Blue-winged Warbler

24 July 2000 to 20 September 2000
Squaw Back Road crossing of Indian Ford Creek, Deschutes Co., Oregon.

If accepted by the Oregon Bird Records Committee it will be the second accepted record,
and first documented with physical evidence.

1) Black line through eye. Breast yellowish-orange. White wing panel formed by 2 white wing bars visible on gray wing. White undertail coverts and extensive white undertail. Bright yellow face washed out by sun due to extreme contrast and looks white (compare with aspen leaves in sun). -Scan of video taken 24 July 2000 by Greg Gillson.

Rare Bird Report

Adult male Blue-winged Warbler

24 & 25 July 2000, Squaw Back Road crossing of Indian Ford Creek, Deschutes Co., Oregon.

Time and duration of sighting: about 15 minutes near 8:30 AM on 24 July from 15 to 50 feet. 2-3 seconds about 9 AM on 25 July 2000 in company of Chuck Gates, who also glimpsed bird at a distance of about 25 feet.

Video tape (15x) of the bird was obtained at a distance of 25-50 feet, though not very good.

Behavior: On the move constantly, as it gleaned, with short hop-flights, slowly making its way through willows and aspen. Usually stayed in dense foliage and shadow. Did not respond to pishing or owl imitations. No vocalizations were given.

Description: Warbler about the size and shape of Orange-crowned Warbler, but bill longer, straighter.

Entire face, crown, chin, neck and upper breast bright golden yellow, similar to, but brighter, than male Yellow Warblers (which were present for comparison). The yellow continued down to the lower breast and belly where it became a deeper yellow-orange. The forecrown was especially deep yellow, brighter than the rest of the face. The hindcrown and back of the neck changed hue gradually to the back which was yellow-green.

The bill was rather long for a warbler, black, and sharp-pointed. The eyes were black. The lores, from the base of the bill to the eye, were black. The thickness was about that of the height of the eye. This eyeline continued briefly behind the eye, but was thinner and came to a point about 1-1/2 eye-diameters behind the eye, and curved down slightly at the end.

The wings were gray. There were two, wide, diffuse, white wingbars which formed a panel of white similar to those on a female Yellow-rumped (Audubon’s) Warbler.

The yellow lower belly ended abruptly with extensive white undertail coverts. Most of the undertail was white, only dark towards the end of the tail. The rump and uppertail were not noted.

Description written in field: “Bright yellow or orangish-yellow below, slightly greener above. Black lores and thin black line through eye, but not much behind eye. Grayish wings with two broad, diffuse, white wingbars. Undertail coverts white. Black eye and sharp pointed bill.”

Details of sighting: The bird was first noted actively gleaning in a small bush among the willows. I observed it here for a solid 5 minutes at about 15 feet distance with 8x binoculars. It usually remained in thick foliage, but occasionally popped out into the open bright sunlight.

I went across the stream to the car and retrieved my camcorder. When I returned the bird was in the same bush, but quickly moved into some small aspens. From there I had to get off the road and move around to the west until the aspens were backlit by the sun. I was able to get some video at about 40-50 feet away with 15x, but mostly the bird was obstructed by leaves and branches. The bird was continually active, fly-hopping from twig to twig, never still. After another 5 minutes it worked its way back to the road, but 25 feet up in the aspen. I now had better light but the bird remained hidden in the center of the tree for the most part, and I stopped video recording, and went on to other birding.

Similar species: The yellow body and head with black line through the eye and gray wings with white wingbars made identification straightforward. At no time did I doubt that the bird was anything but Blue-winged Warbler. I am totally positive of this identification and the description above.

However, some other people attempting to see the bird later during the week saw, or thought they saw, this same bird, but remarked that what they saw was duller, appearing more as a “Brewster’s Warbler.” Indeed, some of the video does seem to show a whitish face. I attribute this to the extreme magnification, lack of a polarizing filter on the camcorder, and high contrast. It didn’t help that this bird did not pause once while being video taped. All frames are blurred somewhat by movement.

In life, however, this bird was brilliant yellow over all of the face and chin, there was no hint of gray ear coverts. The wingbars were white, not yellow. This bird was a brilliant yellow male, not a duller female, and not a “Brewster’s” hybrid.

Greg Gillson
299 S 19th Avenue
Cornelius, OR 97113

2) The bill looks thick because the bird is moving its head to the side. Notice that the side of the face below the eye is yellow, now, though the crown still looks pale. Notice that the black line behind the eye is short and narrows to a point. -Scan of video taken 24 July 2000 by Greg Gillson.

3) In this scan the crown is now in the sun, as is the upper ridge of the bill and the edge of the eye. The black line through the eye is right at the edge of the shadow. Notice that the crown and side of face are bright yellow, becoming orangish on the breast. Chuck Gates mentioned the face and breast as "Prothonory Warbler yellow." -Scan of video taken 24 July 2000 by Greg Gillson.

4) Here is the original size from which scan 5 (below) is made. Fogged to show detail magnified in photo below. -Scan of video taken 24 July 2000 by Greg Gillson.

5) This is a cropped and brightened portion of scan 4 (above). The black lores are clearly seen, and the side of the face is yellow, but not the yellow-orange of the lower breast/belly. The wide white wingbars on the gray wing are discernable. -Scan of video taken 24 July 2000 by Greg Gillson.

