Yellow warbler. Gillfoto


Growing up in Mississippi I would often hear the old timers refer to the small yellow birds we’d see in the spring and summer as “wild canaries”. But a wild canary is a small, yellow finch that originated on the Macaronesian Islands halfway around the globe. The yellow birds I saw growing up weren’t canaries. Even so, they were just as exotic. They were a group of birds known as “wood warblers”. Each spring, warblers travel from South America, Central America and the Caribbean Islands to the U.S and Canada. They come by the millions. Some are passing through, but many come here to raise their young.

At Valentine Farm, 20 different types of warblers have been recorded. Unfortunately, many go their whole life barely noticing these exotic visitors. Because of this, I’ll focus on these birds in the coming weeks. They come in a variety of patterns and colors including bright yellow, blue, blaze orange and green. With those colors, you’d think we’d see them everywhere. But they are able to blend into our forests and hedgerows.

For birders, warblers can be a challenge. Distinguishing between a Yellow Warbler (Photo by Gillfoto) and a Blue-winged Warbler takes some practice. Finding them high in the trees can be even harder. In fact, the best way to find them is to learn their songs. That, of course, takes some practice. Visit to watch a short video and listen to the song of the Yellow Warbler.

Normally, we would host walks at Valentine Farm to look for warblers and other spring arrivals. We aren’t doing that during this time of social distancing. However, you can get out on your own. Don’t worry. You don’t have to be an expert to enjoy these birds. Now, before the leaves are out, is the best time to see them. Watch for small birds flitting in the tree tops. A good pair of binoculars will help.

If you are out on May 9, consider participating in eBird’s Global Big Day. This is a day when birders around the world join in to identify as many different types of birds as they can in a 24-hour period. Last year, more than 30,000 people reported over 7,000 different types of birds. All of those sightings were entered into eBird, an online database, that scientists use to study trends in birds. So, get out and see what you can find – just do it from a safe distance. Who knows, you may get lucky and see a “wild canary”.

James Reddoch, of Albany Township and Boston, leads birding events for the Mahoosuc Land Trust. Visit Mahoosuc Land Trust at 162 North Road, Bethel, ME. To learn more about the Mahoosuc region go to To contact James, send your emails to [email protected].

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