Sunday, May 4, 2014

One of our resident Setophaga warblers

Setophaga is a genus of wood-warblers that includes most of the former Dendroica warblers with which we are very familiar... these colorful and lively little birds that spend much of their lives in our land.  This because most of the Setophaga warblers breeds in North America and the Caribbean, and are present in our country as winter residents... in fact, most of these are commoner in winter than most of our resident wood-warblers (mainly Basileuterus warblers).  However, two Setophaga warblers do breed in Panama.  One is the Tropical Parula.
Tropical Parula
Despite being Setophaga (genetically), it is still hard for me to consider it next to the former Dendroica warblers.  Is something about its smaller size and chunky shape (and the fact that it is still known as parula).  However, the other resident Setophaga is quite distinct: the Yellow Warbler.
Yellow "Mangrove" Warbler (immature male)
Well, for many people, the above photo shows something different to the usual Yellow Warbler.  Broadly defined, the Yellow Warbler is the most widely distributed Setophaga warbler, ranging from Canada and Alaska to northern South America; however, the groups breeding in Central and South America and in the Caribbean are sometimes considered a full species, the Mangrove Warbler.  At least in Panama, this is an aptly name, because it is restricted in the mainland to mangroves.  In fact, this species is the symbol of the Panama Audubon Society and other NGOs in their campaign to save this critical habitat in the Panama Bay.
Yellow "Mangrove" Warbler in a sticker to save Panama Bay's mangroves
Evidently, the amount of chestnut in the head and breast is different to the northern populations (the aestiva group).  The males of the group present in Panama (erithachorides) have entirely chestnut heads, while the petechia group (the Golden Warbler, mainly in the West Indies) have little chestnut in the crown.  I took the next photo of an adult male Yellow "Mangrove" Warbler in Panama Viejo, close to home.
Yellow "Mangrove" Warbler (adult male)
This bird was singing.  In fact, it sounds exactly the same as the northern populations.  Certainly they are closely related, and the debate will continue for sure.  For now, I'm glad to have such a beauty so close to home... our own resident Setophaga warbler!

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