For the Birds: The ‘forgotten’ birds

Photo by Chris Bosak A common yellowthroat perches on a branch in New England, July 2021.

Sometimes the residual birds get unduly forgotten when a bird walk features a highlight species. In other words, the other solid bird sightings get pushed to the back of the memory bank. Then, sometime after the excitement of the highlight species fades, be it hours, days or weeks, the other birds come back to you.

This happened to me the other week when a pair of male indigo buntings highlighted an evening walk. It had been a while since I had seen buntings, and I became singularly focused on them when recounting the walk.

As I looked through the photos of that walk, I was reminded of some of the other birds I had seen. Before I took untold numbers of photos of the bright blue indigo buntings, I had snapped a few photos of a common yellowthroat pair. I had completely forgotten about those birds until I started looking through the photos.

Yellowthroats are fairly common throughout New England, but they are still a species worthy of remembering. Most birds are, for that matter, but sometimes they get overshadowed.

I clearly recalled the yellowthroats after seeing the photos. They appeared on the walk even before my car was out of sight. The walk started on a trail that cuts through a meadow and the yellowthroats moved about among the tall grasses.

The male showed himself on the tops of the plants about 10 yards from the trail. The female was much closer, however; she stayed low in the tall grass and largely out of sight. She did pop up into view a few times, but mostly the only sign of her was the movement of the grass and the call notes used to keep in contact with her mate.

Yellowthroats are members of the warbler family and breed throughout New England — and most of the U.S., for that matter. Males are highly decorative with bright yellow throats and chests, and a thick, black mask outlined in white across the top. The female is more dully colored but still features a yellow throat and chest. They are often found among thick vegetation.

I focused on these warblers for about 10 minutes before heading to the wood’s edge. That’s when I heard and eventually found the two buntings. I wrote in detail last week about those birds, so I will spare you those particulars here.

While I was absorbed with the buntings, another yellowthroat pair appeared and scolded me from the thick brush. There were also several chipping sparrows on the ground searching for seeds. A few song sparrows showed up out of nowhere and belted out their familiar song. Of course, there were catbirds. There usually are catbirds on a summer walk. A male American redstart sang from an exposed branch where the meadow met the woods. It had been a while since I had seen one of those handsome warblers as well.

Finally, there were dozens and dozens of American goldfinches among the grass and wildflowers in the meadow. Mid- to late summer is a time when goldfinches are very visible. They nest later in the season than most birds and are busy finding food for their young ones.

The buntings alone would have made the walk a rousing success. Recalling all the other species made it that much better, even if it did take me a while to appreciate them.

1 thought on “For the Birds: The ‘forgotten’ birds

  1. Most male warblers are brightly colored during the Spring. Why? Mate attraction. Then they become dull in the Fall. Why? Why advertise their presence.

    So why doesn’t the male Prothonotary Warbler become much duller. What is the advantage to stay brilliant?


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