More and More Warblers

Most of the yard is following the normal routine of preparing for winter, but the Yellow-rumped Warblers seem to feel that winter has already arrived.

In previous years, the wax myrtles’ abundant berries have lasted well into spring. Other birds refuse to eat the berries, and the Yellow-rumped Warblers are rarely numerous enough or hungry enough to need the entire crop. But this year, the branches may be bare as early as Christmas.

I’m a bit worried about what will happen to my favorite warblers, once their food supply runs out.

The Wax Myrtle and Yellow-rumped Warblers

Much of the yard’s fall and winter activity takes place in the wax myrtles. (I believe ours are southern wax myrtle. Other names include Southern bayberry or candleberry.) I’ve never bothered to count, so I don’t know how many individual plants make up the barrier between our fence and the sidewalk. Enough to create a unique habitat in the yard.

More tree than shrub, the wax myrtles are distinctly male and female. Only the females produce berries. (Technically, their fruit is considered a drupe.)

The berries aren’t in high demand. Few of the yard’s visitors bother with them, which leaves more than enough for the yellow-rumped warblers that come each fall and stay until spring.

According to The Cornell Lab of Ornithology’s All About Birds website, yellow-rumped warblers are the only warbler species able to digest the berries.

The warblers stay through pear-blooming time, when they spend a few weeks feasting on nectar and soaking up sunshine. Then they disappear.

Today I saw fall’s first flock of warblers flitting through the wax myrtle. For me, their arrival is as certain a sign as the Harvest Moon.