Keeping an eye on Orange-crown Warblers

Kaaren Perry

Last winter 2018-19, I had the fun of an assortment of warblers visiting our yard for several weeks.  Orange-crowned, Nashville, Hermit and Tennessee warblers were the prominent wintering warbler species 

Probably the most interesting behavior I observed was the feeding strategy of the Tennessee.  Further reading labeled this strategy that of a "nectar thief".  With typical nectar and pollen feeders the bird or other organisms inserts its bill into the flower tube to get nectar. The nectar thief strategy is to  pierce the tube near the base, obtaining nectar but not making contact with the flower’s reproductive organs, and therefore not pollinating it.

Well low and behold the Orange-crowned Warbler also appears to use this strategy!  This winter I have noticed one poking a small hole or slit at the base of the Cape honeysuckle blossoms and spending time feeding at the entrance to the hole. I found this reference in "All About Birds" - Orange-crowned Warblers eat mainly invertebrate prey, including ants, beetles, spiders, flies, and caterpillars. …. They supplement their insect diet with fruit, berries, seeds, and plant galls, and are common visitors at the sapwells drilled by sapsuckers and some other woodpeckers. These warblers also pierce the base of flowers to get at the nectar.  Photo showing this behavior on flickr:

I don't know if this is a well know behavior of the OCWA and if I am just late to discover it.  I am wondering if others have noticed this feeding strategy with Orange-crowned Warbler. 

Kaaren Perry
Morro Bay, CA