Nature Watch: "Yellow-Rumped Warbler"


Last updated 2/15/2024 at 11:07am

Yellow-Rumped Warbler

Watching this little winter visitors flying away as you approach will quickly tell you how it got its name.

At the base of the black and gray tail feathers there is a bright yellow patch. This is the tell-tale name tag for the yellow-rumped warbler, a tiny but colorful visitor who travels a great distance to spend winters in San Diego County. An affectionate nickname that is also descriptive is "butterbutt."

While they do enjoy our mild winters in Southern California, their summer breeding home extends way to the north, as far as the northern reaches of Alaska and Canada.

If you see one of these visitors, you are likely to see many because they rarely travel alone.

Instead, they will breeze into one of your garden shrubs to pluck at tiny insects and then quickly dash away in a grand flutter.

Their joyful yellow patches and hyperactivity add energy and color to the winter landscape as they begin arriving here in early September and remain until late February. They are one of the most common winter species, along with the white-crowned sparrow.

Populations of the yellow-rumped warblers are concentrated the coastal lowlands of the county but significant numbers are always recorded in Borrego during the annual Christmas Bird Count.

It's not uncommon to see them along the banks of Coyote Creek or perched momentarily on an ocotillo.

In their northern, summer breeding ground, the yellow-rumped warbler will feed almost exclusively on insects, but while here in the winter, their diet is more varied with insects, seeds, berries and fruit included.

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