06.23.24: Tennessee Warbler

A Tennessee Warbler stops in an Ohio field during its fall migration south, Sharon Woods Metro Park, Westerville, Ohio.

The name Tennessee Warbler is a misnomer. When ornithologist Alexander Wilson identified and named the bird in the early 1800s he was in Tennessee during migration season. The name stuck.

A Tennessee Warbler stops in an Ohio field during its fall migration south, Sharon Woods Metro Park, Westerville, Ohio.

Bird was passing through on migration south

There are 120 species of birds in the western hemisphere that make up the often colorful Parulidae, or New World warbler (and often referred to as wood-warbler) family of birds. Approximately 50 of those species can be found in the United States, most often during the spring migration north or the fall migration south. And through the years I’ve managed to photograph 22 of them.

This is a photograph of a Tennessee Warbler I found a few years ago on an October morning in a park north of Columbus, Ohio. The bird spends summers, its breeding season, throughout much of Canada and winters in Central and South America. This bird was making its way south for the winter when it stopped in a field to eat and rest.

The name Tennessee Warbler is a misnomer. When ornithologist Alexander Wilson identified and named the bird in the early 1800s he was in Tennessee during migration season. The name stuck.

I liked how this bird’s yellowish color blended with the yellow flowers and defocused background in the fall field.

I get nearly all of my warbler photos during the spring, when the birds are migrating north or occasionally in the fall during migration south. 

While I often see warblers in local parks in the spring and fall, the best place to see a wide variety is in Magee Marsh Wildlife Area and other neighboring parks along Lake Erie in Northern Ohio during a few weeks each spring. Warblers' migration often includes non-stop flights of a thousand miles or more, so when they do make a stop they must feed constantly to refuel. That's what happens in May along the Ohio side of Lake Erie. The trees are filled with a variety of warblers, all feeding on insects to refuel before another long flight across the lake to get to their summer breeding grounds in Canada.

I'm not a bird watcher. I'm a photo hobbyist who happens to shoot birds primarily because it is a huge challenge. Every shot is a combination of planning, preparation and luck. But bird watchers live for the spring warbler migration. Magee Marsh is packed every year on Mother's Day weekend when the spring warbler migration is at its peak. There's even a website — The Biggest Week in American Birding — dedicated to the migration through Magee Marsh.

Tech specs

  • Date/time: Oct 4, 2020 9:10 AM   
  • Camera: Canon EOS 7D Mark II
  • Lens: EF600mm f/4L IS USM +1.4x 
  • Focal length: 840mm
  • Aperture: f/5.6
  • Shutter: 1/1000 second
  • ISO: 1250

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