Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Black-throated Gray Warbler in Tucson

One of the scarce, yet regular semi-hardy winter birds in southeastern Arizona is the charming Black-throated Gray Warbler. They seem virtually limited to two species of trees in the urban environment. By far their favorite is the native Velvet Mesquite, Prosopis velutina. Write your local nursery and tell them to stop stocking those stupid, ugly, thorny, and nearly birdless non-native South American mesquite species and plant only natives.

The other tree they like is oak, and it seems any old oak will do. I'll bet they would prefer native oaks such as Mexican Blue Oak or Emory Oak, but those are shockingly absent from Tucson. Instead we have quite a few of some non-native live oak scattered throughout the city, perhaps Quercus virginiana, and I've seen Black-throated Grays in it frequently.

Once in a while one will be in something else, so be prepared. In any event Black-throated Gray Warbler has been missed four times in the past 20 years (with a maximum of 8 in 2005), though the species is definitely present every year. One year, a week or so after a CBC miss, I biked around Tucson and the University of Arizona and found 3. Recognizing and targeting their habitat was something I focussed on the urban CBC birding workshops I held recently; we found two Black-throated Grays on the first, and one on the second. I think we'll get a few this year. Pish at those mesquites!

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