A male Yellow-rumped Warbler in breeding plumage perches in Sharon Woods Metro Park, Westerville, Ohio.

12.15.19: Breeding plumage

A male Yellow-rumped Warbler in breeding plumage perches in Sharon Woods Metro Park, Westerville, Ohio.

Yellow-rumped Warbler with spring color

The range maps for most warbler species show Central Ohio as part of the summer breeding range, but it's been my experience that few hang around here for the summer. Most head north into Canada.

‍The Yellow-rumped Warbler is one bird whose name accurately describes its look.

‍The bird has a patch of yellow on its rump, which makes the bird very easy to identify. That patch remains year-round — both in the winter when the bird’s plumage is pale brown with maybe a touch of yellow on the wings and in the summer when the bird molts to its very striking breeding plumage of gray, black, white and yellow shown in the photo.

‍I photographed this bird near a lake in Sharon Woods Metro Park north of Columbus, Ohio, on a spring morning. I get nearly all of my warbler photos during the spring, when the birds are migrating north from their winter homes in Central and South America, or occasionally in the fall during migration south. The range maps for most warbler species show Central Ohio as part of the summer breeding range, but it's been my experience that few hang around here for the summer. Most head north into Canada.

‍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: April 29, 2007, 8:35 a.m.
  • Location: 40°6'49.739" N 82°57'30.499" W (Show in Google Maps)
  • Camera: Canon EOS 20D
  • Lens: Canon EF 600mm f/4L, Canon 1.4x teleconverter (840mm) 
  • Aperture: f/7.1
  • Shutter: 1/500th second
  • ISO: 400