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FLORIDABIRDS-L  February 2001

FLORIDABIRDS-L February 2001

Subject:

Bell's vs Warbling vireos. One lifer day?

From:

David Simpson <[log in to unmask]>

Reply-To:

David Simpson <[log in to unmask]>

Date:

Tue, 6 Feb 2001 22:45:59 -0500

Content-Type:

text/plain

Parts/Attachments:

Parts/Attachments

text/plain (82 lines)

Well, it looks like I may have only had one lifer.

I have been thinking about that vireo that I saw at Camp Owaissa Bauer. I
may have been in err. I guess that's what I get for thinking. I originally
IDed the bird as a Warbling vireo, but then chickened out when I realized
what a rarity that would be. A Bell's vireo would be rare, but not unheard
of, but a few things don't ring true.

Here is a transcription of my notes taken after studying the bird.

Vireo like bird.

Very drab grayish.
Bill somewhat long.
Pale yellow mandible ext. 1/3 to 1/2 length.
Head. gray line through eye.
            Lt. gray diffuse line above eye
            Eye dark
Underparts Lt. grayish
                    Yellowish undertail

Feeding on berries in disturbed hammock.
    4m high 2m away Sun at back 8X32 binoc.

Bill heavy and long, vireo like. Eye dark lt. stripe above eye, gray line
thru eye. No malar
    Throat & breast grayish. undertail yellowish gray.


A couple of other things that I did not note was the lt. lores and lack of
wing bar(s.) Also, the lack of an eye ring. I specifically studied the
head pattern and underparts, paying less attention to the upperparts. One
thing that led me to believe that it was a Bell's was the apparent smaller
size when compared to Blue-headed vireo. Unfortunately, I did not have it
in direct comparison, the Blue-headed was much higher in the tree and was
not viewed at the same time. I have said many times, if the bird is not
sitting next to a ruler, size is not a good field mark. I did not get a
good look at the tail.

The Sibley Guide and the accounts from the Birds of North America (BNA)
series have proven the most useful in my research. There are two subspecies
of Bell's that may show up in Florida the eastern and Arizona forms.
Eastern birds tend to be more greenish on the back (pers comm) and show a
thin dark line behind the eye (Sibley). If it was Bell's, it would have
been a western. Warbling comes in eastern and western flavors as well, the
western having a slightly darker cap, smaller bill, and dingier underparts.
I think that it was an eastern Warbling vireo.

Two field marks that are repeatedly mentioned for Bell's are the wing bars
and the broken eye ring. This bird definitely did not have a broken eye
ring. It could have had very worn wing bars that were almost not there, but
I don't think it had any. Bell's is often described as being kinglet like
often flicking its tail and being generally active. I do not remember the
bird being particularly active or fidgety. The most action I saw was when
he regurgitated a berry.

The bird that I saw was in the trees apparently moving with a flock of
songbirds. From what I hear, the Bell's tends to be in brush piles and
second growth type areas and tends to stick to the same spot.

Stevenson and Anderson in Birdlife of Florida mention that Warbling vireo is
one of the most difficult identifications in the vireo clan, no kidding!
They also mention a photo of a Bell's vireo that was originally IDed as a
Warbling but was later considered to be a Bell's with no wing bars. I have
learned some more interesting things about these vireos, but I won't bore
you all for now.

The point of all this rambling is that when you add up all the field marks,
I cannot make much of a case for a Bell's vireo. I have not seen a Bell's
vireo before and am not familiar with the variations in this species and I
have not seen a Warbling for several years, so I am a bit rusty.

If anyone out there does have experience with either or both of these
species, I would greatly appreciate their input. It would be nice if you
would post your comments to the list so that we could all learn from this.
If this is a Warbling as I now believe, it would be the first to winter in
Florida and would be worth photographing for verification. Bill, get your
video tape rolling.

David Simpson
Sebastian, FL
[log in to unmask]

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