BIRD OF THE WEEK: May 4, 2018
SCIENTIFIC NAME: Setophaga citrina
POPULATION: 5.2 million
HABITAT: Breeds in the understory of mature hardwood forests and wooded swamps; winters in lowland areas of the Caribbean, Mexico, and Central America.
The handsome Hooded Warbler, like Prothonotary Warbler, has a name with roots in ecclesiastical lore. The male Hooded Warbler's black hood and throat make it look as if the bird is wearing a mitre — the cowl-like hat worn by Catholic bishops. This cowled appearance gave rise to one of the Hooded Warbler's more common folk names, "Mitred" Warbler. Its Latin name, citrina, refers to the bird's golden-yellow color, which resembles the gemstone citrine.
Since they are nocturnal migrants, Hooded Warblers are often victims of deadly collisions with glass, towers, and wind turbines. This warbler is also vulnerable to forest fragmentation, which exposes both birds and their low-built nests to predators such as free-roaming cats, and to Brown-headed Cowbirds, brood parasites that lay their eggs in warbler nests.
The Hooded Warbler is territorial on its wintering grounds in the Caribbean, Mexico, and Central America, fiercely defending a defined feeding area against others of its species. Males and females use different habitats during the winter; males use mature forests and females frequent shrubby and flooded areas.
This gender-based winter habitat segregation was first noted in Hooded Warblers; it is now known to occur in other neotropical migratory birds such as Magnolia Warbler and Black-throated Blue Warbler. Other migrants, including Blackburnian Warbler and Cerulean Warbler, share winter habitat more equitably, associating with resident and other migratory birds.
Like American Redstarts, Hooded Warblers constantly flick their tails open and closed as they work their way through the forest, flashing their white outer tail feathers. This "flashy" habit may startle insects out of hiding, making them easy prey for the bird. Hooded Warblers tend to feed low in the understory, gleaning insects off the ground or darting after them flycatcher-style.
The Hooded Warbler's cheerful, ringing song, "tawee-tawee-tawee-tee-o," often gives the bird's presence away before it can be seen, especially since spotting the bird in its thick, dimly lit habitat is sometimes difficult. (Audio: Scott Gravette, XC364660. Accessible at www.xeno-canto.org/364660.)
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ABC's work helps to conserve Hooded Warbler and other migratory birds across their full annual life-cycle through our BirdScapes approach to conservation. The Conservation Coast and Caribbean Forest BirdScapes are two areas that provide winter habitat for the Hooded Warbler and other neotropical migrants, ranging from Wood Thrush and Bicknell's Thrush to Eastern Whip-poor-will.
We also collaborate with the Cornell Lab of Ornithology and Colombian partner SELVA, using research from the Neotropical Flyways Project to identify critical stopover habitats for migratory birds such as Hooded Warbler. Tools such as the Cornell Lab's eBird are playing an important role in this work. Citizen scientists' observations are adding to an ever-growing body of knowledge about bird migration patterns, which supports better-targeted conservation efforts.
Our efforts to reduce glass collisions are helping save Hooded Warblers and other species such as White-throated Sparrow and Swainson's Thrush from fatal encounters with windows. (See our Bird-Smart Glass page, which offers a variety of solutions for homeowners and builders alike.)
In addition, ABC's Cats Indoors program offers a number of ways for concerned bird-lovers to engage on the problem of free-roaming cats, which kill billions of birds each year in the United States alone.
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