To Hear a Kentucky

by Aden Troyer | Jul 1, 2023 | 0 comments

Kentucky Warbler singing

By mid-June most of our warblers are feeding young, quietly flitting about gathering food. Except for early in the day, their songs are few and far between.

The second week of June, a customer mentioned coming by a local warbler hotspot and hearing a Kentucky Warbler singing constantly, as if on territory. This secretive bird has a loud, clear song (resembling a Carolina Wren’s), but it can be very hard to see at times. We had missed it in our home county for several years and were eager to see or hear one again.

The next morning my friend, my son, and I were at the site bright and early. We heard the Kentucky’s song as soon as we left the vehicle. Normally the bird is found on the ground or in low brush, but this one was singing from at least halfway up the tallest trees, even at times from the upper canopy. At least five times he crossed the dirt road where we stood before we even caught a glimpse.

When the bird finally dropped to about eye level, we all got great looks at him—a large warbler with a bright yellow belly, black sideburns, yellow about the eyes, and a plain olive green back. It was a treat to see one this near our homes again.

The Kentucky Warbler nests on the ground or very low, usually next to a tree trunk. The eggs are incubated about twelve days, and the young leave the nest ten days later.

Field guides and reference books all say the bird is found in low, dense bushes, seldom above 12-15 feet (3-4 m), but here was a male Kentucky singing at least 50-80 feet (15-25 m) above the forest floor. I guess that’s why they say “seldom.”

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