Sunday, May 24, 2009

Golden Swamp Warbler

I spent a third consecutive weekend at Magee Marsh Wildlife Area and vicinity, and once again saw many interesting things. The action was much dissipated from the prior two visits, but there was still plenty of birds to go around. Lots of other good non-bird stuff, too, and I managed some interesting photos of some pretty cool and seldom-seen critters. Wait till you see the baby mink!

This is a female Prothonotary Warbler, Protonotaria citrea. Sometimes known as "Golden Swamp Warbler", a fitting moniker most would agree, after seeing the luminescent yellow of one of these swamp-dwellers glowing in the gloom of understory thickets. Even the females glow!

But there is no need to create fanciful alternate names - the real one is interesting enough. The scientific name tells the story. The specific epithet, citrea, means golden or yellowish-orange. Protonotaria, the source of the common name prothonotary, is a term of ancient origin referring to certain orders of clerks or notaries. It's use is often associated with the Catholic church, some of whom wore robes that included colors of bright yellow. So, for better or worse, our brilliant swamp flamer is named for a major religion.

The Magee boardwalk birds are probably the most famous Prothonotary Warblers in the world. Quite conspicuous in their coats of gold, and with the males announcing their presence with a loud, albeit unmusical, swee-swee-swee song, probably no one who has visited went away prothonotaryless. There were a number of years where the golden swampers were mostly absent from Magee, so it is great to see birds back and apparently going to nest.

I made the above video right next to the boardwalk, of a male who is either inspecting potential nest sites - this is our only eastern cavity-nesting warbler - or hunting food. Or both.

Without doubt, the Prothonotary Warblers were one of the real hits along the trail this month. Their bold, extroverted manners, coupled with outlandish good looks, thrilled many thousands of birders and they were undoubtedly lifers for a great many.


Priscilla said...

Hi, Mike, I found you through the Nature Blog Network. I'm a native Buckeye, born not far from you in what should have been (and long was) the Great Black Swamp & deciduous wetland west of Toledo. I now blog & tweet from Boulder at This Lively Earth. I'm overjoyed to see Ohioans birding and educating others about nature. Indeed, the more people we reach, the more hope for us all! Thanks for your great work. I adore the golden swamp warbler video.

Priscilla said...

Apologies, Jim, I got your name wrong!

Barbie ♥ said...

That just took my breath away! I have never seen one of these guys and for you to be able to make a video of him at a potential nest site is - WOW - amazing! I do believe Magee Marsh is at the top of my list for next spring!
Can't wait to see the baby mink...

Golden-winged Warbler serendipity

  A stunning male Golden-winged Warbler perches in a horseshoe-shaped twig - the best perch in an otherwise cluttered scene. Last Tuesday, I...