Nova Scotia

Tropical bird blown off course survives winter, thanks to Nova Scotia couple

A small songbird more at home in the swamps and woodlands of Central America has survived Nova Scotia's harsh winter thanks to some kind people, a heat lamp and a whole lot of crickets.

Wobbly, a yellow-throated warbler, is snug in a Lunenburg County shed chowing down on crickets

Wobbly showed up at Lyle and Trish Baker's home in Petite Rivière, Lunenburg County, in mid-December and has been feasting on crickets all winter. (Chris Surette/A for Adventure )

A small songbird more at home in the swamps and woodlands of Central America has survived Nova Scotia's harsh winter, thanks to some kind people, a heat lamp and a whole lot of crickets. 

A yellow-throated warbler — affectionately called Wobbly — showed up at Lyle and Trish Baker's home in Petite Rivière, Lunenburg County, in mid-December. 

"It flew in and was scrambling around with the native birds for food under the trees and whatnot," Lyle Baker told CBC's Information Morning

"So we were able to identify it and we knew by that time that it was a misfit, that it really didn't belong here."

Bird experts told Baker yellow-throated warblers are usually found in "the tops of the palm groves of the Gulf of Mexico." The farthest north they usually go is southern Pennsylvania and northern Missouri — and only during the summer. 

Baker suspects a storm pushed Wobbly north into Nova Scotia.

"[Wobbly] actually chose us. I don't know why or if that's accurate or not, but it came and it was getting pretty desperate and it was scrambling around for what it could find," he said.

According to the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, yellow-throated warblers prefer to dine on spiders and other insects — hard to find outdoors during a Nova Scotia winter.

"It would have been a long wait until spring, until spider season," said Baker.

The farthest north yellow-throated warblers usually go is southern Pennsylvania and northern Missouri — and only during the summer. (Dominic Sherony/Wikipedia)

The Bakers weren't sure where they could find a steady supply of spiders through the winter so they went with the next best insect, crickets.

The hungry little bird gobbled up the 25 or so crickets the Bakers first purchased. 

"So when those crickets were gone we got more, and more, and more, and more. It eats about 500 crickets a week," said Baker.

"It's quite amazing to sit and marvel at where these crickets disappear to."

Yellow-throated warblers are usually found around the Gulf of Mexico and parts of Central America. (Tony Hisgett/Wikipedia)

Wobbly's been riding out the winter in a corner of the couple's shed. They installed a heat lamp there to provide some extra warmth.

As the bird grew stronger and less wobbly, Baker started to leave the door to the shed open so the bird could come and go.

He said the bird now spends most of its time outside but still returns to feed on crickets, sunflower seeds and suet. It also heads back to the shed when the temperatures drop. Now that spring has arrived, at least on the calendar, Baker hopes Wobbly will let bird instinct take over. 

"The best thing I can hope for is that we'll keep her alive through the winter and she'll quite likely stay all summer," he said.

"Most of the people who know a great deal about birds predict that she'll migrate in the fall." 

With files from Information Morning

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