About us: We own the Wild Birds Unlimited nature shop in East Lansing, Michigan,
a store that provides a wide variety of supplies to help you enjoy the birdwatching hobby.

This blog was created to answer frequently asked questions & to share nature stories and photographs.
To contribute, email me at bloubird@gmail.com.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Mystery bird: Orange-Crowned Warbler?

I'm wondering how many emails to you start with some variation of "Sorry for the poor quality of the picture..." 

So, sorry for the poor picture. I've been trying to get a photo of this one for some time, but it's very skittish. This was a rare convergence of "bird" & "camera already in hand." I had to tilt far to one side, with my right foot hooked around the leg of an end table to keep my balance, just to get a clear view. I managed this one shot before the bird skittered away.

I often see it when the goldfinches are around, but it appears different to me. The shape of the head seems more delicate, and the color is more evenly spread around the body.

Maybe a warbler of some sort? Maybe a pine siskin? Maybe a goldfinch and I'm just imagining things? Joy K. North Central Texas

I suspect that it is an Orange-crowned Warbler. I hope that’s right because I’m patting myself on the back for getting better at naming these mystery birds from across the country. This warbler is not normally seen in mid-Michigan (where our Wild Birds Unlimited - East Lansing store is located).

Orange-crowned Warbler (Vermivora celata) is a small warbler distinguished by having no distinguishing markings. This songbird has olive-grey upperparts, yellowish underparts with faint streaking and a thin pointed bill. An orange patch on the crown is usually concealed except during courtship or when alarmed. They also have a faint line over their eyes and a faint broken eye ring. Females and immature birds are duller in color than males.

Orange-crowned Warblers don't migrate as far south in the fall as most warblers, with many staying in the southern United States. They are bug eaters and will also feed on tree sap, berries, and fruit. In the winter, as you’ve discovered, they can approach nectar, seed, or suet feeders for a quick bite. They are usually solitary birds, but after nesting season they may be found mixed in with flocks of chickadees, goldfinch, vireos, or other bird groups.

For more pictures and information you can look up Orange-crowned Warbler on the Migratory Bird Center Website at:

Thank you very much for your photo and question. I hope everyone is participating in the
Great Backyard Bird Count (GBBC).

1 comment:

Joy K said...

Thank you for your quick identification. It really irks me when I can't put a name to a regular visitor to my buffet line. I read about LBJs (little brown jobs), but there are an astounding number of LYFTs (little yellow finchy things) in the reference books.

Now I can say "Look, honey! The orange-crowned warbler is out there!" This sounds so much better than "Look honey! That bird, the yellowish one that doesn't look much like the other goldfinches is out there!"