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Prothonotary Warbler

Many bird species that spend the spring/summer season with us raising their young are headed back to their winter feeding grounds. Yes, fall migration started weeks ago for thousands of birds in North America. We say goodbye for another year to a very special visitor to Gilmore MetroPark, the Prothonatory Warbler.

Prothonatory photo from Gilmore

Why should we get excited about this brightly colored bird species? See the photo of an adult male taken at Gilmore MetroPark from a kayak. Prothonotary warblers only breed in hardwood swamps and large wetland areas, which greatly limits its choice of habitat. It is also the only eastern warbler that nests in natural or artificial cavities such as old woodpecker holes.

female protho with caterpillar

The male prothonatory will place moss inside several selected nest sites and then put on quite a display to entice a female to join him. If a site is chosen, the female will build the remainder of the nest utilizing small root pieces, grasses, leaves and plant tendrils. She will lay 3-7 white spotted with rust-brown to lavender eggs which will hatch in two weeks.

protho eggs

Unfortunately, their numbers are declining due to habitat loss, being parasitized by the brown-headed cowbird and out-competed for nest sites by the house wren.

So how can you help birds during fall migration?

*Help keep wetland areas and all habitats clean of garbage.

*Fill backyard bird feeders and keep them clean.

*Fill backyard bird baths and keep them clean.

*Plant bushes and trees for areas to hide from predators.