A couple of ‘colourless’ warblers

When we think of warblers, we usually have a mental picture of green or yellowish birds. Well, here are two which are out of the ordinary. The males are black and white–with no yellowy green at all.
The Blackpoll Warbler (Dendroica striata) has a generally striped body, black and brownish on the back; black and white on the sides. You very easily can identify the male bird by a jet black cap and white cheeks.
He also has a bit of black mustache.
The female also is quite streaked but this time with greenish grey. She has no black cap, and her streaks are not nearly so prominent.
Both have white underparts.
The winter plumage is very different. Both males and females become sort of olivey on their back parts, and greenish yellow below. They both have two white wing bars (winter and summer)
A lot of warblers do this colour change. They may be really colourful in the spring and early summer when they are all dolled up in their breeding plumage.
But in the fall, most of them turn dull and drab–olive yellow, green until spring brings back the urge to really look good again.
The Blackpoll’s song is not really very much. A steady, high-pitched, insect-like “Wee-wee-wee-wee- . . .” getting louder and softer. And that’s about it.
This warbler nests in the boreal forest, up to about as far north as you can find trees. It seems to require spruce. And as with all warblers, its diet is wholly insects.
We, who depend so much on the forests, should be very thankful they are with us.
Incidentally, the word “poll” is an old English word meaning the top of the head.
The Black and White Warbler (Mniotilta varia) is anything but yellow or green. The male is just black and white, and the whole body has lines which are clearly marked out.
He has a clearly striped head, with a broad white line in the middle.
The female is not quite so clear. She may have brownish or tan markings instead of the stark lines of the male.
Their winter plumage does not have the big change that a lot of other warblers do. The lines tend to become more brownish than black, and they tend to become blurred.
This warbler also has some very unwarbler-like habits. It is often seen running around trunks or big branches of trees, which no other warblers do.
In its constant search for food, it finds a lot in the crevices of bark, like the nuthatches and creepers do. And it rarely nests in trees but usually builds on the ground, with its nest tucked in behind a rock or a stump.
Its song isn’t very special, either. If you were to sort of half-whisper “we-see, we-see, we-see, we-see” for a minute or two, that’s just about it.
The Black and White Warbler is a widespread little one, breeding all the way from the Yukon across Canada, south of James Bay, to the east coast.
Both of these odd-coloured warblers winter away down in Central and South America, as well as in the most southerly parts of the United States.
Well, these are two warblers which have quite different characteristics from the run-of-the-mill ones. They are easy to identify, and not too hard to find, either.

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