Lauren Kemple, Education Specialist (AmeriCorps)
Wandering down the Bear Creek Greenway, a yellow flash of movement caught my eye. Stopping for a better look, I peered deep into the
riparian shrubs. Yes, it was still there, skulking but only partially hidden. It had olive-colored wings and back and a yellow throat and breast. The bird’s belly was white, its tail very long, and the white “spectacles” around its eyes were quite distinct. This is my first year birding, and just as I was getting to know all the local birds, spring arrived with an influx of yellow confusion. So many migrants showed up, their warm colors seeming to carry the tropical climate of their wintering grounds into the Klamath-Siskiyou Bioregion. Determined to identify this bird, I pulled out my field guide and flipped through. Of course! It was a Yellow-breasted Chat, the very bird depicted through the art of Gary Bloomfield in KBO’s logo.
Often found in willow thickets or bushy tangles, chats winter in the lowlands of Mexico and Central America and breed throughout the Eastern United States and various parts of the West, including much of northwestern California, eastern Oregon, and the Willamette, Umpqua, and Rogue River valleys. In California, where populations have declined in much of their historical range, the chat is designated as a Species of Special Concern.
References: The Birds of North America Online (A. Poole, Ed.) www.bna.birds.cornell.edu/bna/species/575; The riparian bird conservation plan: a strategy for reversing the decline of riparian associated birds in California. www.prbo.org/calpif/pdfs/riparian.v-2.pdf.; Peterson Field Guides: Warblers, 1997, Jon L. Dunn and Kimball Garrett.
This article appears in KBO’s summer 2009 newsletter, click here to view the full newsletter.