Published: Feb. 8, 2021
Magnolia Warbler

The magnolia warbler (Setophaga magnolia) is a small songbird with a distinctive black mask and streaked “necklace” laid on a brilliant yellow breast. Each spring and fall these birds make a long-distance migration, flying from their tropical posts in the Caribbean, Central America, and Southern Mexico to breeding grounds in the boreal forests of the northern US and Canada. Though magnolia stopover sites lie to the east of Colorado, it is not unheard of for one of these striking warblers to drift west of the central flyway into the state during spring migration, much to the delight of many Coloradan bird watchers. This warbler series was donated to the Colorado College Museum by Charles E. Aiken in 1907, a pioneering Colorado ornithologist and taxidermist, before they were eventually transferred to CU in the 1960s when the Colorado College Museum was dissolved. 

The specimens in this drawer represent a series collected by G. Freedly in Philadelphia well before the turn of the 20th century. Legacy collections such as these preserved in museums, provide researchers with valuable baseline data to reconstruct species ranges pre-widespread industrialization, habitat fragmentation, and climate change in the US. Additionally, researchers are even able to sequence the DNA of historic specimens, revealing information on population structure and genetics from birds that lived decades or even centuries ago. It is incredible to think that these magnolias were collected 75 years before the discovery of DNA in 1954, highlighting how specimens collected for one purpose may later be used in a new and evolving ways through time.  

Collect Date: 1878 
Pennsylvania, Philadelphia County, Philadelphia 
Collector: G. Freedley 

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