Yellow Butts and Red Wings

Imagine going through life defined by the color of your back end. Or the color of your wings. Such is the lot of the Yellow-rumped Warbler and the Red-winged Blackbird … two birds blessed with bright spots of color and self-describing names.

Yellow-rumped Warblers

These sweet birds are the most common and widespread wintering wood-warbler in North America. They’re easy to identify, with their bright, butter-yellow butts.

I like yellow butts, and I cannot lie.

Yellow Rumped Warblers — or “Warped Rumblers,” as I like to call them — hang out in brushy habitats like willow thickets and field edges. You’ll see them behaving like flycatchers; they often sit upright on exposed perches and fly up and out to catch passing insects. They also often cruise about in small loose flocks.

Note the yellow tail and breast feathers, as well.
“Yes, I know I’m cute!”

Red-winged Blackbirds

These noisy birds are the most common widespread blackbird in North America. You’ll find them in wet, marshy or brushy habitats, small weedy ditches or wet hayfields. They often mix things up with other blackbirds, starlings and cowbirds into one confusing flock.

Here’s a good look at the male’s fire-red shoulder patch bordered by yellow.
Here’s a good look at the same male who clearly has something to say.

Male Red-winged Blackbirds seem to have all the fun with their beautiful red/orange/yellow feather colors. The females are not as attractive (which is often the case in the world of birds) with a rather drab brown appearance. In fact, they are often mistaken for sparrows. And yes, I have made that error …!

Bad shot of a sparrow-like female Red-winged Blackbird.
Male Red-wings struttin’ their stuff for the females …
… and protecting their territory.

So why did I combine these two birds into one blog post?

Simply because I spend a lot of time at the Las Gallinas Valley Sanitary District’s Wastewater Treatment Reclamation Project area here in San Rafael. And right now, these two birds are pretty much running the joint. They seem to be everywhere and they’re fun to watch! Plus, I have a fondness for birds with at least a little bit of color.

There are hundreds of species of birds that live at the ponds year round or at least hang out during the winter or summer, depending on their migration pattern. It’s a great place to start your birding journey if you’re interested, because the birds are easy to see.

Master Birding Program

I’m excited and somewhat terrified to announce I’ve qualified for … and enrolled in … the Master Birding Program at The California Academy of Sciences in San Francisco in conjunction with the Golden Gate Audubon Society. The classes, lab work, field trips, field work, presentations, homework (!) and exams (!!) extend through the end of 2019. We are also required to complete 100 hours of volunteer work by the end of 2020.

All graduates are expected to become involved with conservation in some capacity here in the Bay Area. More info to come as the class progresses. And as one of my professors likes to say, “Bird on!”

6 Replies to “Yellow Butts and Red Wings”

  1. How fabulous that you are taking on this challenge and will be doing advocy and other volunteer work when you graduate. It’s very inspiring!

  2. You are a very bright young woman, this will challenge you in a really fun way. Be advised I will be contacting you to identify birds I take photos of! Looking forward to hearing all about it. Susie

  3. You’re right about those two birds “running the joint” at the ponds – those are what I predominately saw last time I was there. I appreciate their bursts of color.

    Congrats again on the Master Birding!

Comments welcome!