Photo: Richard Crossley/Vireo

Palm Warbler

Setophaga palmarum

A bird of thickets and open areas, usually seen low or on the ground. Birds from the easternmost part of the range ("Yellow Palm Warblers") are rather colorful, but most others are quite drab; however, they can be recognized by the constant bobbing of their tails. Many Palm Warblers spend the winter in the southeastern United States, especially in Florida, where they may be seen near palm groves but not up in the palms themselves.
Conservation status Numbers apparently stable. Faces no major threats to habitat on either breeding or wintering grounds; often winters in open or disturbed areas.
Family Wood Warblers
Habitat Wooded borders of muskeg (summer). In migration, low trees, bushes, ground. Breeds in sphagnum bogs with scattered cedar, tamarack, and spruce trees. The western race also breeds in dry pine barrens of boreal forests with ground cover of blueberry, bearberry, and sweet fern. In migration, frequents old hedgerows, edges of streams and ponds, overgrown fields, and open pastures.
A bird of thickets and open areas, usually seen low or on the ground. Birds from the easternmost part of the range ("Yellow Palm Warblers") are rather colorful, but most others are quite drab; however, they can be recognized by the constant bobbing of their tails. Many Palm Warblers spend the winter in the southeastern United States, especially in Florida, where they may be seen near palm groves but not up in the palms themselves.
Photo Gallery
Feeding Behavior

In winter, does much foraging by walking and hopping on the ground. During the breeding season, gleans insects from foliage while perching or while hovering momentarily in black spruce, tamarack, and cedars. Also flies out to catch flying insects in mid-air. In fall, may join flocks with other warblers, chickadees, juncos, and sparrows.


Eggs

Usually 4-5. Creamy white with brown marks. Incubated possibly by both parents, 12 days. Rarely a host to cowbird eggs; defends against parasitism by covering cowbird eggs over, building a new layer at the bottom of the nest. Young: Fed by both parents. Young leave the nest at about 12 days and are able to fly short distances within 1-2 days after fledging. Probably 2 broods per year.


Young

Fed by both parents. Young leave the nest at about 12 days and are able to fly short distances within 1-2 days after fledging. Probably 2 broods per year.

Diet

Insects and berries. Feeds mostly on small beetles, mosquitoes, flies, caterpillars, aphids, grasshoppers, ants, bees, and spiders. Eats also a considerable amount of vegetable matter, including raspberries, bayberries, and seeds.


Nesting

Some males have more than one mate. An early nester; birds arrive on breeding grounds in early April and begin nests by early May. Nest: Placed on or near the ground in a stunted spruce tree, close to the trunk. Open cup nest is frequently concealed under a clump of grass, and on top of a hummock of sphagnum moss. Constructed by the female of fine, dry grass stems and bark shreds; lined with feathers.

Text © Kenn Kaufman, adapted from
Lives of North American Birds

Illustration © David Allen Sibley.
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Migration

Compared to most warblers, migrates early in spring and late in fall. The duller-plumaged "Western" Palm Warbler is more numerous along the Atlantic Coast in fall than in spring. Very small numbers winter regularly on the Pacific Coast.

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Migration

Compared to most warblers, migrates early in spring and late in fall. The duller-plumaged "Western" Palm Warbler is more numerous along the Atlantic Coast in fall than in spring. Very small numbers winter regularly on the Pacific Coast.

  • All Seasons - Common
  • All Seasons - Uncommon
  • Breeding - Common
  • Breeding - Uncommon
  • Winter - Common
  • Winter - Uncommon
  • Migration - Common
  • Migration - Uncommon
Songs and Calls
Weak dry trill, like that of Chipping Sparrow but slower.