Black-and-white Warbler makes rare winter appearance in Holyoke

(c) Greg Saulmon 2013

(c) Greg Saulmon 2013

After I posted about the Pine Grosbeaks in Heritage State Park last Sunday, a local birder visited the park to look for them. While there, he found — to his surprise — a Black-and-white Warbler. He reported the sighting on a Facebook group devoted to birding in western Massachusetts.

After a week in which I managed a scant 10 minutes of birding while waiting for a city employee to copy some documents for me at Holyoke City Hall, I finally got out this afternoon.

I spotted the warbler within just a few minutes leaving my apartment. It was in a small row of trees bordering a walkway between the parking deck at City Hall and Holyoke District Court.

From there, I watched as the bird visited a number of trees in the parking, mingling with Juncos and at one point foraging just a few limbs away from a juvenile Cooper’s Hawk.

I’d gathered that Black-and-white Warblers were not an extremely common sight in Massachusetts in January. The Cornell Lab of Ornithology’s range map for the species shows the bird wintering no further north than the coast of South Carolina, with most of its winter range covering Florida, Mexico, Central America and parts of South America.

But just how uncommon is a sighting in Holyoke at this time of year?

Image provided by eBird ( and created Jan. 12, 2013.

Image provided by eBird ( and created Jan. 12, 2013. Click to enlarge. >>View interactive version

A map of data from eBird, at right, shows Black-and-white Warbler sightings reported during the month of January for the years 2009-2013.

The pale lavender squares represent eBird’s lowest level of frequency for sightings (0-2%).

From Virginia north into Canada, sightings have only been reported in Boston and the New York City and Washington, D.C. areas in January for the 2009-2013 span.

January sightings of the species, a ‘notable’ bird in eBird’s database, don’t pick up until well into South Carolina.

No western Massachusetts sightings are recorded in this data set.

That, of course, doesn’t mean that other people haven’t seen them, or that the birds haven’t been here. It only means they haven’t been reported through the eBird system.

Still, coupling the eBird data with the warbler’s range map suggests that seeing one in downtown Holyoke at this time of year is a rare treat.

Below, more photos from this afternoon.

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1 comment
  1. R.C.Henderson said:

    Just spotted one today, in Iowa.

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