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  • Gabriel Ricketts

Black-Throated Blue Warbler: Art and Information

Illustration by Gabriel Ricketts

Identification: The Black-throated Blue Warbler (Setophaga caerulescens) is a small member of the family Parulidae or wood-warblers. The males are a brilliant deep blue above with a black face and throat, and a single, wide black stripe going down the side. Females are brownish below, and greenish brown above with a pale eye-ring and a pale eye-line. Males and females look so different that at one point they were described as different species. But the one feature of the Black-throated Blue Warbler that both males and females of all ages share is a white spot, commonly referred to as a handkerchief, on the wing close to the side. The song of the Black-throated Blue Warbler is a rather slow and lazy series of long buzzes and sometimes a clearer note. One in particular literally sounds like the bird is saying “sooo-laaa-zzzyyyy”.

Habitat: Black-throated Blue Warblers inhabit a variety of different habitats but prefer woodland undergrowth. They breed in mixed evergreen-deciduous woodlands with a thick understory of shrubs including Mountain-Laurel, Rhododendron, and Hobblebush. In migration they can be found almost anywhere with a few trees and some bushes underneath. Black-throated Blue Warblers breed throughout most of the Northeastern states and some of Southeastern Canada, as well as the Appalachian Mountains at elevations of 2,600-5,250 feet. Black-throated Blue Warblers show up in our area around late April and persist in good numbers until early June when they head up into the mountains to breed. They head south to their wintering grounds by late October.

Locations: There are many locations that you may find Black-throated Blue Warblers in our area. Here is a list of some of the public locations that Black-throated Blue Warblers have been seen so that you can get out and find them in the spring and fall:

1. Blandy Experimental Farm/State Arboretum of Virginia. Blandy Farm is a wonderful place to go birding and has a wide variety of habitats to support the birds that can be found there. The best spot for Black-throated Blue Warblers is normally the Bridle trail near Tuleyries Ln.

2. Cool Spring Battlefield Park. A wonderful riverside paved path provides great views of the wildlife in the park. Look for Black-throated Blue Warblers all along the paths.

3. Lake Frederick. The Lake Frederick hiking trails are great places for migratory songbirds. Look for Black-throated Blue Warblers along the trails and at the Boat Launch area.

4. Sky Meadows State Park. Sky Meadows is a very large and beautiful park filled with many different kinds of habitats ranging from critical grassland bird habitat to wonderful mountain forest habitat that is home to many breeding warblers. Black-throated Blue Warblers can be found throughout most of the park but are more easily found on the trails that lead into the mountains.

5. Shenandoah National Park. Shenandoah National Park is a massive expanse of mountains that begins in our area. Black-throated Blue Warblers can be found on almost every trail in the park in the Spring and Fall.

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