The prairie warbler, shown here, is one of some 30 warbler species that occur in Georgia at least a part of the year. Some warbler species only pass through Georgia during migration; others, like the prairie warbler, nest in the state. CONTRIBUTED BY CHARLES J SHARP/CREATIVE COMMONS

Colorful warblers grab spotlight in spring

Probably no other group of migratory birds thrills birders in spring as much as the warblers. As a group, they are the most colorful and melodious songbirds of the season, drawing the most “oohs“ and “ahhs“ from birders.

Some 30 warbler species occur in Georgia at least a part of the year. Most of them are neo-tropical migrants, which spend the winter in Latin America and return to North America in April and May for spring and summer nesting.

Although warblers are small birds, their neon-bright breeding plumages make them stand out as they flit from branch to branch, hunting insects. Birdwatchers at this time of year complain of “warbler neck“ from constantly looking up at trees to spot the frisky birds.

Some of the migrating species will stop only for a few days in Georgia to rest and refuel before continuing on to breeding grounds farther north. Others, though, will stay here for the summer to nest. (Some deviations to this pattern are yellow-rumped, palm and orange crowned warblers, which spend the winter in Georgia and fly north in spring to nest; and the pine warbler, which lives in the state year-round.)

Being mostly insect-eaters and forest inhabitants, most warblers aren’t likely to come to backyard feeders. So, if you want to see them, you’ll have to go to places where they may congregate.

In Georgia, the best known such place is Kennesaw Mountain National Battlefield Park in Cobb County, where as many as 20 warbler species can be seen on a single day during spring migration. (Many other spring migrants, such as tanagers and vireos, can be seen there as well.)

And if you look and listen over the next few months, you may see or hear some of the warblers that nest in and around metro Atlanta, such as prothonotary, hooded, Northern parula, yellow-throated, prairie and American redstart warblers.

IN THE SKY: From David Dundee, Tellus Science Museum astronomer: The moon is new this weekend. Mercury and Venus are low in the east just before dawn. Venus appears near the moon next Thursday morning; Mercury does so next Friday morning. Mars is low in the west around dusk and sets about three hours later. Jupiter rises in the east around midnight. Saturn rises in the east just after midnight.

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