Wood Warblers, sometimes called New World Warblers, are small birds that love to sing and eat insects. There are 46 known species of warblers that visit Texas, with a few other species that are considered vagrants. The spring and fall migrations of warblers are something to see, sometimes just for the sheer volume of them. Some warblers are LBB (little brown birds) but many are extremely colorful. Due to the number of species of these bright little birds, this article will be one in a series as I try to capture all the ways you can find and identify each warbler. If you are bird watching in Houston, Texas, you will definitely enjoy looking for warblers. Below are some of the warblers you may see.
Blue-winged Warbler. Look for these little birds while bird watching in Houston, Texas pastures, thickets and fields, especially where there is underbrush. It can be identified by its black eyeline, yellow head and underparts, and blue-grey wings. Despite being brightly colored, it is easy to overlook these little songbirds while bird watching in Houston, Texas, so take the time to identify them.
Golden-winged Warbler. This small, striking warbler can be found in Houston, Texas during April, usually on abandoned farmlands or in the open woods, one of the birds that is actually benefitting from deforestation. This warbler and the above Blue-winged are closely related and often hybridize (crossbreed), producing the Brewster’s and Lawrence’s warblers. The male has a black mask and a yellow crown, with a bright yellow wing patch.
Tennessee Warbler. You can identify this little warbler while bird watching during the spring, (before it leaves Houston, Texas), by its bright green back, white breast and grey head. They also have a short tail. Look for them high in the trees in forests, where they sometimes use porcupine quills to create their nests. They migrate back to Houston, Texas in the fall. One funny fact about this bird is that it breeds over 600 miles away from Tennessee and winters over 1,400 miles away as well. It got its name when it was discovered in Tennessee during its migration. Tennessee Warblers feed primarily on spruce budworm, and its population goes up and down with the population of the worm.
Orange-crowned Warbler. This little songbird can be found in Houston, Texas from the fall through the spring, but not during summer. This warbler has a gray-green feathers, with a yellow rump and a yellowish-green breast. Look for this warbler in forests, usually low in the bushes. These birds can be confused with Tennessee Warblers; tell them apart while bird watching in Houston, Texas by the Orange-crowned’s yellow bottom.
Nashville Warbler. A beautiful warbler you’ll recognize by its olive green back and wings, along with its bright yellow breast and white, prominent eyering. You’ll see it while bird watching during the fall in Houston, Texas in woodland areas. These little birds breed up north, where they build their nests on the ground.
Northern Parula. These small warblers can be found while bird watching near bodies of water in the woods of Houston, Texas. They have black and red bands across their yellow breasts, and blue-grey heads and wings. They migrate earlier than most, usually around March. Northern Parulas nest at High Island, and prefer woods with Spanish moss and Usnea lichen that they use to weave their nests.
Yellow Warbler. This is a bright yellow bird with red streaks on its breast and a thin, pointed bill. They are common on the coast of Texas, and also in Houston’s wet habitats such as willow groves. Brown-headed Cowbirds will often build their nests on top of the Yellow Warbler’s, but this warbler simply builds another nest on top. This can go on for about six layers!
Chestnut-sided Warbler. Look for the black mask , green-yellow cap and lime green back of these warblers while bird watching in the fall (their spring plumage is different). At one time these birds were quite rare, but they are now quite common in new forests (recently cleared) and overgrown Houston, Texas fields. When the Chestnut Warbler winters in Central America, it joins flocks of antwrens and tropical warblers. When it returns from Houston, Texas the following year, it will often rejoin that same flock.
Magnolia Warbler. These birds are more common in the spring in Houston, Texas, and can usually be found foraging in the low bushes of woodlands. You can identify these very pretty birds while bird watching by their black face mask, yellow breast and throat, and by the way they frequently fan their tails, showing white patches on either side. This warbler was named for the fact that the first identified specimen was collected from a magnolia tree.
Cape May Warbler. This a rare bird for Houston, Texas, mostly sighted in the spring on the Upper Texas Coast. Look for them while bird watching in forests with dense trees. Breeding males have bright chestnut ear patches, a yellow chest with thin black stripes, and a yellow rump. They also have a tubular tongue they use to feed on nectar and berry juice.
Black-throated Blue Warbler. These warblers are rare in Houston, Texas, and your best chance of seeing them is either
in the spring or fall migrations. They prefer dense thickets and woodland understory, but can sometimes be seen in parks and gardens. Males are dark enough to be almost black in the shade, and females are olive green with white eyebrows and a white wing patch. They have short thin bills that will help you distinguish them while bird watching in Houston, Texas.
Yellow-rumped Warbler. This is the most commonly seen warbler in Houston, Texas from October through early May. You will easily identify them while bird watching by their bright yellow rumps, as the name implies. They are also fairly large for warblers, with big heads and long narrow tails. During the winter they are softly marked little brown birds, but their spring plumage is bright yellow, boldly marked gray and black, with a white throat and breast.