Common Name:Northern Parula
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.
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
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.