Okefenokee “Butter-Butts”

Okefenokee Swamp Yellow-rumped Warbler
Yellow-rumped Warbler songbird, Setophaga coronata, perched in the sunlight on a Titi Bush branch, Cyrilla racemiflora, in the Okefenokee Swamp National Wildlife Refuge in Georgia, USA. Birding photography near Kingfisher Landing canoe launch. November 12, 2021. ©www.williamwisephoto.com

When visiting the Okefenokee in the fall and winter, there is one swamp inhabitant that can’t be missed: the Yellow-rumped Warbler. It is a bright and cheery bird that is totally absent in the summer, but can be seen everywhere throughout the fall and winter. Groups of twenty or so are constantly flitting around the Titi and Staggerbush, happily chirping and chipping. As I told a fellow photographer, be careful if you pish, you will practically be mobbed by them!

According to sources, Setophaga coronata is “a regular North American bird species that can be commonly observed all across the continent.” Individuals and subspecies can vary considerably in appearance, but one thing remains consistent: their yellow rump. This field mark as earned them the affectionate name “Butter Butts” from birders. The these yellow tails can be seen all through the woody swamp scrub.

Butter Butt Warbler
Yellow-rumped Warbler; Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge, Georgia. November 12, 2021.

According to the eBird frequency charts, the Yellow-rumped Warblers begin showing up in the Okefenokee with the fall migration. They then hang around in great abundance until, on a sudden, they disappear from the swamp by May. As sources state, “Every year, fall migration usually takes place from September to November, spring migration from April to May, and the species known to depart from its winter habitats from March to April.” It amazes me how a bird can be totally absent on one trip, and then practically everywhere just a few months later.


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