The Yellow-throated Warbler (Setophaga dominica) is a most helpful warbler, in that what you see is what you get. You needn’t go to embarrassing lengths to determine whether it has a Yellow Rump. It doesn’t make extravagant geographical claims like the Cape May, Kentucky, Tennessee, Nashville or Connecticut warblers. It doesn’t disguise its warblerdom with a confusing name like ‘American Redstart’ or ‘Ovenbird’. Nor with a weird warbler name that is completely obscure like the Prothonotary. It’s a winter resident only, so it won’t try to puzzle you in the summer. The males and females are roughly similar in appearance, unlike so many species. All-in-all, a most agreeable and obliging little bird. Here are a few to enjoy, before I spoil the magic slightly…
I said earlier that the magic of the apparently simple ID of a warbler that lives up to its name would have to be spoiled. I’m afraid the images below rather undo the certainties I’d promised… two more species common to Abaco, also named for their yellow throats (though note: the yellow extends to more than just the throat) .
You’d really think that someone at Audubon Towers or Cornell Castle might have thought of calling these two species ‘Bahama’ and ‘Common’ Masked Warblers, wouldn’t you – after all there’s a Hooded Warbler, which indeed has a hood. No other warbler has a mask like these two. Then any confusion could be avoided.
COMMON YELLOWTHROATS ON ABACO: CHEERFUL WINTER WARBLERS
Abaco is fortunate to be home to the endemic BAHAMA YELLOWTHROAT Geothlypis rostrata, a striking bird with a dashing black mask and bright yellow body in the male. You can see it with its fellow endemics HERE. But there is similar winter resident species, the COMMON YELLOWTHROAT Geothlypis trichas, that can be seen on Abaco between October and March. Now is a very good time to look out for them. However, the two species are easy to confuse.
Common Yellowthroat (male)
Bahama Yellowthroat (male)
WHAT’S THE DIFFERENCE?
SIZE – the BW is slightly larger and sturdier than the CW
BEAK – larger in the BW, and some might say it tends to be decurved
COLOUR – the BW is more colourful, with more extensive yellow underparts and mask
FEMALES – both species lack the mask and are duller; the female BW has a greyer head
HABITAT – both are found in the same areas; the CW prefers denser vegetation near water
DEBATEABLE – it seems to me the pale stripe behind the mask is usually less prominent in the BW
Common Yellowthroat male with conspicuous pale head-stripe
Both yellowthroat species are an endearing mix of shy and inquisitive. These birds are responsive to ‘pishing’, and once lured from cover they may remain nearby on low branches or shrubs watching you with interest as you watch them. Their song – similar in both species – is fairly easily imitated (or at least approximated), which may also bring them into the open – a source of great satisfaction to the amateur birder when it works. Unless it’s just coincidence, of course… The songs of the two species recorded below sound almost indistinguishable (except that the first one is professional and the second notably amateur…).
Todd Wilson / Xeno Canto
RH own recording
Female Common Yellowthroats are unassuming and quite delicate little birds. The first of these two images shows an immature bird, with its front beginning to become yellow. The second is a mature female.
Two more male Common Yellowthroats to admire…
Photo Credits: Erik Gauger (1); Tom Sheley (2); Bruce Hallett (3, 5, 6, 7); Dan Pancamo /Wiki (4); Becky Marvil (8) Audio: Xeno Canto; RH