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Brooklyn Bird Watch: March 24

Orange-crowned Warbler. Scientific Name: Leiothlypis celata

March 24, 2022 Joseph Palmer
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Today, Brooklyn Bird Watch features a Heather Wolf photo of the Orange-crowned Warbler, seen in Brooklyn Bridge Park. The Cornell Lab reminds us that this bird is not the most “dazzling” of the warbler family.  Looking at Ms Wolf’s photo one might ask, and it’s a good question; “Where is the orange crown?” The orange crown is usually only visible when the bird is excited and raises its head feathers.

We are told that the song patterns of the male Orange-crowned Warbler are so varied that the male can be distinguished from the female via its song. Orange-crowned Warblers have what’s called “song neighborhoods.” A “song neighborhood” is where several birds in adjacent territories learn and mimic each other’s songs. These songs can persist for years.

The Orange-crowned Warblers begin their spring migration earlier, stay later on the breeding grounds, and winter farther north than most other warblers. Food rather than the length of the day length seems to drive their migratory calendar, as it has been documented that they begin to leave the breeding grounds when the cold or drought limit the supplies of insects.

Audubon says the Orange-crowned Warbler’s numbers are stable and because of its wintering range and habitat, it probably is not affected by tropical deforestation.

The males arrive on breeding grounds before the females, and establish territory by singing. Males return to territories defended the previous year. They like to build their nests under overhanging vegetation on the ground in small depressions, or on steep banks, and sometimes in low shrubbery bushes or trees.

The Female builds a small, open cup nest of leaves, fine twigs, bark, coarse grass and moss; lined with dry grass or animal hair. The male does not help with nest building, but accompanies the female closely.

Wikipedia gives us some history of the Orange-crowned Warbler. It was formally described in 1822 by the American zoologist Thomas Say under the name Sylvia celatus from a specimen collected on an expedition from Pittsburg to the Rocky Mountains led by Stephen Harriman Long.  The Latin epithet means “secret” or “hidden.”

The Orange-crowned Warbler is now placed in the genus Leiothlypis that was introduced by the Dutch ornithologist George Sangster in 2008.  The genus name is derived from the ancient Greek word “leios” meaning “plain” and “thlupis”, an unknown small bird mentioned by none other than Aristotle.

While searching for sightings of the Orange-crowned Warbler in Brooklyn, I came across an interesting website called The Linnaean Society of New York where they post a “New York Area Rare Bird Alert,” I found two entries so far this year for the Orange-crowned Warbler.

February 11: ORANGE-CROWNED WARBLER was noted this week at Jamaica Bay Wildlife Refuge and at the New York Botanical Garden. And on February 22: ORANGE-CROWNED WARBLERS continue (to appear I presume that means) at Randall’s Island and at Battery Park City.


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