to be the high mountains of Carolina and Georgia and northern Alabama, usually at elevations of more than 4,000 feet; waynei is confined to a coastal strip (in some cases less than 5 miles from the ocean) so that the intervening area between it and vi’rens averages about 300 miles. In all that distance, no northern black-throated green warbler appears except in scattered and isolated instances. The migratory route of waynsi is as yet imperfectly known, but since virens is so scarce along the lower Atlantic coast as to be virtually absent, and since it has never yet been secured or reported along the Carolina and Georgia or northern Florida coasts, it would seem that any specimen seen in those localities would be waynci.
Spring: Wayne (1910) said of this bird in South Carolina: “This species arrives with great regularity [Charleston County] as the following dates will show, viz., March 26, 1890; March 27, 1900; March 27, 1912; March 23, 1916. It is not common until the middle of April and its passage through the coast region requires so long a time that one not acquainted with the migrations of birds might readily believe that it bred here . . . that this species should remain on the coast until June, and not breed is very surprising.~~ At that time he was, of course, unaware that the species contained two races, but, as Outram Bangs has pointed out (1918), these March arrival dates in coastal South Carolina occur when “true D. virens is still in winter quarters in Mexico and Central America.” Thus, it will be seen that the migration times must vary considerably, and the arrival of the coastal race is in advance of the true species, indicating a different and less distant winter home, another phase to consider when comparing the two.
There is almost a complete dearth of additional information on arnval dates in other southern states. My records of South Carolina arrival dates in recent years do not vary much from Wayne’s, and he has no earlier ones. I have but once encountered waynei in spring elsewhere than in South Carolina, this being a specimen observed in full song in Rhetta Lagoon, Cumberland Island, Ga., on April 15, 1982. However, that it was, in fact, a migrant is beyond all question for it is not present in its United States range in late fall and winter.
In his description of the race in 1918, Bangs stated that “it would seem not unlikely that the South Carolina form is resident and nonmigratory, and I hope Mr. Wayne will be able to prove whether or ‘not this is so.” This belief of Bangs’ was carried into the A. 0. U. Check-List (1931) which gives the range of this form as “resident in the coastal district of South Carolina.” This is not the case waynei does not remain in winter, and is therefore not resident but migratory, as I have previously pointed out (1932).
The migration of this race is as yet imperfectly known. While any coastal migrant black-throated green warbler would probably be referable to it, as virena appears to keep to the interior when travelling north, as a matter of fact there are almost no records of migratory occurrences. S. A. Grimes (MS.) tells me that he has never observed any black-throated green warbler in the area about Jacksonville, Fla., where he lives and where he is much afield, having had years of experience. Earle R. Greene (MS.) similarly states that his experience of over two years in the Okefenokee Swamp in southern Georgia failed to produce “a single individual.” Strictly in line with his observations are those of Francis Harper (MS.) whose experience in the Okefenokee is even more extensive than Greene’s. He writes in response to my request, “I have never found the slightest trace of the bird there.” This is strange, as the Okefenokee would seem to be typical habitat for the Wayne’s Warbler, but it evidently does not occur there.
Courtship: Nothing is known of the courtship behavior of this bird, owing to the difficulty of observation, the very restricted range of the bird, and the dearth of local observers.
Nesting: Wayne was under the impression that he was the discoverer of the first known nest of this race, but search of the literature reveals that he was in error, though the first nests found were not recognized as those of waynei. Wayne secured the first eggs, and these still appear to be the only ones in existence, as all other breeding records deal with young birds. Authentic breeding information is exceedingly scanty, and since this is the case, all of the instances are mentioned herewith.
The first recorded breeding was in coastal North Carolina, and is mentioned by Pearson and tbe Brimleys (1919). They included it under the black-throated green warbler, as the species at that time had not been divided into two races. One nest was found at La Grange, Lenoir County, in June 1905 (Srnithwick), and the other at Lake Ellis, Craven County, June 1910. Adults were seen feeding very young birds.
Continually impressed with the birds’ presence in coastal South Carolina so late in spring, Wayne sought evidences of nesting and, on April 11, 1917, saw a female carrying nesting material in a large cypress swamp in Charleston County, but could not locate the nest. On the twenty-eighth of the same month he detected both a male and female in the same procedure but again failed to find the nest. His (1918) comment on this follows: “The brief account of this bird written in ‘Birds of South Carolina’ is, in the main, correct. Although I had never found it breeding when the book went to the press I was absolutely certain that it really bred on the coast.” A year later, on April 28, 1918, he saw another female engaged in nest building, and again was unable to find the nest. Those who knew Wayne’s untiring energy in such work can readily understand the extreme difficulty experienced in locating this elusive bird’s home. It was on this last date that he secured the type specimen from which Bangs described the race. The following year finally brought success. Wayne (1919) states:
“On March 20, 1919, I visited the place where the type specimen was taken. * * * A few males were heard singing from the topmost branches of tall, gigantic, deciduous trees, and were also seen to fly into very tall pines.” He again visited this spot on April eighteenth with Henry Moessner and the latter located a nest. It “was built in a live oak tree and on the end of a horizontal branch among twigs * * absolutely concealed * * * about 38 feet above the ground.” Wayne climbed a nearby tree and with Moessner’s help from below, attempted to pull the oak limb toward him in order to reach the nest, when “sad to relate, without a moment’s warning, the limb snapped off and the four fresh eggs that the nest contained were dashed in fragments on the ground.”
