Monday, April 5, 2021

The Secretive Warbler


Oil on Panel - 4 x 4 inches

     “The Connecticut Warbler is a strange rare bird ; a walker instead of a hopping bird ; a bird that is hard to find even when it is in the neighborhood ; a bird which comes north by one route and returns by another, and is almost lost to the world in both breeding and winter feeding seasons.”1  

     During the spring migration when I’m at my desk working on a painting, I practice lots of birding by ear. I quite like the challenge because it really tests my memory and separates that sense of hearing from all my other senses. On May 24, 2017, I heard a bird from my window that I’d never heard before, so I ventured outside with my camera into the woods. It didn’t take long for me to find this bird singing on a branch about 12 feet high, and at the time I had no idea that I was looking at, and photographing, a Connecticut Warbler. Since then, I’ve learned it’s a bird many serious birders hope to see in their lifetimes. I have not heard the bird come through my neck of the woods since, but of course that doesn’t mean it hasn’t. 
     That particular day turned out to be a spectacular migration day because I got photos of several species of warblers and many other birds. May is my favorite month to go birding in Duluth, especially in my backyard. 
     In the spring, Connecticut Warblers migrate from South America, through the Caribbean, into the northern reaches towards the Great Lakes, specifically northern Minnesota, northern Wisconsin, and Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. In the fall, these birds shift their migration eastward and travel southbound along the Atlantic coast, then across the ocean to South America. With a warming climate, this bird’s breeding range is expected to shift north, moving them out of the lower 48 states and further into Canada. 
     My painting, a representation of my photograph, depicts a male because of its gray head and the fact that it was singing. Females have brown or brownish-gray heads. These birds like to nest on the ground in woody wetlands and sphagnum moss found in bogs. If you decide to head out to a bog in search of this bird, be prepared to get your feet wet and carry lots of bug spray. Minnesota has more bogs than any other state besides Alaska, so with a little luck and persistence, maybe you’ll be able to spot this bird too, either in its habitat or on its migration route. Either way, it would be a fine sighting and I wish you good luck!



1Pearson, T. Gilbert. Birds of America. Garden City Publishing Co. Inc., New York. 1936.

Information from the All About Birds website,, © Cornell Lab of Ornithology. Retrieved April 5, 2021.

Information from the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources website,, © 2021 Minnesota DNR. Retrieved April 5, 2021.

Kaufman, Kenn. n.d. Connecticut Warbler. Audubon. Retrieved April 5, 2021.

National Geographic Society. (1999) National Geographic Field Guide to the Birds of North America. (3rd ed.). Washington D.C.: National Geographic Society.

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