— Erin Halcomb, Stewardship Coordinator

My mom’s favorite bird, though she’s hard-pressed to choose, is the Common Yellowthroat (Geothlypis trichas) warbler. The males are conspicuous and dapper. They tarry about wetlands, in bright yellow bibs and black masks, and sing constantly. My mom delights in the sense of theatre they bring to the tules.

I delight in the fact that Common Yellowthroats are easy to identify. Their plumage is memorable. Their preferences for wet, open areas bring them often to eye-level. And their witchety-witchery refrain becomes recognizable over a summer, in part because they may repeat it, on a high average, 125 times in an hour.

Common Yellowthroats are insect gleaners. They feed on small grubs, spiders and flies. As with most songbird species, the female appears drab when compared to the male. She lacks the distinctive mask but she is otherwise of an olive-brown wash and has a buttery yellow chest. The female weaves a simple open-cup nest, on or close to the ground, within thickets, patches of reeds or briars.Common_Yellowthroat,_female

Threats to the yellowthroat are numerous. Human development reduces habitat; raccoons and snakes seek out the eggs; and predatory birds, like Merlins and Shrikes, hunt for the adults. Yet, the Common Yellowthroat remains widespread, and I also enjoy that fact. Even though my mom lives in Tennessee, I can still share the sight and sound of her favorite songbird right here in the islands.

The Common Yellowthroat pictured above was seen on private property that was protected by a Land Bank conservation easement in 1996. Private lands play a vital role in open space conservation. Currently the Land Bank has conservation easements on 66 properties, totaling just under 2500 acres across the county. This year, we finalized our easement on the Ihiya Biological Reserve which features a marsh, a section of False Bay Creek and a public trail; it’s the sort of place that one might likely encounter a striking and loquacious warbler, now and for the generations to come.

Bottom photo of female taken by D. Gordon E. Robertson, courtesy of Wikimedia Commons