Americans profess a certain pride in living without royalty. We drool and gossip about entertainment favorites, whose only claim to fame is that they’re famous, but, gosh darn it, we don’t need royalty.
But here in North America, there are some who don crowns and in a few cases they live in, or visit, our gardens–like this fella:
The Orange-crowned Warbler, Oreothlypis celata, is a migrating bird who winters here in Central Texas. Each winter, I enjoy the charm of a few of these busy, quiet but occasionally chirping, little warblers. This winter, I’ve identified two regulars to my garden, though the female is the more frequent visitor. How can I tell the difference? It’s hard with this warbler, as both genders’ coloring is similar–a muted greenish-yellow. According to Cornell Lab and Audubon Society, there are four subspecies of Orange-crown, differing in color, size, and molting patterns. In reading the descriptions of where each type of warbler lives, I’m guessing that it’s the western Orange-crowns, the lutescens, who winter here, as the other breeds either sport more grey, drab plumage or are found only in certain areas. My Orange-crowns are yellow-green, all the time, except for the male and his unsparkly orange crown, which appears when he’s excited, irritated–or taking a bath.
Orange-crown Warblers rummage through trees and shrubs, and fluff plant detritus along the ground in search of variety of small insects, spiders, and any source of protein smaller than they are. As Automatic Gardener demonstrates on a recent post, they’ll also visit a hummingbird feeder if given an opportunity. Each fall, winter, and early spring, Orange-crowns visit at my suet feeder; this year, it’s been the female enjoying suet snacks.
I see her almost daily at the suet, nipping at sunflower seeds fallen to the ground, or in the garden, working the shrubbery.
I haven’t seen the male in a while, perhaps he headed further south, or maybe he visits a different garden? Was he offended at my catching him at his bath?
Orange-crowned Warblers are early arrivals during fall migration and hang out in my garden through May. They breed in far north Canada, so they have a long way to go from my Central Texas garden to the neighborhoods where they raise their families. In late summer, after the chicks have fledged, Orange-crowns embark on the big trip southward to their wintering spots. Like other migrating birds, their seasonal treks amaze me: tiny birds who travel thousands of miles, back and forth over continents and sometimes large bodies of water, and that’s normal life for them. How can I not appreciate and admire that?
So it goes with birds.