The poor Black-and-white Warbler!  Science has mostly left you behind.  Ok, I’m sure there’s more out there, but after some searching this morning, I had a hard time coming up with a whole lot of research about you.  People write all the time about Song Sparrows and raptors and thrushes, but not about you.  Well, not about you specifically, anyway.

Let me start the story from the beginning…over the weekend, I took students on a trip to the NC Zoo and then camping.  At the campsite were a number of Pine Warblers and few warblers of another kind.  It took me a little while to recognize the song- I haven’t heard it in so long, it didn’t immediately come to me.  It was the odd, squeaky wheel song of the Black-and-white Warbler.  While standing in the middle of a small stand of pines, I even got to watch the male drop down to some relatively low perches to give his song.  Black-and-white Warblers are…well…black and white.  They don’t have bright colors or any flashes of neon on them.  In the world of wood warblers (say that 10 times fast), they look relatively bland.  Even so, this male was bouncing around his territory, singing away.

As I got home from the trip, I was curious to know things about territoriality in these birds and what I found was sad and depressing.  I was able to find articles about these birds going back to the late 1800’s, but most of the research has been little more than range descriptors.

Gaylord, H.A.  1896. Zonotrichia albicollis and Mniotilta varia at Pasadena, Cal. Auk 13:  260

A lot of the other research that appears regarding this little bird has to do with one of two categories of research:  1.  wintering behaviors of warblers (and the Black-and-white is just one of the warblers being examined).  Usually these projects have examined birds at Quintana Roo, Mexico.  2.  Effects of habitat changes on forest bird assemblages.  Again, in this category, the Black-and-whites are mentioned alongside other birds like Acadian Flycatchers and Downy Woodpeckers.

Murray, N.L. and D.F. Stauffer.  1995.  Nongame bird use of of habitat in central Appalachian riparian forests. Journal of Wildlife Management 59:  78-88

I certainly support research into the role that habitat structure plays in regulating bird populations.  I’m not downplaying that research at all.  But isn’t there anyone out there wondering what these little birds do on their own?  I’ll spend some time digging around to see what else I can find.  But, here’s my two cents:  it’s about time for the squeaky wheel to get the grease!


About thomasbiology

I'm an Associate Professor of Biology at Queens University of Charlotte with a background in animal behavior with an emphasis in bird song. I've got two secret goals with this blog (well, since I'm sharing them, they're not so secret): 1. To encourage people to look at the natural world around them- not just as a hiking destination, but to notice all the little things moving around them all the time; and 2. To show some of the science that relates to these little things moving around. There's some really fascinating research out there that so few people get to see.
This entry was posted in birds, conservation, vocalizations, warblers. Bookmark the permalink.

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