Bird of the Week, April 27, 2012
Prothonotary Warbler


Prothonotary Warbler by Greg Lavaty


This beautiful warbler looks like a bit of spring sunlight with its bright golden-yellow head and breast set off by trim blue-gray wings. The name "Prothonotary" refers to clerks in the Roman Catholic Church, whose robes were bright yellow. Another folk name for this bird is “Golden Swamp Warbler”.


Unlike most warblers, the Prothonotary nests in low tree cavities, and will also use nest boxes.  It feeds primarily on aquatic insects, but will also take spiders, seeds, and snails. Its melodious song is a series of loud, ringing “zweet” notes.


Populations of the Prothonotary Warbler fell sharply by the early 1900s due to the wholesale logging of bottomland hardwood forests. Other threats include competition for nest holes by more aggressive species such as the House Wren, brood parasitism by Brown-headed Cowbirds, and flooding. Destruction of mangroves on its wintering grounds also poses a significant threat.


Today, populations in remaining habitat seem to be stable and may actually be increasing, due in part to the provision of nest boxes. However, prevention of further destruction of mangrove forest and restoration of forested wetlands are still needed to keep this lovely bird returning each spring.




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Photo: Greg Lavaty; Range Map, NatureServe