Destinations Magazine

Black-and-white Warbler Visits Us Headed South

By Frame To Frame - Bob And Jean @frametoframebJ

Black-and-white Warbler - looks towards camera - Frame To Frame Bob & Jean

My husband, Bob, while in the process of putting bird food into the feeders,  happened to notice a new visitor to our backyard…a Black-and-White Warbler (Mniotilta varia), a type of Wood Warbler.

Black-and-white Warbler hides among tree limbs - Frame To Frame Bob & Jean

With camera in hand, I had a hard time locating the little bird on the trunk of our neighbour’s spruce tree as it was foraging for insects in behind some short sprouts of new growth.

Black-and-white Warbler - on side of birch tree - Frame To Frame Bob & Jean

The warbler moved quite quickly from one location to another, searching for tidbits in our birch trees, amongst the branches of our apple trees, and in crevices of our fence.  It behaved, for all the world, like a nuthatch in its movements and foraging efforts, creeping up and down the tree trunks, hence its old name, Black-and-white Creeper.

Black-and-white Warbler - feather pattern on back - Frame To Frame Bob & Jean

No other warblers creep along tree trunks and branches in search of food, but the distinctive white stripe down the middle of the black crown is a definitive way of distinguishing this bird from other black-and-white warblers such as the Black-throated Grey and Blackpoll.

Black-and-white Warbler - rear end on side of tree - Frame To Frame Bob & Jean

As the warbler crept round the base of the birch tree, it afforded an excellent view of the delicate colouring on the underside of the tail and abdomen.  It certainly aids its camouflage on the black and white bark of the tree.

Black-and-white Warbler - looks under garden chair - Frame To Frame Bob & Jean

The Black-and-white Warbler seemed to recognize an old chair in my garden as the piece of garden art that it is given the network of cobwebs glistening in the sun.  Perhaps it snatched up some insect before it became ensnared in the sticky web.

Black-and-white Warbler - on birch tree - Frame To Frame Bob & Jean

I believe this Black-and-white Warbler is an adult female given that the white sides show signs of buff-coloured feathers.  A male would be more boldly striped above and below, except for the plain white belly.

Black-and-white Warbler sings - Frame To Frame Bob & Jean

The Black-and-white Warbler is the only member of the genus Mniotilta, which means “moss plucking”.  On each of their feet, these warblers have an unusually long hind toe and claw that enables them to move securely on the surface of tree bark.

Black-and-white Warbler - looks down from tree - Frame To Frame Bob & Jean

We were graced with the presence of this small warbler in our garden for close to a half hour, and it didn’t seem at all to mind the hubbub of activity going on in neighbouring yards.  I’m sure from Toronto, it will be making its way south, but I wonder just how far it will have to travel.  Black-and-white Warblers winter anywhere between northern Mexico to as far south as Northern Venezuela and Colombia.  Travel safe little one!

Frame To Frame – Bob & Jean

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