[Tweeters] A Question and a Comment

Wayne Weber contopus at telus.net
Thu May 14 13:30:22 PDT 2015

Joshua and Tweeters,

The songs of Townsend’s and Black-throated Grays are definitely similar, but they can usually be distinguished from each other. Townsend’s songs tend to be higher-pitched, thinner-sounding, and a bit slower in delivery; B.T. Grays are lower-pitched, more buzzy-sounding, and a bit faster. However, there are some “intermediate” songs which are hard to pin down. Based on birds that I hear first and then see later, I probably misidentify birds about 5% to 10% of the time based on songs. (That is to say, the songs can be separated about 90% to 95% of the time.)

Once the migration is finished, habitat is also helpful. In western Washington, Townsend’s breed most commonly at higher altitudes (2500 feet and above), although they do breed rarely down to sea level in some areas. They prefer pure conifer forests, especially older forests. Black-throated Grays, on the other hand, breed at lower altitudes (mostly from sea level up to 3000 feet). They like second-growth forests, either conifer forests or mixed forests, and are sometimes found in pure deciduous stands. In other parts of their range, B.T. Grays also breed in oak woodlands and in pinyon-juniper forests-- i.e., in much more open stands than you would ever find a Townsend’s.

This does not even address the Hermit Warbler, whose song is somewhat similar to both the Townsend’s and B.T. Gray, and which breeds commonly from about the Seattle area southward. The Hermit Warbler also hybridizes frequently with Townsend’s in the southern Cascades, so identifying these warblers by song in the southern Cascades is very tricky. If you find the situation somewhat confusing, you’re not the only one!

Good luck and good birding,

Wayne C. Weber

Delta, BC

contopus at telus.net

From: tweeters-bounces at mailman1.u.washington.edu [mailto:tweeters-bounces at mailman1.u.washington.edu] On Behalf Of Joshua Glant
Sent: May-14-15 12:54 PM
Subject: [Tweeters] A Question and a Comment

Hello Tweets,

Just a short but tweet message. It has two parts: a question and a comment.

Question: how does one distinguish between the song of a Townsend's and Black-throated Gray Warbler? I am in search of the latter, having seen it only a few times. I thought I heard a Townsend's last week, but it turned out that it was a Black-throated Gray when I got my binoculars on it, much to my delight!

Comment: I heard a Warbling Vireo singing on the way to school this morning. There's a good chance that this is the same male I heard singing a block away last week!

Good birding, Joshua Glant

Mercer Island, WA

Josh.n.glant at gmail.com

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