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Bird Gallery

Northern Parula

Northern Parula
Northern Parula

© Alan Murphy

Setophaga americana

Family: (Parulidae) Wood-Warblers

Preferred Habitat: Woodlands, usually close to water .

Seasonal Occurrence: Common in spring, lesser numbers in summer and fall.

Profile by Vicki Stittleburg: Northern Parulas are among the first warblers to arrive in the spring, showing up in March well before the main migration onslaught. Northern Parulas have a yellowish green back, a blue-gray head, conspicuous white eye crescents, a yellow lower mandible, blue-gray wings with bold white wing bars, a yellow throat and breast and a white belly and undertail coverts. Males and females look similar except only adult males have a narrow blue and rufous breast band.

Northern Parulas regularly nest in our Smith Oaks sanctuary where they find abundant Spanish moss to weave their nests. Females do most of the nest building, creating a sock-like cup nest within a clump of Spanish moss. Nests are about 3 inches across and 2 inches deep and are suspended from a tree branch. A pair will incubate 4-5 brown-marked, whitish eggs for 12-14 days.

Parulas are small birds, even by wood-warbler standards. They are often hard to see as they forage in the dense foliage of the upper canopy. However, they are easy to hear; the male seems to repeat his buzzy trickle-up song constantly from early spring through mid-summer.

Comments by Don Verser: In some years Parulas nest at High Island which confuses the start of migration. Records such as 07 Aug 2004 at Sabine Woods and 05 Aug 2006 at Sea Rim willows suggest migration is underway by the first week of August.