Swainson's Warbler


swainson's warblerThe Swainson’s warbler is one of many Neotropical bird species whose numbers have declined in North America. These birds live in bottomland forests and prefer to nest in damp areas with mature hardwood trees and a dense understory of shrubs or cane.

The Swainson’s warbler is a plain olive-brown colored bird with a pale yellow-white belly. They have a whitish eyebrow stripe that runs above their eye, and the top of their head is a rusty brown. Unlike many species of warblers, there is no difference in appearance between a male and female Swainson’s warbler. While they may not be particularly interesting in appearance, their secretive nature makes them a mysterious subject to study.

Dr. Mia Revels, an associate professor of biology at Northeastern State University, has risen to the challenge of assessing the status of this species in Oklahoma. She had this to say about her efforts, “Swainson's Warblers are incredibly challenging to study, which is one of the attractions to me. They frequent thick, dark vine tangles and dense thickets. I rarely see them unless I find a nest or net one to band. You are much more likely to hear their loud, ringing, beautiful song than to actually see the bird itself. But, if you work hard, you can capture a glimpse of a Swainson's Warbler perched in a tree singing away, or half-buried under the leaf litter, small body vibrating as they search for invertebrate prey.”

Dr. Revels focused her efforts around the Little River watershed and other areas in eastern Oklahoma with appropriate habitat. She located new populations within five of her study sites, including Wister, Hugo, and Cherokee Wildlife Management Areas. This new information on the distribution and abundance of the species will help natural resource agencies to better manage the habitats and populations of this bird.