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Waves of Warblers

5-19-14 -A. Redstart 012Birders wait with great anticipation for the waves of warblers that pass through New England in May. Flocks, or waves, often consist of several species, with the males’ plumages presenting a variety of brilliant colors, making the search for these fast-moving, tiny birds well worth the effort. Returning from their wintering grounds in Central and South America, some warblers make non-stop flights covering more than a thousand miles at a time. When they stop to refuel, their search for insects is incessant. As they hunt for insects in the canopy, often amongst flowering trees such as this Red Oak, American Redstart males (pictured) often flash their wings and tail, both of which have brilliant orange feathers on them, startling an insect long enough to give the Redstart a chance to consume it.

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6 responses

  1. Does that mean that the insects have color vision?

    May 19, 2014 at 1:21 pm

    • Hi Susan,
      My understanding is that most adult insects have compound eyes and can distinguish colors. However, the majority have just two types of color pigment receptors, and, as a result, they are not so good at distinguishing pure colors from mixtures of colors. Their color spectrum is limited, but apparently between the movement of the Redstart’s wings and tail, and the colors, they take notice! Great question.

      May 19, 2014 at 9:38 pm

  2. Doreen Morse

    Your timing is excellent. Yesterday, at Plum Island, Ma., there were many kinds of warbler in evidence, including Redstart, Parula, Yellow, Black and White, and Blackburnian…all in the top of an Oak in flower.

    May 19, 2014 at 1:32 pm

  3. Kathryn

    We have had the most gorgeous indigo bunting on the ground below our feeder for the last several evenings. He surely makes the other birds pale in comparison. I have only seen these several times in my life so this is very exciting! This is in Fairfax, VT, by the way.

    May 19, 2014 at 3:24 pm

    • Hi Kathryn,
      Did you know that certain feather colors are produced by the structure of the feather, rather than pigment? Tiny air pockets in the barbs of feathers can scatter incoming light, producing the color blue, which is exactly what happens with indigo buntings in the sun!

      May 19, 2014 at 9:42 pm

  4. That photo would make a beautiful greeting card!

    May 21, 2014 at 1:22 am

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