The nest itself was preserved, and ‘~Vayne describes it as “small and compact, measuring 134 inches in height and 11/2 inches in depth. It is constructed of strips of fine bark and weed stems, over which is wound externally the black substance that is invariably present in the lining of the nests of Bachman’s Warbler ( Vermivora 6aehma’nii). The interior * * * is chiefly composed of a beautiful ochraceous buff substance, doubtless from the unfolding leaves of some fern, and a few feathers.”
On the twenty-eighth, ten days after this nest was found, Wayne returned to the swamp with the Misses Louise Ford and Marion Pellew and found “a very young bird just from the nest and unable to fly more than a few feet, being fed by the male parent, which shows that the birds breed irregularly.”
The party proceeded to another part of the swamp where a female was seen to enter a large magnolia. “Miss Ford * * saw the female go to her nest * * * built near the extremity of a long drooping magnolia limb, but on the horizontal portion of it and about 25 feet above the ground.” This nest held four heavily incubated eggs, these being the first ones actually taken. This nest had a quantity of caterpillar silk binding the fibres of Spanish and hypnum moss outside, and was “lavishly lined with the beautiful ochraceous buff substance from young fern leaves, as in the first nest.”
Edward S. Dingle (MS.) writes that “on the morning of April 25, 1923, a Wayne’s warbler was observed building in a cypress tree; the bird collected material from the ground and also from the trunk of a large cypress nearby. The male was not seen.” On the third of May following, I accompanied Wayne and Dingle to the site; there Dingle located the nest, climbed the tree, and secured it, with four eggs. This nest was 62 feet from the ground and 5 feet out from the trunk. This is the third, and last nest from South Carolina with eggs, on which data are extant. All, with the exception of the first, were in Wayne’s collection at his death, and are now in the Charleston (S. C.) Museum. The sites in each case, were found by Wayne, but the nests were actually located by Moessner, Dingle, and Miss Ford.
Commenting on these discoveries, Wayne (1919) states: “I have k-nown this bird ever since May 4, 1885 when I took a male in Caw-caw Swamp, Colleton County, S. C., while on a collecting trip with my friend, the late William Brewster. I gave the bird to him in the flesh, and in his collection it still remains. The nest and eggs have remained unknown until brought to light by this season’s research.”
Russell Richardson (1926) reported black-throated green warbiers in the Dismal Swamp, on the North Carolina side, in June. No evidence of nesting was found by him, and he did not, apparently, realize that the birds he saw were waynei. In 1932 Drs. W. R. Mcliwaine and J. J. Murray visited Dismal Swamp on May 23: 26, and “found Wayne’s warbiers rather common.” From Murray (1932) we find that they “heard two singing males on May 23rd as we came down the Washington Ditch to the Lake; two males singing on the 24th near the entrance to the Feeder Ditch * * * and six males on the 26th.” They also found two family parties of adults feeding small birds on the 24th. One of these parties was near the mouth of the Feeder Ditch; the other a half mile up the Jericho Ditch from the Lake (Drummond). * * * The young birds were out of the nest and could fly well. They looked like big bumble-bees buzzing across from one tree to another; staying rather high up. The adults ranged low in gathering food, both male and female feeding the young birds.”
Eggs: The eggs of waynei are similar to those of virena. Wayne has described them (1919) as “of a white or whitish color speckled and spotted in the form of a wreath around the larger end with brownish red and lilac.” The sets previously described are the only ones of which the writer is aware, and may be the only ones in collections. Whether any have ever been secured outside of South Carolina is doubtful. Measurements of Wayne’s two sets average 16.79 by 12.25 and 15.12 by 12.03 mm., a trifle under the average for eggs of virens. The breeding records for the Dismal Swamp (Virginia) and two localities in North Carolina, concern young birds only.
Plumages: Data available are not sufficient for a detailed description of the plumages but they are probably the same as those of virens.
Food: No positive information on the food of waynsi exists, as far as I can ascertain, except that in July 1939, G. H. Jensen examined the stomach contents of a single specimen secured by Howell and Burleigh at Murrells Inlet, S. C., June 5, 1932. It was full and contained 100 percent animal matter, consisting of 3 Lepidoptera larvae, 98 percent; 1 Formica sp., 2 percent. That the race is insectivorus goes without saying, but more than that remains to be worked out. Howell (1932) cites Barrows as saying that ‘virens consumes plant lice, span-worms, and leaf-rollers together with berries of poison ivy. Probably waynei indulges similar tastes.
