Skip to main content

Golden-winged Warbler, feeding

A male golden-winged warbler, with brilliant golden ingot stamped across his wing, forages in a choke cherry, Prunus virginiana. I made this image and the following ones a few days ago, while in between groups that I'm leading here at NettieBay Lodge in northern Michigan.

These acrobatic little warblers are not too tough to find up here, and seem especially smitten with cherries in the genus Prunus. A feeding bird will quickly flit about leafy boughs, quickly inspecting leaves and often dangling upside down like a chickadee. The primary reason that golden-wings are probably interested in cherries is due to caterpillars. Prunus is well known for the diversity and numbers of caterpillars that feed on the foliage, and the warblers are adept at ferreting them out.

Read on for a pictorial display of golden-winged warbler foraging technique.

I had secreted myself and my large lens as best I could, after hearing a golden-winged warbler's lazy breezy song along a back road in the Pigeon River Country State Forest. It wasn't long before the bird presented itself - this species is not especially bashful - and I took the opportunity to closely watch the bird as it worked its way through the adjacent choke cherry colony.

Here, the warbler has found a potential treasure concealed in two silked-together cherry leaves, and has plunged its bill in for a better look.

Detecting a tasty larval snack, the bird inserts its long sharp bill, and opens wide. The mandibles act as scissors, prying apart the caterpillar's lair. Just below the bird's bill tips, you can see the whitish cords of silk that the caterpillar used to seal shut its hiding spot.

A second later, the warbler has a tiny but nutritious snack (as always, click the photo to enlarge). The entire operation, from discovery to swallow, took all of about ten seconds. Given the energy and sharp-eyed efficiency of golden-winged warblers, one must wonder how many caterpillars a bird must take in a day. Hundreds, probably.


Popular posts from this blog

The Pinching Beetle, a rather brutish looking bug

The world is awash in beetles, and they come in all shapes and sizes. Few of them can match the intimidation factor of a Pinching Beetle, Lucanus capreolus, though. Those formidable looking mandibles look like they could slice off a finger.

Today was one of those coolly diverse days. I started off down in Fayette County, visiting the farm of a friend. He has restored about 25 acres of wetlands, and the response by the animal community has been nothing short of phenomenal. Blizzards of dragonflies of many species, amphibians galore, and nesting Blue-winged Teal, Pied-billed Grebe, and Sora. Among MANY other things. And all in a short two years. Add water and they will come.

Then, working my way home, I ducked into a Madison County cemetery that has a thriving population of Thirteen-lined Ground Squirrels, and shot images of our native prairie dog. Then, I stopped at a spot along Little Darby Creek, waded on in, and procured some pretty nice shots of various stream bluets and dancers. …

Calliope Hummingbird in central Ohio!

A hatch-year male Calliope Hummingbird strikes a pose. Small but tough, the hummingbird was feeding actively yesterday in 39 F temperatures. It frequents feeders and gardens at a home in Delaware County, Ohio, about a half-hour north of Columbus.

Fortunately, the wayward hummer appeared at the home of Tania and Corey Perry. Tania is a birder, and knew right away that the hummingbird was something special. For a while, the identification was up in the air, which isn't surprising. The Calliope Hummingbird used to be placed in its own genus, Stellula, but has recently been submerged into the genus Selasphorus, which includes Allen's, Broad-tailed, and Rufous hummingbirds. The latter two, especially, are quite similar to the Calliope in subadult plumage. Rufous is the default "vagrant" hummingbird here, with dozens of records and birds turning up annually. There is but one Ohio record of Allen's Hummingbird, from late fall/early winter 2009. Ditto the Calliope Hummi…

Snowy owl photography tactics - and things NOT to do

A gorgeous juvenile female snowy owl briefly catches your narrator with its piercing gaze. It's doing its Linda Blair/Exorcist trick - twisting its head 180 degrees to look straight behind. Owls have 14 neck vertebrae - double our number - which allows them such flexibility.

These visitors from the high arctic have irrupted big time into Ohio and adjacent regions, with new birds coming to light nearly every day. Probably 80 or so have thus far been reported in the state, and some of them have stuck around favored spots and become local celebrities.

I went to visit one of these birds this morning - the animal above, which was found last Friday by Doug Overacker and Julie Karlson at C.J. Brown Reservoir near Springfield. In the four days since its discovery, many people have visited as is nearly always the case when one of these white wonders appears near a large population center or is otherwise very accessible.

And as is always the case, people want to photograph the owls. And th…