Warblers help protect us from insects

You would expect birds whose names start with Tennessee, Magnolia, Nashville, and Maryland to be native to the south.
But they’re not. They live and breed right here in the north.
A lot of them were discovered by Audubon, and the names indicate where they were first seen.
Others of these little birds are named because of their colour—Yellow, Black-and-White, Chestnut-sided, and so on.
These warblers all belong to one family, the Parulidae, properly called the Wood Warblers. They are native to the Americas only, and have no counterparts anywhere else in the world.
It is a large family—57 species in all. Of these, 42 have been seen in Canada, and 25 or so should be seen in the southern parts of Northern Ontario.
For us, living in a forest environment, these are probably the most important birds in the whole area.
Their importance is due to the fact that they are insect-eaters. Almost all of their food is insects, or the larvae of insects, of which they eat prodigious amounts.
It is estimated that an adult bird needs about 40 percent of its body weight just to maintain itself. That would be equivalent to a 100-pound girl eating 40 pounds of food a day!
The young birds, however, need much more than 40 percent to keep up their very rapid growth. In one observation, a pair of warblers delivered a beakful of insects to their young at four-minute intervals from dawn until dusk.
Imagine the number of insects eaten by this one brood—and many will rear two or three broods a year if the conditions are right.
Some day, watch carefully for the goings-on in the top areas of the pine or poplar trees. You will see little birds, generally flitting almost silently from place to place, some examining leaves, some searching the bark, and some catching insects in the air.
You should be able to spot quite a few in just a little while.
These little birds, smaller than most sparrows, are marathon migrators. Most winter in Central or South America, although their normal breeding grounds may be far to the north of us.
They migrate at night in huge flocks. On a really still night in the fall, listen carefully. You may hear continuous tiny chirpings in the air above you.
These are the warblers leaving the country.
If you have a cabin, you may find it inundated some morning as masses of them stop to look for food for their long trip.
Warblers are called precise migrants—that is, they arrive and leave at just about the same time every year, whereas robins and many others don’t move until the weather is suitable.
This means that they are very susceptible to unusual weather. A hard frost which kills off a lot of insects also can do away with a large quantity of these little birds.
When that happens, it is a great pity. In an area like ours, full of trees, we need all the warblers we have.

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