Behavior: Wayne’s warbler is essentially a high-ranging bird. It spends much of its time amid the topmost branches of cypress, magnolia, gum, and other swamp trees, rarely descending to even mid sections of this characteristic growth while feeding. Highly restless and exceedingly active in movements, it is constantly on the go and, as a consequence, is rather difficult to see and study satisfactorily, the oft-repeated song being the best indication of its whereabouts. As might be supposed, the female is even more elusive, and flits about like some swamp wraith, silent and mysterious. The failure of as keen an observer as Wayne to locate the nests of building females gives an idea of its secretiveness.
In these respects it differs materially from virens, at least in my experience with that race, which is frequency found at rather low elevations. Doubtless the type of growth is responsible, for virens is a spruce-balsam-hemlock dweller, and these evergreens are dense trees with branches often beginning only a few feet from the ground, so that it can be seen and watched rather easily.
While several authors have referred to virens as a tame bird, the same cannot be said for waynei. In years of experience with the latter, I have always fouiid it shy and retiring. Singing freely enough if unaware of observation, it often ceases when it detects an intruder, and since the song is one of the surest means of locating it, great care has to be taken in moving about, particularly near the nest.
The nest is impossible to find without watching the female, for it is more often than not completely invisible from the ground. D. v. .waynei is found in the same habitat with yellow-throated and parula warbiers, but, unlike them, never utilizes the hanging clumps of Spanish moss (Tilland.sia) in which they invariably nest. I have climbed a tall cypress and collected a nest and eggs of D. d. dominica while way~rwi was singing in the near vicinity. The preference of waynei for heavy, old-growth swamp forests is so marked that if this timber is cut out, the bird disappears from the area completely, even though other growth is left standing. In the South Carolina Low Country, this characteristic is shared by both Bachman’s and Swainson’s warblers, both of which nest in heavy-swamps.
Voice: Though it was the cuckoo which Bryant characterized as “a wandering voice,” he might well have written the words with respect to this tiny warbler for the bird is heard far more readily than it is seen. As a songster it is all but indefatigable. Perhaps this is because the depths of the cypress swamps and the old “backwaters” are cooler than the surrounding highlands, but no matter how warm the day, or close the atmosphere, the constantly reiterated, seven-note song resounds through the air most of the day. The ornithologists I have guided to the haunts of waynei all agree that the song is very close to that of virens. Perhaps it is a shade more deliberate and studied, as might be expected of a southerner! However, to all intents and purposes, it is the same song. I am inclined to describe it as slower and more pronounced, but after all the difference is minor.
Arthur H. Howell (1932) describes the song of virens as “a drowsy, drawled ditty of four or five notes, u’ee-wee-wee-su-see, the next to last note on a lower pitch and the final one distinctly higher.” This portrays quite well the song of waynei, except for the number of notes, which are much oftener seven than less, the first five being exactly alike, the sixth descending, and the seventh ascending.
Frank M. Chapman (1907), quoting Gerald Thayer, says of virens that “most of the individuals in a region sing nearly alike . . . but about one in forty does queer tricks with its voice. Among the commonest of these tricks is the introduction into all parts of the song of a pronounced quaver or tremulo. . . . The song is sometimes disguised almost past recognition.” He states further that the “deliberate song of five (sometimes six or eight) notes, is the one usually described in books.”
I have never noted any “quaver or tremulo” in the song. It may occur, but in the scores of times I have heard the song it has not taken place. Nor can I recall any song of eight notes. Occasionally, waynei will utter only five notes, but this is the marked exception and not the rule. Certainly, individuals in a given region sing exactly alike, and indeed, all the specimens I ever heard sounded alike, except for the occasional slight variation in number of notes.
Fall: The length of stay of waynei in its summer range has not yet been determined with certainty. Few departure dates have been recorded, but in all probability the bird is a rather early migrant. Occurrence of the song decreases markedly after the nesting season, making the birds’ movements much more dilllcult to trace. It will be recalled that young were noted flying on May twenty-fourth, in the Dismal Swamp of Virginia. South Carolina birds were seen to fly “a few feet” on April twenty-eighth, almost a month earlier. The North Carolina records show that young were noted “in June”, probably early in the month. That multiple broods are raised is also something of an open question, though it seems that in South Carolina two are raised. Henry H. Kopman (1904) states that on July 30, 1897, he took one at Beauvoir, Miss., on the Gulf coast, and later comments (1905) that “Professor Cooke [W. W.] is inclined to think” that the Beauvoir bird was a stray. Probably it was a stray, and in view of what we know today, the chances are that the bird was a specimen of waynsi. Many of the birds of course linger much later than that; on September 29, 1935, Earle R. Greene [MS.] noted one at Lake Mattamuskeet, N. C. This is doubtless a rather late date and may be taken as about the limit of its stay along the Atlantic coast.
Enough remains to be learned about this most interesting race to keep students busy. The highly attractive type of habitat, the marked isolation of nesting pairs even in a restricted range, the active character and handsome appearance of the bird itself, all these combine to render Wayne’s warbler distinctive and appealing.