Magnolia Warbler

Hey guys welcome back. The magnolia warbler is one of the most striking springtime migrants. They have a gray, black, and white back and wings, and a bright yellow throat and belly with dark black streaks. Originally, the bird was given the common name of the black and yellow warbler. Alexander Wilson, who first described the bird, named it such, while giving it the scientific species name of magnolia, since the specimen he collected was from a magnolia tree. Over time the scientific species name took over as the common name! Magnolias are common migrants in the eastern half of the US, breeding in New England and Canada.

Magnolia Warbler fall3
Fall plumaged magnolia warbler, Forest Park, St. Louis, MO

Now I don’t want to take anything away from the beauty of the magnolia warbler, but they are fairly common during migration, and as such are good birds to become familiar with so you can notice more easily birds that aren’t magnolia warblers. Kind of like knowing a song sparrow can help you ID similar looking sparrows that aren’t song sparrows. There are a number of yellow warblers with dark streaks, and being familiar with a common one like this, can help the others stand out more.

Magnolia Warbler fall2
Magnolia warbler in fall plumage. The black and white tail can be seen very clearly here. Forest Park, St. Louis, MO

A part of the bird that most might not immediately think to look at for ID purposes is under the tail. Well, in the case of warblers, it’s a good habit. In fall, many magnolia warblers have a less boldly marked upper body, and can become more easily confused with similar birds. Looking at the undertail can easily help to distinguish a magnolia from a similar warbler such as a Canada warbler. The magnolia has a white undertail with black tips, something that, no matter plumage, will set it apart from other birds.

Magnolia warblers are some of the coolest little birds, and when they start to arrive, to me anyway, signify the true peak of spring migration is on the cusp of beginning! Speaking of cool looking spring warblers, we got another one next time, the Chestnut-sided. See you all then!

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