Prothonotary Warbler – Profile | Facts | Female | Nest | Traits

Prothonotary Warbler

Size and construction—giant, full-bodied, long-billed—make the Prothonotary Warbler an unlikely candidate for confusion with different warbler species. It can also be distinctive in plumage, with a bright yellow head and breast, greenish-yellow back, and bluish wings.

Prothonotary Warbler profile

When spread, the bluish upperside of the tail reveals giant white spots. The underside of the tail is usually white, extending onto the undertail coverts.

The Blue-winged Warbler is considerably related in coloration however has a darkish line by way of the attention and outstanding white wing bars, along with being significantly smaller and more slender.

Prothonotary Warbler Overview

The good Prothonotary Warbler bounces alongside branches like a golden flashlight within the dim understory of swampy woodlands. This golden ray of light is exclusive amongst warblers with its beady black eye and blue-gray wings.

It can also be one in every of two warblers that construct their nests in holes in standing useless timber.

Often referred to as a “swamp warbler” within the southeast, it additionally happens surprisingly far to the north alongside rivers.

Its inhabitants are declining, attributable to the lack of forested wetlands within the U.S. and mangroves on its wintering grounds.

In southeastern swamps in summer, this brilliant golden warbler sings from high within the timber.

It is exclusive amongst eastern warblers in its behavior of nesting in holes in timber, moderately than within the open; it should typically nest in birdhouses positioned near the water.

The name “Prothonotary” initially referred to a gaggle of official scribes within the Catholic Church who wore brilliant yellow hoods, as this bird seems to do.

Geographic Range

During the breeding season, the prothonotary warbler inhabits a lot of the United States, significantly central and southeastern states. Breeding happens as far west as Texas, Oklahoma, and Kansas.

To the east they are often discovered all alongside the Atlantic coast, stretching from northern Florida to southern New York.

They additionally inhabit northern states corresponding to Michigan and Wisconsin. Protonotaria citrea then travels south for the wintering season in Central America and elements of northern South America.

They stay alongside the Atlantic coast from southern Mexico to South America. The prothonotary warbler may also winter alongside the Pacific coast of Costa Rica and Panama

The Prothonotary Warbler inhabits moist woodlands and stream corridors, nesting principally in tree cavities, within the decrease Midwest, Middle Atlantic states, and Southeast.

Its essential wintering grounds lengthen from Honduras to Columbia and Venezuela. It migrates instantly throughout the Gulf of Mexico or alongside the Gulf coastal lowlands.

Prothonotary Warbler Habitat

Water is necessary to P. citrea they usually spend their lives close to or next to water formations of every kind, corresponding to lakes, creeks, swamps, and flooded forests.

Occasionally they’ve been discovered residing by swimming pools or home ponds. Protonotaria citrea is distinctive amongst warblers as a result of they construct breeding houses in pre-established cavities, made both naturally, by woodpeckers, or by man. Manmade cavities could be made out of milk cartons or small picket containers.

Most cavities that are chosen are in timber. While wintering most P. citrea stay within the mangroves that line the coast of Central and South America.

Many of those mangroves are being destroyed for the development of coastal development, highways, and agriculture.

This destruction of Protonotaria citrea habitat has produced a decline in their inhabitants. The destruction of the forests within the United States can also be a menace to this bird’s habitat and life.

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Prothonotary Warbler Description

Protonotaria citrea acquired its name due to its resemblance to the yellow hooded prothonotaries of the Roman Catholic Church.

Coloration of P. citrea is a vibrant yellow on the top, neck, and underside. Yellow fades into olive green alongside its back after which to grey over the decrease back and tail.

The upper wings are a blueish grey with black on the suggestions and the underwings white and yellow. The stomach fades from yellow to white, coloring the underside of the tail white.

Female birds resemble males besides they’re duller in shade, with more olive green tinting the yellow.

Males have a black bill, whereas females have a black higher mandible and a flesh-colored or brown decrease mandible. Both men and women have darkish gray legs and feet, and black eyes.

Prothonotary Warbler Behavior

Protonotaria citrea are migratory birds. They migrate from the south through the months of March, April, and May to their breeding grounds within the United States.

Many of those birds return to the identical breeding space yearly. They stay there till August once they start their migration to the south for wintering. By the month of October, a lot of the birds have completed their migration south.

Prothonotary warblers are territorial animals through the breeding season. Both the feminine and male interact in agonistic behavior when approached with a conspecific intruder.

They assume an upright, “Head-Up Posture,” to their opponent, after which pursue them with chasing and bill snapping.

They can get into sparring battles within the air, locking payments and feet with their opponents and falling to the ground. On the opposite hand, P. citrea should not territorial through the wintering season and stay collectively peacefully.

Protonotaria citrea vocalize in varied methods. Males and females talk with one another by expressing a gentle chirp out of consciousness and recognition.

This happens most frequently once they strategy or go away the breeding cavity. Both sexes sing a song of single syllables that may enhance or lower in preliminary frequency, and could also be repeated 4-14 occasions.

Males typically sing songs when attempting to impress females throughout the aerial display. Singing is barely executed in breeding habitats and is carried out more by single males than by paired males.


The Prothonotary Warbler is a big, heavy-bodied warbler with a giant head and bill. It has shorter legs and a shorter tail than different warblers. Its bill is heavier and longer than most warblers.


