May — Spring Warblers

by Tom Lewanski

I can hardly believe it, but our phenological research librarians, or PRLs, have verified that we have never highlighted the arrival of the warblers here in Phenology: The Life of the River. Well this travesty is going to be remedied right here and now.

The basics: The New World Warblers (subfamily Parulinae) are a group within the large family Emberizidae. There are 57 species of warblers found in North America. Most are long-distance migrants, spending the winter months in Central and South America and breeding in U.S. and Canada. Many of the 33 or so species of warblers that can be found in Minnesota are among the most striking and beautiful birds that you will see. The majority of warblers arrive and pass through our area in mid-May to raise their young further north and then begin their journey back south in August and September. These little buggers (literally) are not just fun to gawk at, they also play an important role in the ecological and economic life of our state. According to a natural heritage resources fact sheet developed by the State of Virginia, "It is estimated that a single pair of warblers will clear caterpillars from one million leaves to feed themselves and their young during nesting season, reducing the caterpillar population by as much as one-half."

So as soon as you receive this edition of Mississippi Messages, run, don’t walk, outside and look up into the trees, because warblers are arriving now. Don't worry about what the neighbors will say. If you are worried about what the neighbors will say, then a few excellent places to look for these birds is the Coon Rapids Dam Regional Park, Battle Creek Indian Mounds Park, Pine Bend Bluffs SNA, and the Vermillion River Bottoms area. Do you see a common thread here? Yep, these places are along the Mississippi River, which serves as a major migration corridor for migrating birds. FMR's conservation efforts are focused on protecting and restoring habitat important for these and many other species of animals and plants.

The Minnesota Ornithological Union website has a photo gallery that includes the warblers that can be found in Minnesota.