Thursday, July 7, 2016

Palm Warbler

 A New Brunswick Breeding Bird

Palm Warbler (Breeding Plumage)
The Palm Warbler is a colourful wood warbler that calls New Brunswick home.  It is an early spring migrant that helps brighten up the drab landscape of late April and early May.  Its bright yellow throat, breast and under-tail coverts contrast with its greenish back and chestnut crown.  Some stay to breed here while others continue on to breed further north in Newfoundland,  central and southern Labrador and Quebec east of James Bay.  

The Palm Warbler has a western race which is a much grayer bird.  It generally remains west of central North America.  Our eastern race winters in the southeastern US, mainly the Carolinas to Texas.  Some fly on to the Caribbean islands.

Palm Warbler (Non-breeding Plumage)

 The Palm Warbler is a hardy warbler.  It is able to come here early in the season because it can survive on seeds and dried fruit as well as its usual diet of insects.  It is one of the few warbler species which wag their tails.  That makes it easy to identify.  It often arrives in the spring about the same time as Hermit Thrushes and Ruby-crowned Kinglets.  

It breeds in sphagnum bogs and fens and open barrens.  It builds its nest on or close to the ground usually in a low bush or clump of tall grass.  The nest is made of strips pulled off weed stalks, fine grass, bark and feathers.  Four or five eggs are laid and incubation is about 12 days.  The eggs are whitish with chestnut speckles.  Two broods are often produced.  

Palm Warbler Nest
The nest shown above was found in a sphagnum fen.  The adult made a litany of loud chirps before it reluctantly left the nest.  It ran off across the moss like a mouse before it took flight.  A short distance away it performed an interesting broken wing display.  The nest appeared to have 4 hatchlings and one remaining egg.  The last egg was probably still to hatch.  We moved away quickly allowing the female to return to the nest.  

It is always interesting to be given the rare opportunity to see into the private lives of wild species.  

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