Friday, May 04, 2007

Friday Flora/Fauna

Today's featured fauna is the Prothonotary Warbler (Protonotaria citrea). The scientific name is derived from the Latin protonotarius "authorized scribe" referring to the color of the robes such scribes wore and citrus "citrus tree" referring to the color of the fruit on such trees. This bright yellow warber, sometimes called the Swamp Canary, is one of the star attractions at the Audubon Center at the Francis Beidler Forest. Many birders delay their visit to the swamp until the Prothonotary Warblers have returned north from their migration.

The image shows a female adding material, mostly liverwort from the bases of knees and trees, to her nest in a hollow cypress knee. Only the female builds the actual nest, usually over water, while the male will build several dummy nests. The pair remain monogomous.

Eggs laid in the nest cavity will hatch in 12-14 days and the young will fledge in another 11 days. The young can supposedly swim! Both parents will feed the young a diet of insects and snails. Prothonotary Warblers can be frequent victims of the parasitic Brown-headed Cowbird. The nest in the image would likely be safe due to the small opening in the knee, which would prevent the larger cowbird from entering and laying her egg. The Prothonotary Warblers at FBF are secure within the dense, old-growth swamp, while habitat loss and fragmentation elsewhere exposes Prothonotary Warblers and other birds to the parasitic cowbirds and their delinquent parenting.

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