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Photo of an adult male yellow warbler

Photo: Photodisc


The boreal landscape, so silent and spare through the long winter, undergoes an amazing transformation each spring. As the sun warms the forests and muskegs, clouds of mosquitoes, black flies and other insects begin to hatch. Over the millenia, migratory landbirds have zeroed in on this protein bonanza; today some 3 billion landbirds -- warblers, thrushes, raptors, flycatchers and more, all told about 30 percent of North America's overall landbird population -- migrate to the boreal forest to feast and breed. In June, it can seem as though every part of the forest, from grassy bog to tree canopy to shrubs and underbrush, is full of the motion, sound and color of birds. By late July, the young have fledged and many species have already left the boreal for another year. Some, including bald eagles and woodpeckers, fly to wintering grounds only a few hundred miles south. Others make truly epic journeys to the tropics and beyond.

Among these long-distance fliers are wood warblers. These tiny, colorful and constantly moving birds winter in the tropical forests of Central and South America and in the West Indies, and their annual migrations to and from Canada's boreal forest are the highlight of the year for millions of birdwatchers. Up to 1 billion warblers breed in and depend on the boreal forest each year.

last revised 7/20/2004

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