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BirdNote: The Swainson's Warbler

05/26/12 8:57AM
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On a fine May morning in Great Smoky Mountains National Park, a song issues from within a rhododendron thicket.

It’s a Swainson’s Warbler – one of North America’s shyest birds. These birds forage quietly on the ground, flipping over leaves to expose and capture insects.

They scurry away, calling in alarm when big-footed humans invade their shadowy habitat. They’re amazingly good at disappearing in rapid flight through the tangled understory.

On their wintering grounds, in the Blue Mountains of Jamaica, they’re even harder to find, because they don’t sing in winter.

Swainson’s Warblers do, however, respond aggressively to a recording of their own song. That’s how ornithologists confirmed the presence of these elusive warblers, and discovered a vital connection between the two mountain forests, a thousand miles apart.

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