Berrien County is known among the birding community for harboring bird species that are slightly north or south of their summer nesting range.
One case in point is the Kentucky warbler, which normally ranges in summer north to central Indiana. However, a few annually migrate in to extreme southern Michigan, with at least one male on average being found at Warren Dunes State Park.
Myles McNally of Alma, Michigan photographed a Kentucky warbler on May 23, in Warren Dunes State Park.
Taking a photo of a Kentucky warbler is not easy, for the bird spends most of its time near ground level where it nests among dense vegetation.
This little bird is just over 5 inches in length, is olive-yellow on top and yellow on bottom.
It has a distinct facial pattern of black mask, with yellow “spectacles.” Males and female are similar in appearance but female feathers are slightly duller than the male.
Kentucky warblers arrive back in Berrien County on average by May 16, but they have been recorded here as early as the third week in April.
It is probable that the species nests in Warren Dunes, for males has been observed over several years defending possible nesting territory by singing, but no verifiable proof, such as nest building, or feeding young has ever been observed.
In Berrien County, there is no record of the species after July of each year and thus an accurate local average fall departure date can’t be ascertained.
In Ohio and Indiana, Kentucky warblers generally disappear during August. Their wintering grounds are located from Mexico south to South America.
In early May, Randy Schrubba of St. Joseph Township observed a male house wren building a nest in a backyard wren box. The wren was photographed as it held nest martial in its mouth at to the entrance to the box.
The house wren is the most common wren species in the region, and nests solely in cavities, and quite often in nesting boxes made especially for the species. They occasionally nest in mailboxes.
Away from human occupied areas, house wrens will occupy abandoned woodpecker holes.
The species is easily detected during the nesting season by the singing male, which emits a loud, stuttering song at and around the nest box.
The male sings occasionally from daybreak to dusk. In between vocalizations, the male gathers sticks and other plant materials, of which he will simultaneously construct two or even three dummy nests.
One of the dummy nests to become the true nest, and is selected by the female house wren.
House wrens may produce two broods per year, with the second brood leaving the nest in August.
House wrens have adapted to human development quite well, and are found in subdivisions, cemeteries, and parks. The house wren also inhabits woodland edges, fence rows, shrubby areas.
It avoids large tracts of unbroken forests. Therefore, house wren populations in the area increased as forests gave way to farmland.
Southbound migration occurs throughout September. In Berrien County, house wrens are usually not seen after the first five days in October, although some linger until the end of the month.
Jonathan Wuepper is an area naturalist. Report your sightings to him at firstname.lastname@example.org.