Blackpoll Warbler

Setophaga striata Order: Passeriformes Family: Parulidae (New World Warblers)
Setophaga striata Order: Passeriformes Family: Parulidae (New World Warblers)

This attractive little warbler breeds in the boreal forests of Canada and far northern New England. A quick look can give the impression that in breeding plumage, this bird is entirely black and white, but the pronounced black and gray streaks on the upper back grade to a greenish wash on the lower back and edges of the flight feathers. The bill is tinged with bright yellow, and the bright yellow feet, important to distinguish fall Blackpolls from Bay-breasted Warblers, can stand out in breeding plumage as well.

Blackpoll Warblers winter east of the Andes in South America, arriving there from the East Coast via the longest overwater journey of any songbird—nearly 1,800 miles nonstop over the Atlantic Ocean. They’re obviously very sturdy for a half-ounce bird, but thanks to destruction of their boreal forest habitat, they are in steep decline.

Its lovely ringing song can reach a frequency of 10,000 Hz, beyond the hearing range of a great many people. To hear the high-frequency songs and calls of this or any other species with high-pitched vocalizations, even with my hearing aids, and to get a direction for them, I use Lang Elliott’s “Hear Birds Again”. The app is free to download, and the website has clear and easy directions to make the fairly inexpensive binaural headphones. To know if the bird is there in the first place, I use the Cornell Lab of Ornithology’s Merlin app.

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