Join/Renew (2022 Dues)
News from

Re: Gray Headed Orange-Crowned Warbler at Harry Griffen Park

Dear friends,


The issue with the subspecies of the Orange-crowned Warbler is that it’s critical to know the bird’s sex, which can’t be ascertained externally. If the bird has a gray head, an only weakly olive back, and the pale yellow on the underparts reduced to irregular blotches, that’s very likely to be a female of the eastern/boreal forest subspecies, nominate celata. If the bird has a gray head and the underparts a uniformly pale dull yellow (except for the diffuse streaks), that could be a male of nominate celata or a female of orestera. A bird with no gray on the head and moderately bright yellow underparts could be a male of orestera or a female of lutescens. A very bright yellow Orange-crowned Warbler is probably a male of lutescens. And if the bird is all yellow but the yellow has an extra dose of melanin pigment, darkening the upperparts, flanks, and streaks on the breast and undertail coverts to varying degrees it is probably sordida. Though we have prepared nearly 300 specimens of the Orange-crowned Warbler over the past 35+ years, we still do every one we receive at the San Diego Natural History Museum, and are still learning from them. So any dead Orange-crowned Warblers you may find are welcome here.


Among our blessings in San Diego is that we see here the full range of variation in this remarkable bird, with all 4 subspecies. And its numbers are still on a long-term upward trend, especially now that it has become such an urban adapter. The pair that lives around my house in Hillcrest in central San Diego raised three broods this year! In the past 3 or 4 years we have received several specimens of sordida, so that subspecies that originally bred just on the Channel Islands and Point Loma seems to be an important contributor to the urban adaptation. Paralleling another Channel Islands subspecies, the sedentary Allen’s Hummingbird!


Very nice pictures of the Lucy’s Warbler, and interesting to see that it is in the process of molting its wing feathers. So (like the White-eyed Vireo at El Camino Cemetery) it’s likely to stick around until that molt is done.


Good birding,


Philip Unitt

San Diego


Source: SanDiegoRegionBirding Latest Reports