Nashville Warbler Visits Our Toronto Backyard
Of the various Warblers frequenting our backyard one spring, it was the Pine Warblers and this Nashville Warbler (Oreothlypis ruficapilla) that made the longest stays. We experienced long periods without rain that spring so the water fountain on our property was a real attraction for a lot of migrating birds.
This Nashville Warbler loved to hang around the fountain and routinely splashed about the water as it drips over the contours of the upper sculpture into the basin. As an adult male, he has beautiful bright plain underparts and a bluish-grey head, cheeks and neck with a distinct white eye ring.
I like to think that perhaps the birch trees also play a part in the Nashville Warblers’ presence in our yard since their preferred habitats are open deciduous and mixed woods where either aspen or birch are a component, and thickets in old clearings that have yet to become overgrown with mature trees . Together with the low tangle of forsythia bushes, hedge of tall cedars and our neighbour’s lilac bush, the setting seems about perfect. Although often not visible, Bob and I were able to detect the chestnut patch on this Warbler’s crown. The back and wings are a subtle olive green colour.
One of my favorite spots to observe the Nashville Warblers is from my bedroom window that overlooks a crabapple tree. I can go undetected on the other side of the windowpane while the Warblers forage voraciously on tiny insects that are hidden in the tightly-packed buds of new leaves. It is common for the male to forage higher up in trees and bushes than the female who keeps fairly low. It is both insect larvae and mature insects, as well as caterpillars, that make up the bulk of a Nashville Warbler’s diet. These small, sprightly songbirds are a mere 4-5 inches (10-13 cm) long, so when they are flitting about the top of my apple tree or mountain ash, it is difficult to catch them sitting still long enough for a photograph.
There are two breeding populations of Nashville Warblers, one on the Pacific Coast and the other in northeastern North America. The two populations are kept separate by the Rocky Mountains and the prairies which together form a barrier. There are minor differences in colour between the subspecies, and the western population, previously known as the Calaveras Warbler, wags its tail. I would love to have the Nashville Warblers nest on my property, but in all honesty, I would fear for their lives because of the neighborhood feral cats. These warblers build their open, cup-shaped nest on the ground albeit hidden at the base of a brushy thicket or in a clump of stiff grass. Somehow, I just don’t think that would be a safe option given the cats that prowl the backyards of our community.