Wildlife and Nature Photography

Warbler Migration Heats Up In The Forest City

mag - Warbler Migration Heats Up In The Forest City

This Magnolia Warbler is one of the many warblers I observed while birding around London, Ontario this past week.

Each spring many birders, myself included, anxiously await the return of warblers to our area. These small songbirds are some of the most colourful birds to grace our area, yet are also some of the most challenging to identify. The first of May is a date I watch for on my calendar, as this is when we can expect to see warblers return to Southwestern Ontario in good numbers.

yw - Warbler Migration Heats Up In The Forest City

Yellow Warblers can be seen and heard throughout many of London’s parks and ESAs.

While birding in several locations over the past week, I saw a significant increase in the number of warblers present each day I was out. Three species continue to be the most abundant: Yellow, Yellow-rumped and Palm Warblers. I have been observing good numbers of these birds throughout the city, with numbers steadily increasing.

yrw - Warbler Migration Heats Up In The Forest City

This Yellow-rumped Warbler clearly displays the yellow rump for which they are named. The black mask indicates that this bird is a male.

Other warbler species I have observed include: Magnolia, Pine, and Black and White. Sightings of Blackburnian, Black-throated Green, and Northern Parula have also been reported from within the city.

Palm Warbler - Warbler Migration Heats Up In The Forest City

Palm Warbler

City parks and ESAs are where I focused my efforts this past week, concentrating on the edges of wooded areas containing small trees and shrubs. Mornings are always when I have the most success locating warblers. Since warblers migrate at night, early morning is when these birds are most active; feeding heavily as they replenish energy spent the previous night.

yellow warbnler - Warbler Migration Heats Up In The Forest City

Yellow Warbler

I have been paying close attention to the daily reports from the 2016 Festival of Birds at Point Pelee National Park. So far, 25 warbler species have been reported from within the park, which is low compared to previous years. The lack of clear nights and south winds could be contributing to these low numbers. Fortunately, this means many more warblers will be making their way through the city in the coming weeks.

Watermark - Warbler Migration Heats Up In The Forest City

The absence of a black mask indicates that this Yellow-rumped Warbler is a female.

When searching for warblers be sure you position yourself out of the wind. These sheltered areas are where insects will be most abundant, therefore attracting the highest concentration of warblers. When you come across an area rich with warblers, stay in that location; large concentrations of birds are often found within small areas. Some of our ESAs are hundreds of hectares in size, but many of the areas where I locate the largest number of warblers are often only 20 yards in length and 10 yards wide. Once you locate a high concentration of warblers, find an open area with pockets of light shining in. This will make for unobstructed views and optimal photos.

olia - Warbler Migration Heats Up In The Forest City

By avoiding sudden movements this Magnolia Warbler did not perceive me as a threat and continued to sing from a thicket.

When I locate a warbler, but cannot manage a clear view or unobstructed photograph, I stand still and study its behaviour. By not making any sudden movements, the bird doesn’t view me as a threat and becomes accustomed to my presence. I can then see its direction of travel, anticipate its movements, and put myself in a position to get a clear view and photograph. This technique does not require a lot of patience, and I am often rewarded within a few minutes. So often I see others chasing birds around, only to stress and scare them off.

Yellows - Warbler Migration Heats Up In The Forest City

No only do male Yellow Warblers display rusty breast streaks, they are more vividly coloured than the females.

The coming weeks will present opportune times for warbler viewing in our area. Pay close attention to the weather forecast; look for clear skies and south winds overnight. The mornings following these conditions can be the best ones to head out. Grab your binoculars, field guide, camera, and make your way to your favourite natural area. The warblers will be waiting for you.

Good birding,



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2 Responses to “Warbler Migration Heats Up In The Forest City”

  1. Michelle Mann

    Great shots Paul! We were at Pelee on Sunday and saw 10 different warblers, several in high concentrations and at just two locations. It took us 2 hours to walk just under 2km because we were stopping so frequently. You saw several we did not see so I’m encouraged to get to a good local spot this Saturday to find some more. We also saw 3 vireos that I would never have identified without the kindness of other, more knowledgeable birders – one of the best parts of birding at Pelee in May, there’s always someone close by willing to share their discoveries with you. Still searching for the prothonotary – it’s on my dad’s bucket list.

    • Paul Roedding

      Thanks Michelle. Sounds like you had a great day. I agree, the birders at Pelee are great at helping others identify and locate birds. I have not seen an endangered Prothonotary Warbler for a number of years now. There was one reported at Westminster Ponds ESA last year.

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