[TN-Bird] prob TOWNSEND'S WARBLER - Knox

  • From: kde@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx
  • To: Tennessee Birds <tn-bird@xxxxxxxxxxxxx>
  • Date: Thu, 6 Oct 2011 12:43:49 -0400 (EDT)

Just returned from Detroit and had a lot of migrant activity in the
yard this morning including two good, but brief looks at what I'm
almost certain was a first-year male Townsend's Warbler.  Were I
in CA where I've seen a number of these, I wouldn't hesitate to 
call it for certain, but in TN, where it could be the 3rd or 4th
state record, I have to be a little more cautious.  

Clearly a warbler
Extensive yellow on face and breast fading to white on belly
Black 'mutton chops' which did not extend onto flanks but there
was some black spotting/streaking there
Yellow face with dark black (not olive) auricular and face markings 
and dark crown
Two broad, white wing bars
Some white in tail

The bird was foraging in the high (hickory/oak) canopy and I did 
not have a great views at upperparts but appeared to be olive.

The extent of yellow on the breast and jet black auriculars should
rule out Black-throated Green (or Golden-cheeked) which is the most
similar species and one the bird most resembled.  The yellow was 
bright yellow, not orange or yellow orange as for Blackburnian and 
the overall face and head markings weren't quite right for Blackburnian 
(probably next most similar species).  Face pattern wrong for Cape May 
or Magnolia.  Face pattern and white belly wrong for Prairie.

Combo of black mutton chops and face pattern and extensive yellow 
on face and breast seem good for Townsend's and eliminate other 
similar species.

I think my hesitation is due to the limited viewing time -- about
30 sec total of unobstructed viewing -- and not being able to
'test my hypothesis'.  The first sighting was the longest and I
saw all field marks but couldn't put the pieces together in my 
head... probably a combo of Eastern US mentality and it being
too early in the morning.  When the bird disappeared, I didn't 
know what it was.  I relocated it a few minutes later and a few
trees down the ridge.  This viewing was shorter but everything
clicked in my mind and I thought, "oh, Townsend's".  Now I had
a hypothesis but then the bird disappeared and couldn't be relocated.
All the data still seems to support my hypothesis, but I never 
got to test it with further observations.

Thoughts and comments are welcome.

Dean Edwards
Knoxville, TN

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