Beak of the Week – Chestnut-sided Warbler

Chestnut-sided Warbler (Setophaga pensylvanica)

Family: Parulidae

The Chestnut-sided Warbler migrates through eastern Texas in spring and the boldly patterned male never fails to dazzle onlookers with his bright yellow crown, black line through his eye, black mustache stripe, white breast, and chestnut streaked flanks. The female has a similar pattern but is duller with a greener back, paler face, and less extensive chestnut on the sides. In the fall, the bird undergoes a dramatic transformation that causes its plumage to bear little resemblance to its appearance in spring and summer. During the non-breeding season the underparts are plain white, the upperparts are greenish yellow, and both sexes have an obvious white eye-ring.

The Chestnut-sided Warbler was rare during John James Audubon’s time; he only observed the bird once while roaming eastern North America in the early 1800s. Numbers of the birds increased during the 19th century when logging and low intensity agriculture provided an abundance of early successional habitat.

Their song, rarely heard in Texas, is a series of musical notes, usually accented at the end: “pleased, pleased, pleased to MEETCHA.” The song is thought to be used to attract females and is heard before the females arrive and early in the nesting cycle.

Greg Lavaty
Greg Lavaty
Anthony Rathbun

Our Beak of the Week is one of 12 birds featured in Confluence, a public art installation along the Bayou Greenway trail at the confluence of White Oak and Buffalo Bayous. The 223-foot mural, created by artist Jane Kim, founder of Ink Dwell Studio, showcases the birds that call Houston’s bayous home. Confluence is commissioned by Houston Parks Board and hosted in collaboration with Buffalo Bayou Partnership. Houston Audubon is pleased to provide ornithological expertise and collaborate on programming and promotion of the mural. Learn more about Confluence here. 

 Visit our Bird Gallery to read about other Texas birds! 

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