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If the Cerulean Warbler is sitting in a very tall tree, which is where they are usually seen, and the background is a blue sky, then it will be very difficult to see this bird because its coloration is sky blue above with an even brighter blue on the crown.
However, it does have white below and a dark blue narrow breast band and side streaks on a somewhat big belly.
Unlike most of the little wood warblers that have slender pointed beaks, this 4-and-three-quarter-inch long bird with a 7-and-three-quarter-inch wingspan has a beak that is rather stout and blunt tipped.
Like many of the warblers, this one also forages high in the forest canopy, methodically searching for insects from within the foliage. They seem to only come down from the treetops on damp days. Their preference is deciduous trees near wet areas or rivers, however sometimes they will choose ridge tops.
It is not an attractive singer, but is a persistent one. The song tends to sound like the buzz of summer to an ordinary listener. It has been described as a high musical buzz; “tzeedl-tzeedl-tzeedl-ti-ti-ti-tzeeeeee.”
The Cerulean Warbler seems to be fairly widespread in the Cumberland Plateau and Cumberland Mountains, but west of that area, across the commonwealth, it is less common and is definitely showing a population decline. This species was much more plentiful when Kentucky was heavily forested. Any heavy disturbing of the forest is not tolerated, and the Cerulean Warbler will quickly abandon the area.
This warbler breeds from southern New York, southern Ontario, southern Wisconsin, southern Minnesota and southeast Nebraska south to Delaware, northern Georgia, central Alabama, Louisiana, and northeast Texas. It winters from Venezuela to central Peru.
It can show up in Kentucky as early as April 4, but more commonly the last two weeks of that month. Nesting may start the first week of May with most clutches completed by mid-month, with families visible during the month of June. These warblers start migrating south from mid-August to early September, but they can be seen as late as Oct. 20.
The Cerulean Warbler seems to prefer oak trees for nesting. The nest is placed on a horizontal branch 20-to-60-feet above the ground and 10-to-20-feet from the trunk and typically over an open area. It is dainty and compactly built gray, knot-like shallow structure that is made of fine grasses, plant fibers, bark strips, weed stems and mosses with lichens neatly interwoven. It is lined with fine fibers, mosses and hair. Usually bound on the outside with spider silk, the nest is very shallow and un-warblerlike.
The outside diameter is 2-and-three-quarter-inches, height is 1-and-three-quarter-inches to 2-inches, inside diameter is 1-and-three-quarter-inches inches to 1-and-seven-eighths-inches with the depth being seven-eights-of-an-inch to 1 inch.
The female lays three to five, commonly four grayish white, creamy white or greenish white smooth shelled eggs with a slight gloss. They are peppered, spotted, or blotched with brown and usually wreathed at the larger end. She probably incubates for 12 to 13 days.
Warblers present a real challenge to birdwatchers, however, their beauty, once you can observe them, quickly regenerates your enthusiasm in the great outdoors.
To read more columns about birds by Horace Brown, visit www.SentinelNews.com/recreation. Horace Brown is a civil/sanitary engineer, land surveyor and nature photographer and writer. To contact him or order a copy of Brown’s 2014 Eagles, Falcons, Hawks & Vultures Calendar, E-mail email@example.com, call 502-682-7711 or write 527 Main St., Shelbyville 40065.