6) This is a head-on shot of the brilliant crown. The bill is facing toward us and down and to the left, and is partially covered by a leaf. The left eye is centered in the yellow face and left side of head. The right eye is barely visible on the left. -Scan of video taken 24 July 2000 by Greg Gillson.

To: Oregon Birder's On-Line
Subject: BlueWinged Warbler
From: Diane Kook
Date: Wed, 2 Aug 2000

...Judy [Meredith] and I spotted the bird low in an alder tree, where it hopped back and forth, low to the ground. It then flew up to a height of about 5 feet and flew off to the left.... The warbler, after a short while, worked his way down to that tree in front of us, and we were able to watch it for several minutes. It acted much like a CHICKADEE, hanging from branches upside down and around, giving us great looks at the white undertail coverts. The bird is bright yellow with a very distinctive black line through the eye on his all yellow head. The back of the neck is yellow with a contrasting light olive green nape. The wings are blue-gray with wing bars that look more like a large white patch. The bird did not ever vocalize....

To: Oregon Birder's On-Line
Subject: Re: Blue-winged Warbler
From: Tom Crabtree
Date: Thu, 3 Aug 2000

...Ed McVickers saw the Blue-winged for a period of less than two minutes shortly after 7 a.m. I arrived 5 minutes later. Ed and I searched for the bird for about two hours....This morning while I was at the site, from 7:10 a.m. to 11:45 a.m., a total of 12 people tried at various times for the Blue-winged. Only Ed and Kim had brief glimpses of it. I am beginning to think it is easier to get struck by lightning than to find this bird.

To: Oregon Birder's On-Line
Subject: Blue-winged Warbler update
From: Tim Janzen
Date: Fri, 4 Aug 2000

I just returned from Sisters where I spent two hours this morning searching for the BLUE-WINGED WARBLER at the Squawback Rd. site along Indian Ford Creek. I was rewarded with good views of the bird from about 30 feet away for about 1 minute at about 7:35 AM before the bird disappeared.... I can't add much to Greg's original description except that I would describe the wings as blue-gray with some olive tones rather than gray as he did. Two distinct wing bars were noticeable. The tail was also blue-gray. I saw well the yellow head, throat, and breast which contrasted with the white undertail coverts. The black line through the eye was striking and was the first thing that caught my attention. It seemed to be widest at the eye and then narrowed to a point behind the eye and it also narrowed as it comes forward to the lores. The back was yellow-olive. I saw no plumage characteristics which gave me the ompression of a Brewster's Warbler or another hybrid.

7) -Scan of video taken 6 August 2000 by Owen Schmidt.

8) -Scan of video taken 6 August 2000 by Owen Schmidt.

9) -Scan of video taken 6 August 2000 by Owen Schmidt.

10) -Scan of video taken 6 August 2000 by Owen Schmidt.

To: Oregon Birder's On-Line
Subject: Blue-winged Warbler, Wed.-yes
From: Gerard Lillie
Date: Wed, 9 Aug 2000

...I arrived at 6:45 AM and was a little discouraged to see the amount and type of habitat it is in. Somebody said a few days ago its like looking for the proverbial needle in a hay stack and that is correct. However, luck was with me and I found the bird at 7:10 AM and was able to observe it until 7:25 AM....I was able to get some video but the bird was against a very bright sky and, although it can be seen that it is a Blue-wing, it isn't any better than the video posted to OBOL by others.

To: Oregon Birder's On-Line
Subject: Blue-winged WarblerYES22Aug
From: David C. Bailey
Date: Tue, 22 Aug 2000


I saw the male BLUE-WINGED WARBLER Tuesday 22 August at 07:32. It was high in the Trembling Aspens at the same spot it has been seen the previous two days. I noticed the bird initially after hearing a buzzy call note, probably the flight call note described for this species in the Peterson Warbler guide by Dunn. The bird was chased down into the willows of Indian Ford Creek within about 2 minutes by another Warbler that looked like a Wilson's. The Blue-winged was initially being chased by a hatch-year male Hermit Warbler in the Aspen tree tops. The specific trees were in the direction of the road about 20 feet from the "Tim R" Aspen. Dan Hayerly and a nice woman (whose name escapes me) and Christine Sheridan were there as well this morning, but I am afraid that they did not see bird. It did not reappear later as far as I am aware. I left the area at 10:00. Before doing so, I thought that I heard the same call note that originally attracted me to the bird again later in the morning about 50 feet upstream in the riparian zone, but could not locate the a bird to attach the call to.

I saw nine other species of warbler in addition to the Blue-winged. They were:
Yellow-rumped (Audubon's)
American Redstart (an adult male)
Common Yellowthroat

I also saw CASSIN'S and WARBLING VIREOS. An immature COOPER'S HAWK is still conspicuous in the Ponderosa Pines and snags on the other side of the creek.

Thanks to Greg and all who have continued to look for and report on this bird. This was my second try.

To: Oregon Birder's On-Line
Subject: Blue-winged Warbler
From: Jeff Gilligan
Date: Wed, 4 Oct 2000

Tim Becker and Karen LaJoie saw the Sister's Blue-winged Warbler at the usual spot on September 29!!! They saw it at close range as it fed, even seeing it feeding upside down as it occasionally did. What a surprise to have it still around so late.