July 2013 Bird Photo of the Month

Warbler in the treetops © Mark J. Eden
Northern Parula (Setophaga americana)

Warblers, though tiny, are often brightly colored and sing wonderfully as they flit through the trees.  Although Florida is a great flyway for migrating birds, sadly for us, most warblers pass through, reserving their most beautiful songs until reaching and defending their northern breeding grounds.  Small birds like warblers are more likely to leave the North on migration sooner, beginning in August, whereas larger birds (ducks, storks and herons) migrate in peak numbers in October-November. One reason warblers are early migrants is they feed on northern states’ summer bounty, especially insects, that become less available in fall. The Northern Parula nesting in the eastern states migrates to the warmer climes in Florida, the Bahamas, Cuba, and Caribbean for the winter.

Fortunately, this Northern Parula, our smallest warbler (weighing only 1/3 oz. and 4.5 inches long) also nests in Florida, one of the few warblers that does. The Common Yellow Throat, Prairie, Pine, and likely Prothonotary Warblers also breed in Central Florida. The male Parula’s unique song ascending buzz ending with a rising “zip!” is clearly heard from March-June in its preferred oak/pine habitat near water where it searches for insects and spiders in the treetops, and watches over the female who uses Spanish moss to build their hanging nests.  With binoculars we scan in the song’s direction, often in vain, as it is so difficult to find this tiny imp amongst the canopy, let alone photograph.  Mark J. Eden, handholding his large Canon 7D with its heavy 100-400mm lens, persisted in pursing the difficult, capturing each feather. This male’s beautiful blue upper body, back patch of green, distinctive eye white crescents and black mask or lore (area between eye and sharp beak) differentiates it from a female Northern Parula.

Juanita Baker, Coordinator
Florida Bird Photo of the Month
Pelican Island Audubon

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