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Bird Bio: Black-throated Gray Warbler

By: Liz Williams, Education Specialist (AmeriCorps)

Black-throated Gray Warbler

One of the first warblers to arrive in the Klamath-Siskiyou Bioregion of southern Oregon and northern California each spring is the Black-throated Gray Warbler. Starting in late March, you may see this elegant migrant, returning from its wintering grounds in Mexico. This striking species summers in a variety of habitats in the western United States and as far north as southwest British Columbia. Spanning thousands of miles and multiple cultures in its travels, this species is truly a “bird for all” in North America. This warbler is distinguished from its close relatives, Townsend’s and Hermit warblers, by its gray and white plumage, lack of yellow plumage except for a spot of yellow in front of the eye, and bold white wings bars. Identifying this bird by its’ song can be a challenge. Listen for a series of sharp, buzzy notes usually followed by a descending slurred note. This species is usually an active insect feeder of the mid-canopy. In our region, it can be found in a variety of habitats, from the canyon live-oak woodlands and chaparral habitat of the Klamath Mountains to the mixed-oak/conifer transition zone of the western Cascade foothills. The Black-throated Gray Warbler is often one of the last migrant warblers to leave its breeding grounds in the fall, so look for it in the region well into October.

References: Birds of Oregon. Corvallis: Oregon State University Books, 2003. A Field Guide to Birds of North America (Peterson Field Guide Series). Boston: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 1997.

This article appears in KBO’s Fall 2009 Newsletter.