Thursday, March 27, 2008

Prothonotary Warblers Are Here!

The Prothonotary Warblers have returned to the Audubon Center at the Francis Beilder Forest! Although we were not able to get a picture of any of the bright, yellow birds while we were leading our school groups around the boardwalk, we were able to get visual confirmation of their return. Several Prothonotary Warblers were heard and a male was spotted at Goodson Lake at the end of the boardwalk. The flood of excited visitors returning to the center was further confirmation that the stars of spring are back and staking out their breeding territories.

The Prothonotary Warblers nest in cavities, which are often hollow cypress knees in the water. The Lucy's Warbler is the only other warbler to nest in cavities. The young can supposedly swim, but the nests are frequent cowbird hosts. Cowbirds lay their eggs and leave the smaller birds to feed the larger cowbird chick. The cowbird chick will often get more of the food or force the host bird's chicks out of the nest.

The Prothonotary Warbler's name refers to clerks in the Roman Catholic church, whose robes were bright yellow.  Sometimes called the "swamp canary," this bird is definitely hard to miss!

Image by Mark Musselman

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