by Grace Huffman
Last month I spent a day birding in southeast Oklahoma, in the Tupelo area. We had quite a few species that day, but probably my favorite was Pine Warbler. And not just because he let me take quite a few good photos of him.
Pine Warblers summer as far north as southeastern Canada, and winter in eastern Texas & Louisiana. However, in a large portion of their southern range, you can find them year round. Here in Oklahoma they are generally found in the eastern part of the state, and especially in the southeast. Where they migrate, they may return as early as February and start breeding in late April. True to their name, you are most likely to find them in pine forests, high up in the trees where they may be hard to spot. Also difficult to spot are their nests, usually built out of items like grass, pine needles, twigs, and caterpillar silk. The female lines the inside of the nest with soft materials like feathers, and then lays 3-5 eggs. The male often escorts the female while she is building the nest, but doesn’t usually take part in construction himself. It takes about 3 weeks for the eggs to hatch and the young to fledge, and they may raise a second brood after the first one. After breeding season, when the migratory Pine Warblers move south to join the resident birds, they are known to form large flocks of up to 100 or more.
Pine Warblers are the only warblers that regularly eat seeds. Therefore, they may show up at birdfeeders in the wintertime to eat items like millet and sunflower kernels. Year-round they eat pine seeds as a part of their diet. Studies show that birds that ate more seeds had a different digestive tract than those that ate more fruit.
That particular day in early March we stopped in an area where there were lots of pine trees, and sure enough, he was there. He flew over us and began singing, letting me get some amazing photos. Pine Warbler populations are doing very well, so hopefully the next time you travel to southeastern Oklahoma you will get one!