A Cape May Warbler visits our Toronto Backyard


A Cape May Warbler visits our Toronto Backyard

Cape May Warbler in bush - toronto 3

What a delight when a new species of bird decides to visit our backyard oasis.  This spring, we have had several different warblers stop to enjoy the water fountain and feeding stations, among them a Cape May Warbler.  For some reason, looking south at my Highbush Cranberry where it stands guard over the corner of the garage, is where I seem to discover many of the birds opting to perch before they remove themselves to the privacy of our back garden.

Cape May Warbler in bush - toronto

There, next to the gurgling water fountain, is where I was able to snatch a few frames of this male Cape May Warbler in full breeding plumage.  He sat tucked in amongst the network of forsythia branches, which, I might add, had no blooms this spring owing to the severe cold temperatures in our area this past winter.  Too bad because the photograph would have popped with yellow flowers surrounding this little gem of a yellow bird.  Then again, I may have missed the warbler all together in a blazing haze of yellow blooms.

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The adult male’s chestnut cheeks, white patch on the wing coverts, and yellow black-streaked underparts are a combination that is unmistakable.  The heavy black streaks on the yellow underparts is what led to the Warbler’s Latin name, tigrina, because they brought to mind a tiger’s stripes.  Although these small songbirds breed across the boreal forests of Canada and northern United States, where they will nest near the top of a conifer, during migration they will frequent various kinds of woods and thickets.

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The preferred food of Cape May Warblers is spruce budworms so they thrive in years when these insects are abundant.  The Warblers pick the insects from the tips of spruce trees but will also make quick flights to catch flying insects.  During winters in the West Indies, the Cape May Warblers use their uniquely curled and semi-tubular tongue to collect nectar or feed on berry juice.  This is a trait shared by no other Warbler.

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I found it amusing to learn that Cape May Warblers get their name from Cape May in New Jersey, U.S.A., where the birds were first recorded and described by Alexander Wilson.  The birds were not seen in Cape May again for over 100 years.  We were indeed blessed to have this colourful visitor spend a brief time on our suburban property.

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