The Prothonotary Warbler is brilliant golden yellow with blue-gray wings and tail and a yellow-olive back. Its beady black eye stands out on its stable yellow face. Seen from beneath, it has white below the tail. Females are sometimes paler yellow than males.


Insects and snails. Feeds on adult bugs and larvae (particularly aquatic bugs), ants, caterpillars, mayflies, beetles, and different bugs; additionally snails and different small mollusks, spiders, and a few seeds.

Prothonotary Warbler Food Habits

Protonotaria citrea is primarily insectivorous, feeding on flies, beetles, moths, butterflies, spiders, caterpillars, insect larvae, and an occasional snail or isopod.

They have additionally been discovered to eat fruit and seeds. They forage for meals in timber, branches, fallen logs, and leaves which are both on vegetation or useless and protecting the ground.

Using the bill to select and probe, they hop alongside timber, logs and the ground in seek of meals. Protonotaria citrea may also catch meals in an aerial or hovering method, more typically when caring for a nestling than not.

Feeds by gleaning bugs amongst foliage, usually low down amongst thickets, and often above water. Sometimes hops about on floating drift wooden and mossy logs, peeping into crevices. May often forage by winding its method up the trunks of timber like a nuthatch.


4-6, typically 3-8. Creamy or pink, with spots of brown. Incubation is by feminine, 12-14 days. Young: Fed by each parent. Leave nest 10-11 days after hatching. Supposedly can swim at fledging. 2 broods per year.


Fed by each parent. Leave nest 10-11 days after hatching. Supposedly can swim at fledging. 2 broods per year.

Prothonotary Warbler Nesting

Males arrive on nesting grounds in early April, a couple of weeks before females. Males set up territories by singing, vigorous shows, chases, and preventing.

Males place small quantities of moss into the nest cavity, constructing dummy nests, however solely feminine builds the actual nest.

Male shows intensively to the feminine throughout courtship by fluffing plumage and spreading wings and tail. Nest site often 5-10′ up (typically 3-30′ up), above standing water in a gap in tree or stump.

Cavities are sometimes old Downy Woodpecker nests. Sometimes excavates its personal gap in very rotten stumps, and can use birdhouses. Female fills nest cavity almost to the doorway gap with moss, dry leaves, twigs, and bark; then traces it with rootlets and bark strips.

Where to seek out

Finding a Prothonotary Warbler means discovering the right habitat. They’re mostly quite a few within the Southeast, the place it’s possible you’ll discover them in swamps and bottomland forests.

But additionally, they use forests alongside rivers such because the Mississippi, in order that they happen farther north than you may anticipate in Wisconsin and all the best way north to New Hampshire alongside different rivers.

Once you discover the right spot, head in direction of the water and start in search of a brilliant yellow bird within the understory.

They have a tendency to remain low within the forest and infrequently forage above water and alongside shorelines.

These brilliant yellow birds are conspicuous, and their loud ringing song can assist information you to them even before you see them. The greatest occasions to search for them within the U.S. are from April–July.

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Prothonotary Warbler Reproduction

The pairing between female and male prothonotary warblers happens through the breeding season shortly after spring migration from the south.

The male often arrives on the breeding vacation spot before the feminine so as to discovers one or more breeding cavities and set up territory around these cavities.

He layers every cavity with moss and introduces the feminine to every cavity with a display. The feminine chooses her mate based mostly on the standard or the variety of cavities that he has produced.

Once the feminine has determined, she finishes constructing the nest and begins laying her eggs.

An average clutch is 4-5 eggs, which the feminine incubates for 12-14 days. The eggs hatch often inside 12 hours of one another and the new child nestlings stay within the nest for the next 10-11 days.

Both the feminine and the male deliver the nestling’s meals throughout this time. On the ultimate day, the parents repeatedly present upon the cavity, irritable and without meals, chirping for the nestlings to exit the cavity.

Fledglings are watched and cared for through the next 35 days till they’ll feed and take care of themselves.


Protonotaria citraea is listed as reasonably susceptible and is on the watch checklist of Partners in Flight. The placement of artificial breeding cavities within the U.S. would assist population development.

Conservation of mangroves alongside the coast in wintering areas would additionally rebuild the inhabitants, however, no effort has but been put into this trigger. This is a species of particular concern within the state of Michigan.

Prothonotary Warbler Facts

Most warblers nest both on the ground, in shrubs, or in timber, however, the Prothonotary Warbler and the Lucy’s Warbler construct their nests in holes in standing useless timber. They may use nest containers when accessible.

The Prothonotary Warbler obtained its name from the intense yellow robes worn by papal clerks, generally known as prothonotaries, within the Roman Catholic church.

The Prothonotary Warbler had its day in court docket through the Cold War. In 1948 Alger Hiss an American authorities official was accused of being a Soviet spy. Part of the trial hinged on whether or not Hiss knew Whittaker Chambers, a former member of the U.S. Communist Party.

Chambers claimed that he talked to Hiss about watching birds and reported Hiss’s pleasure about seeing a Prothonotary Warbler on the Potomac River. This bird sighting linked the 2 people and finally led to Hiss’s sentence and to the rise of Richard Nixon to political energy.

For Prothonotary Warblers it pays to be brilliant. Males that are brighter yellow achieve entry to higher nest sites than much less colorful males, in accordance with an examination carried out in Louisiana.

The oldest recorded Prothonotary Warbler was a male, and at the very least Eight years, 1 month old when he was recognized by his band in Ontario in 2005. He had been banded in the identical space in 1999.

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