Pine Warbler Feeding a Fledgling

This morning brought a cool, gray, moody day, breezy, with the damp feel of rain in the air, though showers didn’t come until early afternoon. Clouds in many shades of gray layered the sky, rumpled and scalloped and constantly changing. Birds seemed quiet and not very active. Few were singing. 

When I heard the deep, foggy who-cooks-for-you call of a Barred Owl, I first thought I had imagined it. But the call came again, and again, coming from somewhere back in a wooded area, not close, but not too far away. I’ve often heard a Barred Owl call in the daytime, especially on a cloudy day like this, but the past year or two or three, we’ve been hearing them less and less often at all. So it’s nice to know they’re still around.

Later in the morning, I stopped to check out a burst of activity in trees on both sides of the road as small birds flew back and forth. Some were Carolina Chickadees and Tufted Titmice and Brown-headed Nuthatches – but there were others I couldn’t see well. They were moving too fast, flitting along the branches very quickly and constantly in motion. When I finally did get one in focus, I saw a yellow bird moving over the pine branches very fast – almost frantically. It was a Pine Warbler, with a bright yellow throat, streaked sides, olive-yellow head, a broken yellow eye-ring, and white wing bars – but because of the way it was moving, I briefly thought it might be some other kind of bird. Pine Warblers usually move through the branches, searching for food, more slowly than other warblers, and I’d never seen one foraging as hurriedly as this. 

Then I realized that I was hearing, all this while, the cheep-cheep-cheeping of baby birds. And then I saw one – a little grayish bird sat on a pine branch and fluttered its wings and begged to be fed – and the yellow Pine Warbler, a male, hurried up to feed it. Of course! Another bird also moving frantically through the pines nearby was probably the female. And I could hear other babies cheeping too, though I only saw this one very clearly. It was sweet to watch. And interesting to observe that Pine Warblers can be such harried parents. I don’t know how many fledglings they had to feed, but they were working very hard.

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