Bird of the Week: Black-and-white Warbler

The Black-and-white Warbler may lack the vibrant colors common to New World warblers like the Northern Parula and the American Redstart, but its bold, monochrome plumage has an almost Expressionist beauty all its own. Unlike many of its more colorful cousins, the Black-and-white Warbler breeds in central Texas and can be seen all summer long– and, again unlike most warblers, these birds tend to be so focused on foraging that they don’t mind being ogled by a large human or two. In fact, these birds differ in a number of ways from other warblers, to the extent that they occupy a distinct genus of which they are the only member: Mniotilta. Black-and-white Warblers have a number of unusual adaptations, including extra-long hind legs and bills– the former helping them to forage gymnastically like nuthatches, the latter allowing them to probe deeply under bark and lichen for insects. While they spend nearly all their time in the trees, Black-and-white Warblers build their nests on the ground, usually hidden at the base of a rock or fallen tree. Among our earliest-arriving migrants, Black-and-white warblers can be seen in central Texas woodlands from late March to mid-September.

Compiled by Owen Moorhead. Sources include the Cornell Lab of Ornithology and National Audubon Society.
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