The Common Yellowthroat is one warbler you can spot without risking “warbler neck.” These small wood-warblers prefer the undergrowth to the canopy, and can often be found skulking amid cattails at the edges of marshes and lakes. Their furtive and secretive behavior may be explained by the male’s unmistakable rakish black mask, which gives him the appearance of a diminutive highwayman. One study even correlates the size of the mask to the male’s success in finding a mate! Nine species of yellowthroat, and a few subspecies, inhabit the New World; of these, only the Common Yellowthroat is migratory, breeding at much higher latitudes than its cousins. (Befitting their appearance, they migrate only at night.) Of interest to taxonomical historians: the Common Yellowthroat was one of the first New World birds to be described scientifically. In 1766, nearly two decades before Audubon’s birth, Carolus Linnaeus named the Common Yellowthroat Turdus trichas–in hindsight an infelicitous epithet, as both turdus and trichas mean “thrush”.
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