Feathered Friends

By John Keeling

First Fall Warblers


WarblersI know fall has arrived when the first Wilson’s Warblers arrive in my garden in Ajijic. These are fairly common yellow birds somewhat smaller than a sparrow. The lower parts are yellow to greenish yellow, and the upper parts are greenish yellow to olive. The male has a distinctive small black cap on top of its head, while the female and immatures have either no cap or a hint of a cap.

In spring and summer the male develops a bright yellow body as its breeding plumage, which is what is typically shown in the bird books. You may notice the tail is often cocked, and has a characteristic tail wave or tail flip. The call is a high pitched: “chik, chik, chik.”

You can observe these little birds in bushes and vines from two to six feet off the ground, always on the move, hopping from branch to branch, continuously foraging. They are looking principally for small insects, leaf hoppers, caterpillars, wasps, ants and also minor quantities of seeds and small berries.

They spend the summer in sub-artic regions from Alaska to Newfoundland, as well as along the pacific coast from Oregon to California. They build nests on or just above ground level well hidden under willow trees, tall grasses or blackberry tangles near water. Designed for a quick turn-around in the short, unpredictable northern summer, the eggs take only 14 days to hatch and the young are flying within another 12 days. Researchers studying nesting habits of Wilson’s Warblers near the Arctic Circle one year found five chicks in a nest wiped out by an unexpected heavy snowfall in July.

When the far north cools off in August, these birds start migrating nocturnally, following major flyways through the central states, heading for winter feeding grounds from Mexico to Panama. They will rest at spots where they find plentiful insects, stopping for four days at a time to replenish body fat to use on the next stage of the journey. A month later, in September, when it gets cooler in Oregon, the Pacific Coast birds move down the coast to winter in Western Mexico and Ajijic.

In March the West-Coast birds start heading north, while the others in Central America wait another month for the far north to start defrosting before they travel. The males go about two weeks ahead of the females in order to select nesting territories. They will often go back to the same nesting area they used in the previous year.

Wilson’s Warblers are not afraid of humans, so you will often see them in your garden, approaching close to your house, particularly if you have vines or bushes for them to hunt for insects. Look out for them.

Editor’s Note: John and Rosemary Keeling lead ‘Los Audubonistas del Lago’ which is a loose-knit group of people interested in birds. To receive notices of bird-walks please leave your e-mail address at www.avesajijic.com.

Pin It
The Resilience of Our Mexican Friends By Leah Jewall   Friends from San Ignacio had stopped by for tea. Fifteen minutes later the torrential downpour
Wondrous Wildlife By Vern and Lori Gieger Mickey, Minnie and Friends   Mice, there are approximately 1,100 species in this enormous group and
Feathered Friends By John Keeling   The cattle egret is a medium-small white heron, eighteen inches long, having a wingspan of 36 inches. It can
Editor’s PageBy Alejandro Grattan-DominguezGod Bless Our Four-legged Friends The two most often heard complaints by foreigners living here at Lakeside
LAKESIDE FRIENDS OF THE ANIMALS—Speaking for Those Who Can’t Speak for Themselves By Elyn McEvoy   A popular statue found in many area gardens
Wordwise With Pithy Wit By Tom Clarkson   This morning, my pal F.T. – who shared the Iraq experience with me during my third trek there – forwarded
LAKESIDE LIVING Kay Davis Phone: 376 – 108 – 0278 (or 765 – 3676 to leave messages) Email: kdavis987@gmail.com November
Front Row Center By Michael Warren    The Pajama Game By Richard Adler and Jerry Ross Directed by Peggy Lord Chilton Music directed
Every Word  Important By Herbert W. Piekow   Every word a writer writes has meaning yes, sometimes they never get published or the book
  VICTORIA SCHMIDT   Column: Editor’s Page   Website:   Victoria Schmidt came to Mexico with her husband, in 2007. 
 Find us on Facebook