Bird of the Week: Townsend’s Warbler

“A rotund little bird worth a large amount of love and appreciation”

Photo Courtesy of

Photo Courtesy of

Species: Townsend’s Warbler, or Setophaga townsendi

Family: Parulidae (New World Warblers aka Wood-Warblers)

Star sign: Aquarius

Rating: 11/10

Ideal Date: Enjoying some honeydew in Mexico

Warblers are a family of birds with beautiful voices and feathers, and out of all the Warblers in Oregon, Townsend’s is one of the most striking — and it can be found on our campus! With their bold, bumblebee-colored faces and airy songs, these rotund little birds are worth a large amount of love and appreciation.

Townsend’s Warblers are found exclusively to the west of the Rocky Mountains. In the summer, they live high above the earth at the tops of old-growth coniferous trees, building their nests and raising their children far away from the realm of men. While in the Pacific Northwest, some of these lovely little lads crossbreed with Hermit Warblers — a similar Oregonian bird —  resulting in a baby hybrid friend! This can be confusing for birdwatchers, but it’s also really cool to see such a unique fellow out in the wild.

During the cold winter months, instead of migrating to warmer climes, some Townsend’s Warblers hit the beaches and can be found all along the Pacific coast of the US! In the cold and rain they are much more likely to visit bird feeders and interact with people in search of dinner. Even though not all of them go south, those that do are rewarded for their hard work. While wintering in Mexico, one of the favorite meals of these wonderful warblers is a sugary excretion made by scale insects known as “honeydew.” The birds will flock in droves to this passerine nectar, even defending the insects’ territories from human interference!

Townsend’s Warblers are slightly smaller than Song Sparrows and can often be seen flying around or hovering in the air as they search for bugs upon which to chow down. They have a distinctive yellow face with black stripes on the head, throat, and cheeks, and a barred grey body. But, as with most Warblers, if you really want to spot one of these yellow lads, it helps to be able to recognize them by sound alone; their song is high pitched, buzzy, and trilling, and with practice it can be a surefire field marker. One of these friends has been hanging around the GCC, hopping around and perching on the bricks of the covered walkway. Maybe if you’re lucky, you’ll catch a glimpse of this beautiful, bombastic bird!

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