From Birding

Lifebirds #32 and #33 – Yellow Butts and Red Breasts

Species  Yellow-rumped Warbler / Dendroica coronata
Where Home
When May 6, 2004
Who Joann
Number 32

Yellow-rumped WarblerThe old-pro birders like to call Yellow-rumped Warblers “butter butts.” I don’t know if this originated with Pete Dunne, but it sounds like him.

This was my first warbler, and I found it in my yard: I thought I’d hit the jackpot! Now I know that these are the generalists of the new world warblers, feeding on berries as well as insects. This versatility allows them to arrive in our area earlier than warblers who are strickly insectivores. In fact, by May 6th of a typical year these birds have been in our area for at least a month. The fact that I saw my first one in our yard is a testament to the fact that I was not really looking for them anywhere else.

The male Yellow-rumped Warbler seen here is perched on some brush near the shoreline of one of the ponds at Gervais Mill Park.

Species  Rose-breasted Grosbeak / Pheucticus ludovicianus
Where Home
When May 6, 2004
Who Joann
Number 33

The first Rose-breasted Grosbeak I saw was a female at our feeders. Joann and I were mere fledgling birders at the time, and it took us awhile to identify her. She looked to us a little bit like a large sparrow with a big ugly beak. A gross beak.

We were happy to check off the female grosbeak in our field guide. But we knew we really wouldn’t feel we’d seen a Rose-breasted Grosbeak until we saw a male. This sounds sexist, and I suppose it is. But the female doesn’t have a rosy breast. She is dully colored (all the better to hide on a nest), and doesn’t sing. She looks like a large sparrow with a big ugly beak.

It was more than two years later, on the Fourth of July at the Old Cedar Bridge in Bloomington when I saw my first brightly-colored male Red-breasted Grosbeak. By 2008 I felt I was an “old pro” myself, and at the Old Cedar Bridge again—on an Audubon Society walk led by my friends Paul S and Sally H—I found a male and excitedly pointed it out the group, stage whispering (OK, yelling) “grose-rested roast beef!”

Rose-breasted GrosbeakI photographed this male grosbeak on the grounds of the Audubon Center of the North Woods near Sandstone, MN in May of 2009.

See lifebird index.