February 4, 2020
Yellow-rumped warblers love wax myrtle berries by Mary Reid Barrow

This time of year, you will probably hear a yellow-rumped warbler before you see the little bird feeding with friends in thick stands of wax myrtle trees.

“Tsk, tsk, tsk,” says the little brown, white and black bird with its tell-tale yellow patch on its rump,  as it flits around in the branches looking for berries to munch on.

Berries are a  misnomer.  The aromatic waxy blue-gray fruits feel as hard as little pebbles. Fortunately,  the warblers are equipped with digestive systems designed to deal with the seemingly inedible pellets.

The combination of the yellow-rumped’s cast iron stomach and our area’s prolific wax myrtles gives us locals the pleasure of having colorful warblers around us in winter time.

Most warblers are insect eaters  and must head south in winter to find food, but not the yellow-rumped warbler!  Over the years, the bird also has been called a myrtle warbler because of its affinity for wax myrtles or bayberry trees , as they are sometimes called.

Wax myrtles, or bayberries, are large shrubs that often grow into small trees.

Though they surely didn’t eat them, early colonists used the berries to make what are still called bayberry candles.  They harvested the wax from the berries by immersing them in hot water and then skimming the wax off the top.

Grab a handful of leaves and berries and bury you nose into and you will smell that old familiar, cedar-like aroma that is associated with bayberry candles.

By any name, yellow rumped warblers and wax myrtle trees are sweet.


      My son, Gibbs Barrow, took this photo of a  little yellow-rumped warbler at Back Bay National Wildlife Refuge where wax myrtles grow in abundance.


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