The Sad Fate of Two Magnolia Warblers at Oxtongue Lake

The Sad Fate of Two Magnolia Warblers at Oxtongue Lake

magnolia warbler - male - recovering after hitting window at - oxtongue lake - ontario

Towards the end of May one spring, Bob and I were visiting my parents at Oxtongue Lake, in Ontario, and, as usual, we kept a keen eye on the trees for any visiting migratory or local nesting birds.  As on one other occasion earlier in the spring, mass confusion was inspired when a Merlin Falcon erupted out of the pine trees alongside my dad’s driveway and spooked a number of the songbirds.  This time, we were very saddened to see that a pair of Magnolia Warblers (Setophaga magnolia) had crashed into the windows of the sunroom.

oxtongue lake - early morning in spring - ontario

When we had visited for my dad’s birthday at the first of May, a few Magnolia Warblers could be heard singing in the pine trees behind the house.  Their song is a pleasant little melody.  The warblers were elusive, moving from bough to bough, only pausing for brief moments…just enough time for us to enjoy their colourful plumage.

magnolia warbler - female - moments after hitting window - oxtongue lake - ontario

But on this occasion, there we were, inside the patio door looking out at two unfortunate little warblers that lost their bearing in the heat of panic.  The male magnolia warbler had struck the screen of the patio door, which rather bounced him back onto the deck.  As we peered through the glass, we could see that he was still breathing, so hoped, with time, that he would regain his wind.

magnolia warbler - female - view of back - after hitting window - oxtongue lake - ontario

The female, on the other hand, was not so lucky.  A telltale tuft of feathers stuck to the window where this little bird met its fate.  Her little body lay motionless.

magnolia warbler - female - view of breast after hitting window - oxtongue lake - ontario

As I waited for the male Magnolia Warbler to recuperate, I scampered down to the beach property to snap some pictures of a Northern Flicker that had just flown in and landed on a tree stump.

magnolia warbler - male - recovering after hitting window - oxtongue lake - ontario

By the time I came back to the house, the male magnolia warbler had regained his senses and was sitting up.  We could see that he was becoming more alert for he began to tilt his head this way and that, making observations of his surroundings.

magnolia warbler - female - killed from hitting window - oxtongue lake - ontario

I wanted to be at the patio  door when the Magnolia Warbler took to his wings, but a momentary distraction had me out of the room at that exact moment.  The next time I looked at the deck, the male was gone, so I decided to make closer observations of the dead female.  Breeding females have the same coloring as breeding males except the colours are more subdued.

magnolia warbler - female - view of back and wings after hitting a window - oxtongue lake - ontario

The last time we saw the Merlin chase the birds, four of them were fooled by the windows’ reflections, and flew into the glass, but they all survived.  Meanwhile, my dad’s neighbour saw one of the Merlin Falcons snatch up a Robin from his front yard.

magnolia warbler - markings on tail feathers - oxtongue lake - ontario

The beautiful white bar across the end of the tail was revealed as squared spots when I spread the female’s tail feathers.  This colouring is usually only visible when the birds are in flight.

oxtongue lake - cloudy sky in spring - ontario

That was a bit of a sad day for me.  I know that the Merlin Falcons have to eat, too, but there seem to be so few of the Magnolia Warblers around my dad’s place that it just seemed a shame to lose one of them.  How unfortunate that the Magnolia Warblers are no longer a breeding pair.

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