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Postcards from the North: Fall Warblers

When the first notes of autumn are being scribed on falling leaves, a group of delicate and colorful birds make their way from the north country to milder climes, winging ahead of the downturn in temperatures. As they pass through farms, fields and forests their Midwest flyway brings the Warblers through the heart of Chicago, and many seek respite in our parks until they dive back into the sky again to complete their journey. This migration happens twice a year: once in the spring and once in the fall. If you have a pair of binoculars handy, it's a chance to spot a few birds you might not see again for another 8 months. The warblers I know are varied in coloration, however most are characteristically adept in their vocalization, and are active in nature, bouncing from leave litter to bending branch and back again. If you are like me and take an interest in the never-ending cycle of nature that wraps and winds its arms around the progress of man, then you might want to take a lunch break and go out to the park in search of these birds. The nice thing about fall warblers is that you aren’t looking for a needle in a haystack. Fall warblers are active birds and although they may be a little quieter than spring warblers, they will chip and chirp in the branches and will move from tree to tree eating insects and sometimes small dead leaves. Most warblers like to be close to water, so seek out ponds and rivers and then turn your gaze upward. These birds will be jumping from branch to branch actively and some will be in large groups. They may stay in the area for a few weeks or be gone in a day, so don’t procrastinate.

A handful of warblers at this time of year pose a challenge when it comes to identification due to their similar colorations; however there are a plethora of sites online that can help even the novice birder. I’ve included above a sample of the warblers I have seen over the past three weeks at McKinley Park here in Chicago. You can find these warblers scattered throughout practically every city in the US at this time of year. 

For more information on bird watching in your city, check out these birding forums online: