At a Glance
Very similar to our Northern Parula, this bird is widespread in the tropics, from northern Mexico to central Argentina. In our area, it is mainly a summer resident of southern Texas, especially in low live-oak groves south of Kingsville. Most of these birds seem to disappear in winter, but a few can be found at that season associating with roving flocks of titmice and other birds in woods along the Rio Grande.
All bird guide text and rangemaps adapted from Lives of North American Birds by Kenn Kaufman© 1996, used by permission of Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.
Perching Birds, Wood Warblers
Forests and Woodlands, Shrublands, Savannas, and Thickets
Direct Flight, Erratic, Flitter, Rapid Wingbeats
Range & Identification
Migration & Range Maps
Returns to nesting areas in south-central Texas early, often in March. A few stay through winter along lower Rio Grande. Strays have reached Louisiana and Arizona.
4-5" (10-13 cm). Similar to Northern Parula, but lacks pale crescents above and below the eye. The yellow from the throat extends farther up side of face, farther down chest.
About the size of a Sparrow
Black, Blue, Orange, White, Yellow
Songs and Calls
A buzzy, ascending trill, zzzzzzzzzz-up.
Falling, Flat, Rising
Buzz, Chirp/Chip, Hi, Trill
Oaks, riverside woods. In southern Texas, breeds mainly in groves of low live oaks with much Spanish moss (for nest sites), surrounded by mesquites. Also sometimes in dense native woods near Rio Grande where much Spanish moss hangs in trees. In the tropics, nests in many kinds of woodlands, from dry lowland thorn forest to humid forest in the mountains.
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Usually 3-4 in south Texas, 2 in the tropics. Creamy white with chestnut speckles around larger end. The incubation period and the roles of the parents are not well known. Young: Probably both parents feed the nestlings. Age at which the young leave the nest is not well known.
Probably both parents feed the nestlings. Age at which the young leave the nest is not well known.
Forages actively from mid-level to the treetops, frequently along streams. Searches among leaves, and hovers momentarily to take insects from foliage; sometimes flies out to catch flying insects in mid-air.
Largely insects. Diet not known in detail; undoubtedly feeds mostly on insects. Known to feed on wasps, ants, flies, and others.
Details are not well known. In the tropics, may remain paired on territory throughout the year. In Texas, most apparently depart in winter. After returning in spring, males sing persistently to defend territory. Nest: Placed 8-40' above ground in hanging Spanish moss; sometimes in hollow in orchids or dangling cactus. In Spanish moss, little material may be added. In other sites, nest is cup-shaped and constructed of moss, palmetto bark, grass, roots, and animal hair; lined with plant down and feathers. Nest probably built by female.
Has disappeared from areas along Rio Grande where it formerly nested. Presence north of there, in Kingsville region, is a recent discovery. Widespread and common in tropics.
Audubon’s scientists have used 140 million bird observations and sophisticated climate models to project how climate change will affect the range of the Tropical Parula. Learn even more in our Audubon’s Survival By Degrees project.
Climate Threats Facing the Tropical Parula
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.