A few weeks ago we were hosting fox sparrows, who finally moved on after about two weeks of being very well taken care of in our yard. It seemed that the weather would improve, and it did briefly, only to get cold again. Some areas of the metro got quite a bit of snow, and we were right back to highs in the 30’s with snow/rain. For the last few days, we’ve had increasing numbers of yellow-rumped warblers. They get their name from the bright patch of yellow the males have on the rump (females have the same markings, but duller.) Since it’s such a distinguishing feature, they have also earned the nickname “butter butt.”
It’s one of the first warblers we usually see during migration, coming from the southern US and Mexico, on their way to nesting grounds in Canada and the arctic.
Yellow-rumped warblers are normally not feeder birds, but are one of the few warblers I know of that will come to feeders if they are hungry enough. There have been many reports of them all around the city, at suet feeders and in large groups foraging along neighborhood streets. It seems they are everywhere, delayed in their migration because of the cold last week.
They are mainly insectivores, but will eat fruit in the winter. Since there haven’t been many bugs around recently, they are having a hard time finding food. Usually they are seen higher up in the trees hawking insects (flying out from a perch to grab an insect in flight.) However when there are no insects, they are forced to forage on the ground. I scattered suet pellets and dried mealworms on the ground for them, and had a flock of probably 2 dozen gobbling it all up. Like most warblers, they move around constantly and quickly so it’s hard to get an accurate count!
So for the last few days, they have been pretty much everywhere in the yard – on the feeder, under the feeders, on the deck and in trees, in the garden and in grassy areas where I had scattered food for them. They seem to really like the suet and have no problem getting inside the caged feeder. I even had one coming to the mealworm dish for live mealworms that I had put out for the chickadees!
I’m sure they will move on soon, but it’s been fun hosting them and watching their antics. These warblers are fairly tame and are usually easy to watch up close by just sitting quietly. With all the difficulties that we humans create for birds, sometimes it’s nice to just give them a helping hand in a time of need. We’ll see them again in the fall, migrating on the way back south. Hopefully the weather will be more cooperative.