Palm Warbler

Feathered Focus

Hey guys, welcome back! Today’s bird is the Palm Warbler. Our second (of dozens) warbler species! These little guys typically show up in April, often at the same time, or just after, the Pine Warbler. They spend their summers in Canada, and are one of the northernmost breeding warbler species. In winter, the live in the extreme southeastern U.S. (and occasionally the Pacific Coast) and the Caribbean. These warblers act more like sparrows than most warbler species as you’ll most often see them on the ground foraging. In fact, they often mix with sparrow flocks. Look for a bird that’s slightly smaller than a sparrow that is almost constantly wagging its tail up and down. The tail wag is one of the best ways to ID the Palm Warbler.

Palm Warbler (yellow)2 Yellow Palm Warbler (breeding), Central Park, NY

In my tease for this post, I incorrectly stated that the Palm Warbler comes…

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Eastern Phoebe

Feathered Focus

Hey guys, welcome back! Today is the Eastern Phoebe, one of the earliest arrivals during spring migration, at least in the east. Eastern Phoebes are members of the flycatcher family, and are one of 3 phoebe species in the U.S. (the others being Say’s Phoebe and Black Phoebe, both found out west.) Flycatchers in general are difficult birds to ID, as most of them are a dull grey or olive in color, and the Eastern Phoebe is no exception! They’re small flycatchers that are grey with a buffy, sometimes yellowish belly. They do lack the wingbars sported by other flycatchers of the same size, which can help solidify your ID.

Eastern Phoebe2 Eastern Phoebe with a fly in its beak, Concord Woods, Concord, OH

Shortly after I started my lifelist, I was doing some early spring birding on Randall’s Island. I reached an open area near the pedestrian footbridge to Manhattan and…

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Double-crested Cormorant

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Feathered Focus

Hey guys, welcome back! Today we talk about a cool, if not somewhat prehistoric-looking, waterbird; the Double-crested Cormorant! The most widespread of the number of cormorant species found in North America, the Double-crested Cormorant is all over the place in New York City, where I first saw one. I was riding my bike up the East River in Brooklyn, and stopped on one of the piers to admire the view of Manhattan across the river. This was years before I started working in Central Park and started birding. I had no idea what these birds were. I actually thought they were loons. They do have a similar-ish silhouette in the water. In fact, for a few years I believed them to be loons. It wasn’t until I saw a sign along the water (I think at Gantry Plaza Park in Queens, but I could be wrong) about them and discovered…

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Pied-billed Grebe

Feathered Focus

Hey guys, welcome back! Today is our first grebe species. But, just what the heck is a grebe? They kinda look like if a duck crossed with a heron, and the offspring had the most awkward features of both. Grebes are currently in their own taxonomic order, though their place within bird taxonomy has been debated for decades. Currently, they are grouped most closely with flamingoes of all things. One thing that seems conclusive is that grebes are an ancient lineage, potentially having ancestors from the cretaceous period! Though they swim and dive like a duck might, they do not have webbed feet. Instead, they have lobed toes, like the American Coot from a previous post. They also swim kind of more like frogs than ducks. All around, grebes are strange little birds.

Pied-billed Grebe Pied-billed Grebe, Central Park, New York

The Pied-billed Grebe is the most common grebe species in the…

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