Myrtle Warbler feigns injury

TitleMyrtle Warbler feigns injury
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication1958
AuthorsSouthern WEdward
JournalJack Pine Warbler

On July 15, 1956, in the vicinity of UMBS, Cheboygan County, Michigan, I observed a display, by a pair of Myrtle Warblers (Dendroica coronata), entirely new to me for a member of the Family Parulidae. While searching for Red-eyed Vireo (Vireo olivaceus) nests I happened upon a pair of Myrtle Warblers that were probably feeding fledged young. Although I failed to locate the fledglings, I was convinced by the actions of the adults that they existed. I doubt that I would have witnessed the following described behavior were young not fledged. I believe that otherwise the parents would have ignored me because I was at ground level. However, there is the possibility of an exceptionally low nest. A female carrying food flew into a small bush three or four feet high and about 10 feet from me. She repeatedly gave a loud, sharp chip. As I walked around within an area approximately 30 feet in diameter she followed me and continued to call in distress. However, when I moved a greater distance away this behavior ceased. Believing that young were within the area I carefully searched for them. At this time the male, who had been singing, joined the female and both adults chippped constantly. The female then made a gurgling-trill, vibrated her wings, and flew to a bracken fern (Pteridium aquilinum) from which she hung upside down and again vibrated her wings and called. She then dropped to the ground and, with one wing outstretched and vibrating, moved slowly among the ferns. The male continued chipping and moved from branch to branch. Once again when I moved farther away this behavior ceased. The female's actions on the ground were not unlike those of the Killdeer (Charadrius vociferus) and Spotted Sandpiper (Actitis macularia). The above described behavior lasted for about 15 minutes and then the birds were silent and no longer paid any attention to me althought hey remained in the area. Similar behavior by a male Kirtland's Warbler (Dendroica kirtlandii) and a female Yellow Warbler (D. petechia) was later observed on different occasions.