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This Yellow Warbler (Dendroica petechia) boldly flew into a sunflower plant, about fifteen feet away from me. According to The Behavior of Texas Birds (2002, by Kent Rylander, University of Texas Press, Austin, TX):

They are generally unwary and easily approached and observed.

Although I was sitting quite still, I was not even trying to hide. She (or maybe a young male – no visible red streaks on breast) flew right over to snap up a few insects, and did not seem to mind the clicking of my camera.

These warblers are typically found in thickets near water, so it makes sense that it found its way to my backyard frog pond. I have left the area behind my long backyard fence-row “natural,” so it has a dense thicket and a variety of trees. Perfect for a Yellow Warbler!

A sad truth about the Yellow Warbler’s reproduction is that their nests are often “parasitized” by cowbirds. In Birds of Texas (2007, by Keith A. Arnold and Gregory Kennedy, Lone Pine Publishing International, Auburn, WA) it states:

Yellow Warblers are among the most frequent victims of nest parasitism by Brown-headed Cowbirds. Unlike many birds, they [yellow warblers] can recognize the foreign eggs and many pairs will either abandon their nest or build another nest overtop the old eggs, crating bizarre, multilayered, high-rise nests.

This is troubling to contemplate, but then I wonder about the Brown-headed Cowbird (Molothrus ater). They do not possess the ability to build a nest. Their method of survival has always been to lay eggs in other birds’ nests. It is hard to fault the very behavior that they require to survive as a species.  Still…

I learned that Brown-headed Cowbirds have drastically increased in numbers since we humans settled here – from Cornell’s Birds of North American Online:

Settlement of North America by Europeans opened eastern deciduous forests to agriculture and permitted range expansion by cowbirds from the central Great Plains (Mayfield 1965). Forest interior species, formerly isolated from parasitism by habitat, became exposed to it as forest fragmentation increased edge and provided access to cowbirds (Brittingham and Temple 1983).

I can’t say that I wish we had not settled here…I LOVE America and my home state of Texas. It seems that every time I learn of plants or animals that face challenges to their survival – it has something to do with human activities. I do not think there is a perfect answer for how to balance the needs of people with the needs of our lands and wildlife, but we definitely have choices. I choose to give as much habitat back to nature as I can! I am only one person, but if each of us chooses to do what we can, the cumulative effect will be a healthier and happier world for all.

3 Responses to “Yellow Warbler in Sunflower”

  • Hi Amber, I love the Yellow Warbler photos and I am in total agreement to we humans giving back habitat to our feathered friends. Leave the dead tree stumps, downed limbs and underbrush if at all possible. They all make great habitat for birds. Keep up the good work! This is a wonderful place to “lounge”.

  • I am so glad to find out what this bird is. I live in League City, tx and had never seen this bird before. The bird came to my water feature to get a drink of water. There was a rose limb leaning over the feature so the bird could get right up close to the water. Got lots of pictures. Looks like these. No stripes on the chest though so I figured it was a female.

    Thanks again for solving the mystery!

  • Rochell:

    I caught a bird just like this 2 times in one day cuz it flew into my work glass. I kept it in a cage for a day and let it go when it looked better. It wasn’t moving very much at first. I wasn’t sure if a pet bird was loose or what but when it started flying around trying to get out of the cage I let it go.

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