|Conservation status||Undoubtedly declined in past with clearing of southern swamp forests. Still fairly common in remaining habitat. Has been helped in some areas by conservationists putting up birdhouses.|
|Habitat||Wooded swamps. Breeds in flooded river bottom hardwoods including black willow, ash, buttonbush, sweetgum, red maple, hackberry, river birch, and elm; or wetlands with bay trees surrounded by cypress swamp. Also nests near borders of lakes, rivers and ponds, normally only in areas with slow moving or standing water. Winters in the tropics in lowland woods and mangrove swamps.|
Feeds by gleaning insects among foliage, normally low down among thickets, and usually above water. Sometimes hops about on floating drift wood and mossy logs, peeping into crevices. May occasionally forage by winding its way up the trunks of trees like a nuthatch.
4-6, sometimes 3-8. Creamy or pink, with spots of brown. Incubation is by female, 12-14 days. Young: Fed by both parents. Leave nest 10-11 days after hatching. Supposedly can swim at fledging. 2 broods per year.
Fed by both parents. Leave nest 10-11 days after hatching. Supposedly can swim at fledging. 2 broods per year.
Insects and snails. Feeds on adult insects and larvae (especially aquatic insects), ants, caterpillars, mayflies, beetles, and other insects; also snails and other small mollusks, spiders, and some seeds.
Males arrive on nesting grounds in early April, about a week before females. Males establish territories by singing, vigorous displays, chases, and fighting. Males place small amounts of moss into the nest cavity, building dummy nests, but only female builds real nest. Male displays intensively to the female during courtship by fluffing plumage, and spreading wings and tail. Nest site usually 5-10' up (sometimes 3-30' up), above standing water in hole in tree or stump. Cavities are often old Downy Woodpecker nests. Sometimes excavates its own hole in very rotten stumps, and will use birdhouses. Female fills nest cavity nearly to the entrance hole with moss, dry leaves, twigs and bark; then lines it with rootlets and bark strips.
Illustration © David Allen Sibley.
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Text © Kenn Kaufman, adapted from
Lives of North American Birds
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Migrates relatively early in both spring and fall, with peaks in many areas during April and August. A very rare stray in the west, mostly in fall.
- All Seasons - Common
- All Seasons - Uncommon
- Breeding - Common
- Breeding - Uncommon
- Winter - Common
- Winter - Uncommon
- Migration - Common
- Migration - Uncommon
See a fully interactive migration map for this species on the Bird Migration Explorer.Learn more
Songs and CallsSong a ringing sweet-sweet-sweet-sweet-sweet-sweet-sweet; also a canary-like flight song. Call a loud, metallic chip.
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How Climate Change Will Reshape the Range of the Prothonotary Warbler
Audubon’s scientists have used 140 million bird observations and sophisticated climate models to project how climate change will affect this bird’s range in the future.
Zoom in to see how this species’s current range will shift, expand, and contract under increased global temperatures.
Climate threats facing the Prothonotary Warbler
Choose a temperature scenario below to see which threats will affect this species as warming increases. The same climate change-driven threats that put birds at risk will affect other wildlife and people, too.