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The Black-throated Blue Warbler is another one of those beautiful little wood warblers that hang out in southeastern Kentucky in the Cumberland Mountains and especially in the higher elevations, such as Black Mountain. However, we may see this bird all across the Commonwealth during the spring and autumn migrations.
It is a fairly large and somewhat robust warbler and is among the tamest and most trusting of the warbler family. If you move very slowly, you may approach within a few feet of the Black-throated Blue Warbler. Look for striking black around the face and flanks, which contrasts with dark blue upperparts, white under parts, and a bold white wing patch on a 5-and-a-quarter inch frame with a 7-and-three-quarter inch wingspan. Despite being a bird of mature forests, it is usually found foraging in the midstory or shrub type trees.
The song that you might here is a raspy, zeeer zeeer-zeeer zeeeee with the last note always higher and rising.
It breeds from southern Quebec, central Ontario and northern Minnesota south to northern Connecticut, the north Georgia mountains, southern Ontario, northern Michigan and central Minnesota. They prefer coniferous trees in the northern portion of their breeding range and deciduous trees in the southern. In migration, they can occur as far west as Kansas.
Winter will find this bird species from the Florida Keys and the Bahamas through the Greater Antilles and on into Guatemala and Colombia. There is grave concern about the future of the Black-throated Blue Warbler because of the severe devastation of its wintering grounds south of the border.
Finding nests of warblers requires an immense amount of patience, and only a sincere bird lover will have any success. For the Black-throated Blue Warbler look for a nest built close to the ground and about one to four feet above the ground in a low tree or shrub. They seem to be partial to rhododendron, mountain laurel, hemlock or maple. The nest is well concealed yet bulky and is constructed of shreds of dead wood, papery bark, twigs, bud scales and leaves. It is anchored and woven together with spider and insect webbing and lined with fine black rootlets and hair.
The female does most of the building in about four days. However, the male may bring materials and occasionally may shape the nest. The outside diameter is 3-and-a-half inches, the height is 2-and-a-quarter to 5 inches, the inside diameter is 2 inches, and the depth is 1-and-a-half inches. The female lays 3 to 5 white to creamy-white smooth-shelled eggs with no gloss. There are two types of markings – one has spots of two or three brown shades with gray undertones and the other has one brown shade with a drab undertone. The female alone in 11 to 13 days incubates the eggs.
I strongly urge you to try to spend a birding weekend in the Black Mountain area of Harlan County. Try to reserve a room for Friday and Saturday in the old renovated Benham School House Hotel. You will find so many varied bird species on Black Mountain that are much different than what you are accustomed to in central Kentucky.
It will be like bird watching in Canada, but instead you will be inside the boundary of Kentucky 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 firstname.lastname@example.org, call 502-682-7711 or write 527 Main St., Shelbyville 40065.