BLACKPOLL WARBLER – (Setophaga striata)
The Blackpoll Warbler is a small passerine part of the New World wood warblers. It is approximately 15 cm (6 in.) long. Breeding males have a black cap and white cheeks, and black streaks on their white sides and grey backs. The wings and tail are grey. They have two white bands on grey wings. The bill is grey, and the legs in this species are orange, a rarity. Females have faded streaks on their under parts, which are yellowish. Their top parts are grey with a yellow tinge. The wing white bands are present in the female as well as in immatures.
Warblers are thus called thanks to their generally melodious songs. This particular species, ‘Blackpoll’, owes its name to the black cap in the breeding male. The Latin name ‘Setophaga’ means ‘to eat moths’, in reference to the bird’s diet, and ‘striata’ means ‘stripes’, for the streaks in the plumage, mostly visible in the breeding male.
In addition to moths, the blackpoll warbler’s diet in the summer includes other insects and also arthropods such as spiders, and worms. During migration and on their breeding grounds they will add small berries to their diet. This warbler is not the easiest to observe as it usually forages at the top of trees in dense canopy. It may occasionally catch insects on the fly.
Because they have one of the longest migration routes for a warbler, this species sort of ‘catches up’ by raising two broods during their short breeding season. And as opposed to their usual foraging areas, their nests are generally built closer to the ground in a conifer, preferably spruce.
The blackpoll warbler does not breed on PEI and the bird is listed as ‘uncommon’ in spring and fall, and ‘rare’ in summer. It does breed in the Maritimes however, but that region is at the southeast end of its overall breeding range, which covers the Canadian boreal forests and the taiga, also Alaska and New England. Blackpoll warblers migrate to the northern part of South America for the winter. The migration route of this warbler has been well documented, and with the Ruby-throated Hummingbird, has one of the longest non-stop flights over water relative to the body mass.
Conservation: although the IUCN and COSEWIC do not consider the blackpoll warbler as a species of concern due to its widespread range and still high numbers, the population has decreased over the last few decades by as much as 50%. Because of this it has been listed as a ‘species in steep decline’ by The State of the Birds Report 2014 – United States of America.