Northern Parula


Common Name:Northern Parula




Genus: Parula

Species:Parula americana

Photo: Sara Morris



The Northern Parula is a passerine in the family Parulidae, which consists of New World Wood Warblers. Members of this family are typically characterized as small active birds with short pointed bills. Many species of Wood Warblers are also brilliantly colored. Northern Parulas are small warblers between 10.8-12.4 cm long and weighing 5.5-11.2 g.

Adult males are mainly blue-gray above, with a light green-yellow triangular patch on the back, 2 clear white wing bars, and partial white eye-rings. The throat and breast are yellow and the belly is white. Adult males also have a chestnut and black band across the breast. Females are similar to males in appearance, but are smaller, duller in color, and lack breast bands. Immature birds are similar to females, but with more green on the underparts.


Northern Parulas breed in mature forests near streams and swamps in southeastern Canada and the eastern United States. They are commonly found where there is a high amount of moss and moss-type plants. They winter occasionally in southern states, but their most common wintering grounds are in the Caribbean, Mexico, and Central America. In the tropical wintering grounds, Northern Parulas use a variety of habitat types, including fields, scrub, and woodland. They feed primarily on insects and spiders during both the breeding season and winter, although during winter they will occasionally feed on berries, seeds, and nectar when insects are scarce.

Photo: Sara Morris



Northern Parulas forage by hopping through branches and leaves, picking insects and spiders as they go. They have rarely been observed walking or climbing. In flight, Northern Parulas have quick and erratic wing beats. Northern Parula males defend their territories with singing and chasing during the breeding season. When they act defensively, they may use a wing-droop display, in which the wingtips are held below the base of the tail. During migration and on the wintering grounds, individuals may form mixed flocks with other paruline species.


Members of this species are mainly monogamous, and the females perform the majority of the nest building, hollowing out a hanging mass of moss to form a cup with an entrance hole at the side. These nests are frequently located high in a tree. Females lay a clutch of 2-7 eggs in the nest. Females then incubate the eggs for 12-14 days while the males often feed the incubating female. The young are altricial at hatching: blind, naked, and helpless. The females are primarily responsible for feeding the young, although males assist sometimes. Fledging occurs approximately 10-11 days after hatching.




Northern Parulas can be found in mature forests with water mostly these birds are seen during the migratory season and very few can be found during the breeding season in Western New York. If you want to see one of these birds it would be best to go out in the spring or fall to areas like Forest Lawn, Allegany State Park and Iroquois National Wildlife Refuge to see these birds.


Birds of Western New York is brought to you by the Institute for the Study of Human-Animal Relations at Canisius College in Buffalo, NY.