A Hooded Warbler Day

Today a Hooded Warbler sang in the woods around our back yard all day long. I first heard its song through open windows early this morning, and when I went outside, found it perched among the new green leaves of oaks, and watched as it lifted its head to sing.

A Hooded Warbler is small neotropical songbird with a brilliant yellow face, strikingly framed by a black hood and bib. Its breast and belly are yellow; its back and wings olive green. It often flares its tail, flashing its white edges. Its song is a loud, clear weeta-weeta-wee-TEEE-oh, a very distinct song that’s hard to miss. Over the years, we’ve seen a Hooded Warbler now and then, but it was very unusual to have one stay around so close for a whole day and to hear its bright, loudly whistled song always in the background.

Hooded Warblers spend winters in the rainforests of Central America and return to the eastern half of North America for the breeding season. They are still fairly common in this part of Georgia in the summer – though not often in our own neighborhood. They prefer more deeply-wooded habitat near streams or wetlands, in the bottomland of a forest.

All afternoon as I worked in my office, I could hear it singing through an open window beside me. It was a fine reminder of Earth Day, though at the same time, a reminder of the threats looming over so many songbirds today. The Hooded Warbler is among the songbirds considered “climate threatened” by the National Audubon Society because climate change is expected to bring drier conditions to regions where Hooded Warblers now depend on the lowland, under-story of humid, wetter forests.

Hooded Warblers are also considered at some risk because they are often parasitized by Brown-headed Cowbirds, especially in areas where woodlands have become patchy and fragmented.

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