"Stop, Sit, Listen & Watch"
The Virgin River pathways allow us to travel the area most frequented by birds of Washington County. The paths will introduce you to birds you have never seen, and view some of their strange behaviors. This is where I saw my first Common Yellowthroat. If you are in the right habitat, and you hear the song . . . ‘wichity, wichity, wichity’ you will know for sure it’s a Common Yellowthroat, even before you see it. This Yellowthroat is known for skulking through marshes at the edges of water, and when it’s breeding time, the male ascends into the air to a height of 20 feet or more, whereupon he utters a number of short sputtering notes, followed by song and then drops back down into the brush or grass, doing it over and over again. It’s his duty to make sure the female sees and hears him, and it’s the female’s duty to look for strong, athletic males, to watch their displays, and to listen to their courtship songs before making the decision of ‘who will be the one and only’.
Common Yellowthroats are good parents, as both of them work to feed and care for the young. Maybe this behavior is why Cowbirds choose to lay their eggs in the Yellowthroat’s nest. This bird species suffers greatly because of Cowbirds. An amazing thing happens when a female Yellowthroat recognizes a strange egg in the nest . . . she will build a second nest over the Cowbird egg so she knows the babies born will all be her chicks. Wow, there is so much to learn about birds.
The next time you happen along a river path, stop, sit, listen and watch. If you are lucky, you just might be able to spot a Common Yellowthroat, for they breed across the United States and most of Canada.
If you have questions about the Common Yellowthroat, Cowbirds, or the Red Cliffs Audubon activities, call 435 673-0996. Marilyn Davis is the artist this week.