I was going to do a different blog post for today but when Life Bird comes to visit you, well, everything else just gets put aside! It was a gorgeous morning here in Tucson and I was sitting on my balcony enjoying the clear skies and cool temperatures. As usual I was drinking my coffee and counting my yard birds. After awhile i picked up my pen and started writing poetry. I had been outside for almost an hour and decided I needed to go back inside and finally eat some breakfast. As I stood up to go in I noticed a yellow-green bird on a tree with a few lesser goldfinches.
On closer examination I noticed it was a warbler and not a goldfinch. It moved differently and it had a different beak. Due to it’s overall yellow-green-gray color and the bit of an eyeline and the lack of wingbars I assumed it was an Orange-crowned warbler and I noted it as such in my notebook. I was so excited to think that I would be adding a new yard bird to my list. I was also excited because this would be the first orange-crowned warbler I have seen since my return to Tucson 2 months ago. Since the bird seemed to be hanging around, I went back inside to get my camera. fortunately for me, when I came back out it was still there and I started snapping away.
After taking about 25 shots the bird flew off to the front yard and last I knew it was headed south. So, inside I go to submit my remarkable Orange-crowned warbler to eBird. Only, when I pull up the list I discover there are 2 sub-species of Orange-crowned warblers seen in this area! One is called lutescens and it is the brightest subspecies, while orestra is the largest and is intermediate in brightness to lutescens and celata, a third northern and eastern subspecies. But here is the clincher. All orange-crowned warblers have YELLOW undertail coverts. Under-tail coverts are those fluffy little feathers that cover a bird’s vent underneath its tail. I suppose you could think of them as the birdy version of “underpants!”
Learning this bit of information made me immediately consult the photos I had taken. to my utter surprise this bird had WHITE under-tail coverts! And only a Tennessee Warbler looks like an orange-crowned but with white under-tail coverts instead! Well, by now I was quite excited and a little bit afraid. If I submitted this bird count to eBird I knew it would be flagged and I would have to prove that I saw what I saw. Thank goodness I took these photos! I also posted them on my Facebook Page and on The Facebook Bird ID Group of the World where many more experience birders confirmed my sighting!
So, now I have been sitting here all day trying to get this ID confirmed and writing this exciting blog post! It has been 3 months since I added any new Life Birds to my list. Who knew that one would just show up in my yard!
Life Bird # 429!
Note: Upon further research I have discovered that this species was last seen in Tucson at Christopher Columbus park in November of 2011 according to eBird. I was also asked to submit my photos and a written record of this sighting to the Arizona Field Ornithologists and the Arizona Bird Committee, which I have done.