LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (AGFC) - This little guy is one of our earliest spring migrants. They are just arriving back in Arkansas from their wintering grounds in the southern Gulf States, Mexico, and the Caribbean. They are common summer residents, and are present in the state through early October.
The Black-and-white Warbler is unique among warblers for a couple of reasons. The most obvious is that this species does not have any yellow plumage at all. Most warblers have at least some yellow areas, if that is not the primary color. The second thing that makes them different from other warblers is the way they move around in a tree. Most warblers spend their time in tree tops and in the outer branches of the tree. The Black-and-white Warbler stays near the trunk, and moves up and down it much the same way that a nuthatch does. Both of these characteristics make this species easy to identify, even for beginner birders. The bold black and white striping on the bird make visual ID almost a no-brainer, and the species’ behavior seals the deal when ID by plumage is unsure. The reason they stay near the trunk of the tree is that they are bark foragers. They feed on insects (primarily caterpillars) that reside on and under bark and moss. In fact, this is the only bird in the genus Mniotilta, which means “moss-plucking.”
Additionally, this species has a relatively easy-to-recognize, simple song. It sounds like a high-pitched, squeaky wheel. This is yet another species that you might hear first, and follow your ears to be able to see it. They prefer deciduous forests, woodlots, and forested riparian areas.
We usually think of small birds like this having an open cup nest high up in a tree, but these guys actually build their nests on the ground!
Start listening and looking for this species, and I think you’ll be surprised how many you notice!
PHOTOS: Black-and-White Warbler