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A photo of a Palm Warbler (Setophaga palmarum), male
Palm Warbler, Male

Palm Warbler

Setophaga palmarum

The Palm Warbler, Setophaga palmarum, is a diminutive songbird belonging to the New World warbler family. It presents itself in two distinct plumages depending on the season. During the breeding season, the "Brown" Palm Warbler dons a breeding plumage, while the "Yellow" Palm Warbler is observed in a non-breeding plumage outside of this period.

Identification Tips

Adult Palm Warblers measure between 4.7–5.5 inches in length, with a wingspan stretching from 7.9–8.3 inches, and weigh a mere 0.3–0.5 ounces. The species is divided into two subspecies: the "Yellow" or "eastern" Palm Warbler (S. p. hypochrysea) and the "Brown" or "western" Palm Warbler (S. p. palmarum). The eastern variant is characterized by brownish-olive upper parts and a vibrant yellow underbelly, with bold rufous streaking across the breast and flanks. In contrast, the western subspecies exhibits less yellow below, more subdued streaking, and upper parts of a cold grayish-brown hue.

Habitat

Palm Warblers are typically found in open coniferous bogs and at the edges of forests, preferring areas east of the Continental Divide across Canada and the northeastern United States.

Distribution

These birds are migratory, wintering in the southeastern United States, the YucatΓ‘n Peninsula, Caribbean islands, and from eastern Nicaragua down to Panama. They are among the first warblers to return to their breeding grounds in spring, often arriving nearly two months ahead of their congeners.

Behaviour

Palm Warblers are ground foragers, more so than other warblers, occasionally taking flight to catch insects. They are known for their distinctive tail bobbing, a behavior shared only with Kirtland's and Prairie Warblers within the Setophaga genus.

Song & Calls

The Palm Warbler's song is a monotonous buzzy trill, while its call is a sharp "chek."

Breeding

The breeding nests of Palm Warblers are open cups, typically positioned on or near the ground in open areas.

Diet and Feeding

Their diet consists mainly of insects and berries, which they forage for predominantly on the ground.

Conservation status

The Palm Warbler is currently listed as Least Concern on the IUCN Red List, indicating a stable population across its range.

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