A visual journal exploring the birds of Inwood and Northern Manhattan

by Teri Tynes – writer, photographer, and illustrator

A Black-throated Blue on the Old Green Hill

I heard the song of a Black-throated Blue Warbler on Sunday morning, an amusing sound that is sometimes translated in the field guides as “please-please-SQUEEZE-me.” (Audubon Society Field Guide to North American Birds of North America, Eastern Region, 1977) With their midnight blue coloring, a black throat, and white underneath, these birds are both pretty and a little mysterious. They are also endearing, maybe because they are just asking to be squeezed. 

Black-throated Blue Warbler. May 14, 2023. Inwood Hill Park

When I first heard the song of the Blue-throated Blue, I was standing on top of the rocky hill on the easternmost ridge of Inwood Hill Park. The hill is at north edge of the ridge, the one usually accessed by a long set of winding stairs near the handball and tennis courts near the 207th Street entrance. Locals would be familiar with this spot, because the steps and hill have historically served as prime places for recreational usage of various substances. The middle of the hill is sparse, a bit littered with broken glass, giving a 360-degree view of the surrounding treetops.

Black-throated Blue Warbler. May 14, 2023

The eastern ridge of the park and that particular hill, identified in maps from the early 1930s as “Green Hill,” has been a particularly good place to see migratory birds this season and in prior ones. The higher eastern ridge closer to the Hudson River and overlooking the Clove typically attracts the most birds and birders, but this lower ridge catches the rising sun as well. Throughout the past week, historically one of the busiest for migration activity, I have seen from here American Redstarts, a sole Scarlet Tanager, many Yellow-rumped Warblers, a Swainson’s Thrush, a Magnolia Warbler, a Blackburnian Warbler, a few Black-and-white Warblers, Baltimore Orioles, and several others. (Note: Please see the Sightings page for the latest observations.)

Black-throated Blue Warbler. May 14, 2023

While I was standing on the hill Sunday morning, I had my Merlin app open for recording sounds. That’s when I was informed that the sound I heard was that of a Blue-throated Warbler. I couldn’t see it because it was somewhere in a small tree. Warblers are typically small, and the Black-throated Warbler is 5”, so the pursuit of warblers is always a challenge. I was about the give up, but then he flew to a tree with greater visibility. This particular warbler didn’t sit still enough for outstanding pictures, but I have since learned that the Black-throated Blues are among the most approachable. 

Black-throated Blue Warbler. May 14, 2023

Black-throated Blues spend their winters along the Gulf Coast or the Greater Antilles, and they are headed to breeding grounds in Canada or New England or the high grounds of the Appalachian Range. While remarkable in appearance, the journey of these little birds is even more so.

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