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Yellow-Rumped Warblers

If you have been noticing lots of LBBs (little brown birds) flitting around the trees near your home, you may have noticed that many of them are actually quite colorful. If so, they are probably wood warblers.

Wood warblers are known for their bright and interesting colors. They’re a bit smaller than the sparrows we commonly observe. Most are on their way north to the coniferous forest to nest, but some species will stay and nest here in North Dakota.

If you have noticed one of these small birds has a prominent yellow rump patch, it is a yellow-rumped warbler. They are one of the more commonly observed wood warblers we see during the spring migration.

As their common name implies, the males can be easily identified by their yellow rump patch. Some people know them as “butter butts.” The males also have some yellow on the crown and side of the breast. They also have a prominent black mask, with the rest of the body being grayish with some white wing bars.

Yellow-rumped warblers nest in the coniferous and mixed coniferous forests across much of the northern United States, Canada, Alaska, and the Rocky Mountains. They are versatile and opportunistic feeders, flitting through the trees and shrubs looking for insects in crevices in bark as well as on the ends of branches of trees where they catch passing insects. They are also known to eat various berries.

Some of you may have learned this bird as a myrtle warbler. The common name is not a reference to a lady. It is because they are quite dependent on bayberries, which are called myrtles, or more specifically wax myrtles. The fruits of wax myrtle are covered with a wax that is indigestible for most birds. And as you may have guessed, the yellow-rumped warbler is a main seed disperser for wax myrtle.

This is a good time to check for the warblers. So, get those binoculars out and spend some time watching the birds! It’s great entertainment and a learning experience, and you will likely meet some new avian friends, or perhaps renew some old acquaintances.

More resources:

Chuck Lura has a broad knowledge of "Natural North Dakota"and loves sharing that knowledge with others. Since 2005, Chuck has written a weekly column, “Naturalist at Large,” for the Lake Metigoshe Mirror, and his “The Naturalist” columns appear in several other weekly North Dakota newspapers.
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