A Magnolia Warbler’s Tail

On a warm, gray, humid morning, low clouds covered the sky, and water still dripped from the trees, after a long, steady rain for much of the night. All the trees and shrubs and grass looked drenched, and birds were relatively quiet, but an Eastern Wood-Pewee sang, a White-breasted Nuthatch called its nasal awnk, and Brown-headed Nuthatches chattered brightly.

In the old field the morning glories looked a little drenched and drooping, along with all the other weeds and grasses. A Gray Catbird gave a raspy mew. I was looking for the Catbird in a mass of privet, when I caught just a glimpse of a small, delicate bird that was almost certainly a warbler. I could see it moving around, but it moved very quickly and I could not quite get a look at its head or face. Even after watching for as long as it seemed to be there, all I could really see was a flash of pure yellow on its throat and breast – no streaks – and gray on the back – and a good clear view of the underside of the tail, which was very white, tipped with a broad band of black. Because of that view of the tail, I’m pretty sure it was a female Magnolia Warbler.

I think this is one of the few times I’ve identified a warbler by the underside of its tail – though I’ve often used this as additional information to help confirm one. And in this case, I could be wrong, and probably would not count it as certain unless someone else had seen it, too. But the tail was clear and distinctive, and it was just kind of fun to recognize a bird like this, with such a glimpse.

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