Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Butter-Butts Are Back

The first sign of spring flew through my yard this week - or more accurately, through my neighbor's yard to feed on the leftover apples - a butter-butt, or for the less colloquial, a yellow-rumped warbler. I noticed the bird hawking around the tree a bit and its behavior wasn't at all sparrow- or finch-like, which are my two most frequent visitors this time of year. A quick peek through the binoculars was all that was needed, however, to see the distinct warbler profile, yellow flank patch, dainty bill, and eye ring. A quick turn of a pose and I saw a flash of its bright rump as well, and there's no denying what bird it is.

What an exciting moment it was, to realize spring is on the way and perhaps closer than believed. Yellow-rumped warblers are the earliest migrating warblers in North America, and in some places they may overwinter. Admittedly, they don't stay through Utah's bitterly cold winters, so this bird's persistent appearance is a sure sign that the weather is warming.

There is another lesson here: just how valuable fruit trees are in the spring. If this particular golden delicious apple tree had been thoroughly harvested and stripped of its fruit to avoid the "hassle" of fallen apples over the winter, there would have been no food source for this early warbler to take advantage of. Throughout the long cold season, I've also seen American robins, European starlings, Eurasian collared-doves, and house finches taking advantage of the bounty to varying degrees. Certainly some birds prefer the fruit while others may just be giving it an idle sample or searching for insects on the fruit, but nonetheless it is a critical resource for many winter and early spring birds. My crabapple trees, still new to the landscaping, haven't been getting as much attention, but I anticipate that in the next few weeks they too will be fed upon by returning birds, and all are welcome at the buffet.


Badione said...

Thank you for posting, and hope you do it often. I like checking back to your blog because you offer tips not only on attracting birds, but how to ID them (distinguishing characteristics)

Melissa said...

Why, thank you so much for the kind words! I do love sharing about birds. Be sure to check my site too (part of the New York Times Co.) - - for daily news, tons of articles, bird profiles, and more.