2022: Spring Migration- “The Magnificent Magnolia Warbler”

Spring of 2022, one of my goals – get better images of spring migrants!

The Magnolia Warbler (Setophaga magnolia) is a member of the wood-warbler family. The active, confiding Magnolia Warbler is fairly easy to find during its biannual migrations through the eastern and central United States. The male is especially eye-catching — a combination of bright yellow and black, with striking white wing and tail patches. Female and juvenile “maggies” are similarly colored, but in more muted tones.

The Magnolia Warbler in breeding plumage has black or black and green upperparts, a gray head with a white eyeline, a yellow throat and underparts, and heavy black streaking on the sides. A white bar across the center of a black tail can be seen in flight.

Ornithologist Alexander Wilson first described this species in 1810, based on a specimen he collected from a magnolia tree in Mississippi, no doubt during migration. Although he used “Black-and-yellow Warbler” as the bird’s English name, it was the Latin species name, “magnolia,” that stuck.   A more accurate name for the Magnolia Warbler would be the “Spruce Warbler,” after its favored boreal nesting habitat.

Like many Neotropical migrants, the Magnolia Warbler migrates at night, mostly east of the Great Plains, although it is a rare but regular vagrant to the western U.S. Its southbound journey takes it across the Gulf of Mexico to wintering grounds in Mexico, Central America, and the Caribbean, where it occupies a wide variety of leafy habitats, from forests and scrub to agroforestry settings including shade coffee, cacao, and citrus farms.

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