Date: 2/9/19 5:32 pm
From: Kaaren Perry <surfbird1...>
Subject: [slocobirding] Tennessee Warbler - current status and fun fact.
Since first observing the Tennessee Warbler on 12/31 I have become increasingly interested in the species. What is the winter migration pattern, winter status in CA and beyond, the feeding preferences and appearance in various seasons are among the questions that sent me to the reference materials available.
Status: I have felt fortunate to observe and photograph the wintering vagrant on several occasions in our yard, the last being on February 6. Using ebird as my reference for current reports of this species in the United States seems to indicate that there are only 4 reports since February 1, 2019 in the USA. Two in northern Washington, one reported in TX just north of the Rio Grande and then “our” SLO county Morro Bay bird. All other reports from this time are from the wintering grounds where they are more expected, Mexico, Central and South America.

Fun fact: I have learned that during breeding season this bird primarily feeds on caterpillars and in winter they eat invertebrates, fruit and nectar. The nectar part explains the frequent visits to our flowering cape honeysuckle. And the fun fact is they are in the category of “nectar thief”. Until now I had only associated that term with some bees and bats and maybe a few butterflies. An article in Cornell “All about Birds’ explains the term - “The Tennessee Warbler is a common nectar "thief" on its wintering grounds in tropical forests. Instead of probing a flower from the front to get the nectar, and spreading pollen on its face in the process, the warbler pierces the flower tube at its base and gets the reward without performing any pollination.

Going through my many recent photos I was able to find a few that to me seem to show this interesting feeding strategy. <> <> <> <>
I must add that the cape honeysuckle blooms are beginning to dry up and now seem to be slowly consumed by the wintering sparrows. I would be surprised if Tennessee warbler returns since it’s main food source has significantly diminished.

Appearance: This has been determined to be a first year or hatch year bird. From what I have learned a winter hatch year TEWA cannot be not safely distinguished by sex in the field.

Kaaren Perry
Morro Bay

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