[TN-Bird] Re: Nashville Warbler (???)

  • From: "Richard Knight" <rknight8@xxxxxxxxxxxxx>
  • To: "tn-bird" <tn-bird@xxxxxxxxxxxxx>
  • Date: Sat, 30 Jun 2012 12:12:02 -0400

I can't believe we're discussing the same photo!  To me the photos show little
that even suggest  Com. Yellowthroat.  I have banded over 350 yellowthroats, so
am familiar with close-up, in-hand looks at them. 

The head & bill shape are fine for Nashville, actually better than for 

The eye ring is a little weak in front, but still within range for Nashville & 
rather strong
for yellowthroat.

In both photos, the light seems fine to distinguish the shade of gray on the 

You did not address the extensive, rather bright yellow underparts.  A perfect 
for Nashville & all wrong for female yellowthroat.  Immature male yellowthroat 
of course, eliminated by lack of any trace of black mask.

In the second photo, looking at the top of the head, we can see what appears to 
be traces of the crown patch of Nashville, which is often partially or mostly

While the null hypothesis is a good thing & should be part of our approach to 
it doesn't always work in nature, otherwise we would never see a rare bird.

Rick Knight
Johnson City, TN

----- Original Message ----- 
From: Chris Sloan 
To: rknight8@xxxxxxxxxxxxx
Cc: tn bird
Sent: 6/29/2012 6:37:18 PM 
Subject: [TN-Bird] Re: Nashville Warbler (???)

Here's why I believe this is a Common Yellowthroat:

1.  The bill and head shape are all wrong for Nashville.  Nashville is one of 
the smallest warblers and has a very thin, sharply pointed bill with a 
dove-like, very rounded head.  This bird shows the heavier bill and flatter 
head shape that is a typical of a yellowthroat.

2.  The white eye-ring is nowhere near thick and prominent enough for a 
Nashville.  Nashville shows a very thick, bright, uniform white eye ring.  This 
bird shows a fairly weak eye ring.  Admittedly it's more prominent than most 
yellowthroats, but it's nowhere near strong enough for a Nashville.  
Yellowthroats can show a pale eye ring like this at times.

3.  The color or the head is misleading.  Yellowthroats have a grayish brown 
head also, but the real test is the contrast between the head and the rest of 
the upperparts, which is uniform in yellowthroat and sharply contrasting in 
Nashville.  We can't see that in these photos.  I do not believe the color 
shown here is as gray as Rick interprets.  It's hard to say for sure in that 
light, but to me it looks fine for a yellowthroat.

Remember that the null hypothesis here has to be Common Yellowthroat at this 
time of year, particularly in a location that is quite literally covered up 
with them as breeders.  In my opinion, this bird shows no characteristics that 
are inconsistent with a Common Yellowthroat. 

Chris Sloan
Nashville, TN

On Fri, Jun 29, 2012 at 1:08 PM, Chris Sloan <csloan1973@xxxxxxxxx> wrote:

I will post more substantive comments when I have time after work, but I stand 
by my response to Ed that, in my opinion, this is quite clearly a Common 
Yellowthroat for a number of reasons.

Chris Sloan
Nashville, TN

On Fri, Jun 29, 2012 at 12:01 PM, Richard Knight <rknight8@xxxxxxxxxxxxx> wrote:

A few days back Ed Schneider posted a photo of a warbler for which he was 
unsure of
the ID.  In an off-list email conversation, he said the the consensus opinion 
was for
female Common Yellowthroat.  There has been no public discussion of the ID, so 
I am 
weighing in.

I believe it is a Nashville Warbler.
My reasoning:
1)  the head is too gray for female Com. Yellowthroat, which should be 
2)  the eye-ring is a little too bold, but head color & eye-ring are right for 
3)  the yellow underneath is too extensive & even-toned for yellowthroat, which 
     be shaded from fairly bright in throat to dull yellow on lower breast.
4)  culmen shape appears to be straight, unlike slightly down-curved for 
The amount of yellow underneath & bill shape are good for Nashville.

While Nashville Warblers in spring migration usually occur higher up in trees 
than the
bird in the photo, which is in blackberry brambles, I often see fall migrant 
in low shrubby stuff including goldenrod & ragweed.  So habitat shouldn't be an 

Photo IDs are sometimes harder than in-life IDs, since there is only one angle 
per photo,
 no vocalizations or behavioral clues, etc.  However, you can stare at the 
photo for as
long as you want & analyze visible details.

Apparently this would be the first summer record of a Nashville Warbler in TN, 
Robinson (1990) lists none & I don't recall any since then.  It could be a very 
spring migrant or, more likely, an early fall migrant (perhaps a failed 
breeder) or
a wandering non-breeder.  Nashvilles do nest as far south as northern West 

Comments welcome.

Rick Knight
Johnson City, TN

----- Original Message ----- 
From: Ed Schneider 
To: tn bird
Sent: 6/23/2012 3:39:54 PM 
Subject: [TN-Bird] Nashville Warbler (???)

Bells Bend Park, Davidson Co. 
23 June, 2012

I realize there are no summer records for this bird, and I wouldn't expect 
there to be. I of course thought I was
photographing a female Common Yellowthroat, but the eye ring seemed WAY to 
strong compared to the female
and first year yellowthroats I've seen.

That being said, the bill shape doesn't scream Oreothylpis to me at all, and 
the habitat is of course all wrong for
Nashville even in migration. 

Anyone care to share some thoughts on a bird that threw me for a small loop 
this morning? I imagine COYE can
be extremely variable, and I'm still an advanced novice at best... always nice 
to get a photo of a questionable bird,

Ed Schneider
Davidson Co.

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