Postcards from a Wandering Warbler

By MDC | May 1, 2023
From Xplor: May/June 2023
cerulean warbler
Postcards from a Wandering Warbler

¡Hola! My name’s Azul. I’m a cerulean warbler. Don’t be fooled by my small size and fabulous feathers. I might look cute, but I’m a daring adventurer!

March 1, 2023: Machu Picchu – Peru, South America

Home tweet home! When it’s winter in Missouri, I live in Peru, a warm, sunny country in South America. Cloud-cloaked forests on the slopes of the Andes Mountains offer tons of bees, beetles, and other bugs for me to eat. My particular patch of paradise is just a short flight from the ancient Inca fortress of Machu Picchu.

– Azul

March 10, 2023: Shade-grown coffee farm – Peru, South America

Forests here are under threat. Each year, an area the size of 300,000 football fields is cleared for mining and farming. But some farmers don’t want their forests cut down. They’ve learned to grow a high-dollar crop — coffee — underneath the towering trees. That’s good for them and for birds like me!

– Azul

March 21, 2023: Village of Jerico – Colombia, South America

Like most adventurers, I can’t stand to stay in one place for long. Every spring, I point my beak north, flap my blue wings, and leave my lush forest behind. It’s a great spot to spend winter, but there are better places to raise a family. I fly at night — it’s safer that way — and stop every day at dawn to rest my weary wings.

– Azul

Azul’s Adventure

Cerulean warblers travel more than 8,000 miles round-trip between Missouri and South America. We know where they go because biologists have put tiny, high-tech backpacks on some of them to track their locations.

Who needs a map? Not this bold bird! The sun, stars, and Earth’s magnetic field are all I need to find my way.

April 6, 2023: Vulcan Arenal – Costa Rica, Central America

Each night, I make it about 100 miles farther north. When the sky’s lit with stars and the wind’s at my tail, I put more miles behind me. But when head winds blow me backward or thunderstorms rumble, I don’t get as far. Speaking of rumbling … This mountain is actually a sleeping volcano. I hope it doesn’t blow its lid while I’m overhead!

– Azul

April 10, 2023: Chiquibul National Park – Belize, Central America

Danger lurks behind every branch. When you move around as much as I do, you’re bound to run into a few critters who’d like to make you their meal. Yesterday, for example, I was scared quite a lot by a hungry ocelot. And today, while I was bathing in a jungle stream, a jaguar crept so close I could feel its breath. Yikes!

– Azul

April 16, 2023: Mayan Pyramids of Tika – Guatemala, Central America

Nom, nom, nom. So much to eat, so little time. I’ve taken a break near these Mayan ruins to fatten up on jungle bugs. I need the extra energy. In a few days, I’ll make a looong flight across the Gulf of Mexico. With nothing below me but the deep blue sea, there will be nowhere to land until

I reach America.

– Azul

April 21, 2023: Gulf of Mexico – Miles off the Louisiana Coast

Things have gone horribly wrong. I left the Mexican coast hours ago, surfing a tail wind across the moonlit sky. Stars danced in the ocean below. When I saw lights, I thought I’d made it to America. I circled for hours, burning energy. Then I realized it was only an oil rig far out at sea. I hope I have enough left in my tank to make the coast. Just. Keep. Flapping.

– Azul

April 22, 2023: Deep in the Bayou – Louisiana, North America

Whew! After flying 16 hours across 600 miles of open ocean, I finally made landfall on the Louisiana coast. Boy, are my tiny wings tired! Now I’m deep in a swampy bayou. It’s full of hungry owls and snakes, but I’m too exhausted to care. All I want to do is rest and stuff my beak with bugs. Wait … Did that log just move?

– Azul

May 5, 2023: Jacks Fork River – Missouri, North America

After six weeks of traveling, I finally reach my home away from home. Deep in the Ozarks, on the banks of the sparkling Jacks Fork River, I find a towering sycamore and stake my claim. I’m not only an adventurer. I’m also a singer. From the tip-top of the tree, I whistle and warble my little lungs out.

– Azul

Ooh, baby! I think I’ve met the girl of my dreams. Her name is Verde. Like me, she just arrived from South America.

June 20, 2023: Jacks Fork River – Missouri, North America

Migrating is a piece of cake compared to raising kids! From sunup to sundown, Verde and I catch insect after insect and stuff them in the beaks of our four baby birds. Verde is a thrill-junkie like me. She leaves our nest by diving over the side, with her wings folded tight, and opens them to fly only when she’s far beneath the branch.

– Azul

Time flies, and so must I. My kids have left the nest. Now it’s time for me and Verde to fly south. Wish me luck. See you next year!

A Helping Hand for Feathered Friends

Birds like Azul need our help. Over the past 50 years, nearly 3 billion birds have disappeared. You can help bring their numbers up by doing a few easy things.

  • Make your windows safer. Each year, nearly a billion birds die from crashing into windows. To prevent collisions, put stickers or washable paint on the outside of large windows and turn off indoor lights at night.
  • Keep your cats inside. Biologists estimate outdoor cats kill over 2.5 billion birds each year.
  • Ask your parents to avoid pesticides. Not only do these chemicals kill pests, they also kill tons of insects that birds like to eat.
  • Encourage your parents to drink shade-grown coffee. Find bird-friendly beans at
  • Plant native trees and wildflowers. They provide better habitat for birds.

Join a spunky little bird on an epic adventure.

Also In This Issue

Illustrated drawing of a mole, snake, and a bird

Some creatures dine where the sun doesn’t shine. Here’s what’s on the menu.

This Issue's Staff

Photographer – Noppadol Paothong
Photographer – David Stonner
Designer – Marci Porter
Designer – Les Fortenberry
Art Director – Cliff White
Editor – Matt Seek
Subscriptions – Laura Scheuler
Magazine Manager – Stephanie Thurber