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Yellowthroats show up at Market Lake

Living the Wild Life

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After a three-week absence, I finally talked my doctor into letting me slither into Market Lake to see what I could find. As I slowly drove along the canal leading to the main marshes of the management area, I heard the tell-tell sound; “wickity – wickity – wickity,” of the male common yellowthroats, members of the warbler family.

It is the middle of their dating period with the males zipping through the dried cattail stocks looking for a female to impress.

Each time a female would show herself, three or four males would speed toward her, and she would disappear in the thick matted reeds of last year’s growth. Occasionally one of the males would perch on a cattail to sing his love song only to be attacked by other males.

Occasionally I would hear some rustling in the vegetation near the door of my truck, only to see a female briefly as a male would have already seen her. In the hour that I watched them, I did not get a picture of a female as they kept moving very fast. In the meantime, the females will build a nest and will chose her significant other and then their world will slow down. Dating is such an intensive sport for all, but especially for birds.

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Bill Schiess,

Soon she will start to lay from three to six eggs and begin to incubate them, the male will gather insects to feed her while she keeps the eggs warm. Incubation is very short for yellowthroats, only about 12 days, and about ten days after hatching, the young will leave the nest and the adults will probably raise another brood.

These small warblers act a lot like wrens with their busyness and their curiosity. The males, also known as “yellow bandits” because of their black Lone Ranger facial patch, will come close to a parked car and sing to the occupants. But it is amazing how a bright yellow bird can hide in the dried vegetation where they live.

Last fall the Idaho Department of Fish and Game burned some of the large areas of Market Lake’s cattail patches along the road running by the ponds where the common yellowthroats nested in the past. This caused these birds to take up breeding areas in a small line of cattails west of the road from the new outhouse near the first pond. This has caused them to be closer to the road than in past years.

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Bill Schiess,

A good way to find them is to drive slowly down the road, listening for the male calls or looking for speeding yellow flashes darting through the cattails. If you park near where you see or hear them and wait for a few minutes, the males will soon come close to you and may even serenade you with their beautiful song. They put on quite a show.

By the way, it is time to start hanging out oranges cut in half to attract fruit-eating birds like Bullock’s orioles, Western tanagers and hummingbirds. Fruit-eating birds are also attracted to hummingbird nectar as well. There have also been some rare songbirds showing up at Mud Lake and Market Lake.

Work is still being done at the Camas National Bird Refuge, but the manager, Brian Wehausen, told me that some of the songbirds are in the cottonwoods near the headquarters. Now is the time to observe the fruit-eating songbirds.

Good Luck in finding these beautifully colored birds.

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Bill Schiess,