Black Throats

“Was that a zee, zee, zee, zreeeeee or, zee, zee, zee, zee, zoo, zee?” This is how I spend too much of my time strolling through the woods here in Western Maine.

“I don’t know. Let’s keep moving. Bugs are biting.” My wife stood with her hands on her hips a few yards up the trail. Our dog seemed to give me an impatient eye roll too. They both like birds, but this was not their idea of a “hike”.

Suddenly, a small bird popped into sight. It was a slate blue color on its head, back, wings and tail with a black throat and face and stripes down its side. “Zee, zee, zee, zreeeee”, it sang as it attacked a caterpillar on the underside of a leaf. As it gobbled it down, I saw the tell-tale white triangle on its wing.

Black-throated green warbler

Black-throated green warbler

Black-throated blue warbler

Black-throated blue warbler

“Black-throated Blue Warbler” (Photo by Sharp), I yelped as my wife headed down the trail without me.  These birds swarm into mixed conifer and deciduous forest from the Caribbean and Mexico during the spring. The Mahoosuc region is at the heart of their preferred nesting territory. They are small and, once the leaves are out, they are easier to hear than see. Females don’t sing and look entirely different. They are olive green, and the only way I can identify them is that little triangle of white on their wing. Some birders call it a “handkerchief”.

As I hurried to catch up, I heard a higher pitched song. “Zee, zee, zee, zoo, zee.” I had passed into a patch of hemlock. I couldn’t find this singer, but I was pretty sure this was a Black-throated Green Warbler (Photo by Russ).

It also heads to our area to nest. As its name implies, it has olive-green across its head, back and rump. It has a bright yellow face and a yellow wash across its belly. Its throat is black. It has streaky spots of black down its side, as well.

I can’t tell the difference between Beethoven’s Fifth and Mozart’s Requiem. In the same way I struggle to distinguish between the Black-throated Blue and Black-throated Green Warblers. The habitat of these birds overlaps, and they are abundant in our woods during the spring and summer. The next time you are hiking, listen for their song. There’s a good chance you’ll hear one or the other. The challenge is determining which one!

James Reddoch, of Albany Township and Boston, leads birding events for the Mahoosuc Land Trust which celebrates 30 years conserving the natural areas of the Mahoosuc Region. Visit Mahoosuc Land Trust at 162 North Road, Bethel, ME or at www.mahoosuc.org. To learn about upcoming events or to contact James, send your emails to info@mahoosuc.org.