A Bestiary: Part Twenty-six ~ Songbirds: Warblers ~ Palm Warbler

Moving on with the family of Parulidae or New World Wood Warblers, I would like to introduce the russet crowned Palm Warbler Setophaga palmarum, as the ninth warbler featured in my ‘A Bestiary . . . Tales from a Wildlife Garden. Encounters with this unusual warbler have only been in the early spring, usually around mid April, and then by chance I had a delightful sighting on November 3, 2013, my first autumn meeting.

Palm Warblers are actually divided up into two subspecies . . . the vivid Yellow Palm Warbler and the more subdued Western Palm Warbler. I will be sharing my experiences with the bright and animated Yellow Palm Warbler.

Palm Warbler (Setophaga palmarum)

Each year within the first few days of April I have been blessed with discovering the return of the spirited and sparkling little Palm Warbler. Usually the first to arrive back to our farm after a long winter, the nimble spirit of this sunny songbird is an elixir that soothes my wintry weary spirit. It is possible, in elated imagination, to join the joyous dipping and diving and to be truly charmed by the sweet, highly-pitched trills of chip-chip-chip-chip-chip over and over into the crisp morning air we share. Join I do, and my inner light is inspired and rekindled for embracing moments of pure abandonment, while working to capture these portraits. It is always a thrill to have these encounters with life, which are ever so giving of perfect happiness.

Palm Warbler (Setophaga palmarum)

Verdure vegetation, of a weeping crabapple, frames a Palm Warbler as  the sun lights up his reddish-brown crown and brownish-olive back. I captured this portrait back in 2009 . . . towards the end of April that year.

Palm Warbler (Setophaga palmarum)

With each new spring, as trees and shrubs begin to blow out their leafy petals, Palm Warblers perch like intricately patterned blooms on the mostly naked limbs. Another frozen moment in the spring of 2009 reveals a mutual gaze.

Palm Warbler (Setophaga palmarum)

The second day of November this past year I happen to be under our oldest apple tree when a darling Palm Warbler joins me as I gather freshly cut branches. Here another eye connection and tilt of the head exhibiting the crown blending more towards the brown tones of its autumn attire. The russet streaks along the breast seem a bit less reddish too. It is not the time of year to impress, for this medium sized warbler is only passing through on his way toward the southern most reaches of the southern states, all of Florida or further south to the Caribbean. We are along the Palm Warbler’s migration route and he is here, only for a day or two, visiting our open wildflower fields and forest.

Palm Warbler (Setophaga palmarum)

For many years, I was upside down in my thinking these lively warblers actually stayed the summer and raised their two broods here at Flower Hill Farm. It only takes looking at a range map to see they only breed well north into Canada and along the northern tips of the United States. When hanging head first, the Palm Warbler shows off his brightly painted yellow underside from his throat to his under tail. Dabs of white along the tips of his tail are outlined in black, mirroring the lines through his black beady eyes, for a  finish to the striking plumage.

Palm Warbler (Setophaga palmarum)

Note also the tiny semi circle eye-rings. What a beauty, and such a joy to spend a few precious moments in the warblers presence.

Palm Warbler (Setophaga palmarum)

Earlier, in April of 2013 I eyed a Palm Warbler foraging along the garden floor between fresh shoots of green. I do wonder if this might be the same warbler that returns later in the fall. He is sporting his spring togs and seems a bit more wary. I do have a few guests standing with me this day so perhaps, even though we are a good distance away, he is a bit camera and people shy. In any case, he is illustrating one of Palm Warblers unique characteristics, that of dashing about the ground in search of insects, which make up the bulk of his diet with a bit of added fruit and seeds now and then. He is also constantly dipping his tail up and down, while he runs along the ground or when he is perched in a tree . . . another notable behavioral characteristic, often noted as tail-wagging. This was my first and only spring sighting of 2013.

Palm Warbler (Setophaga palmarum)

After a day or so resting and feasting here, the Palm Warbler would have made his way up to Maine or farther along into central Canada, where he would meet his mate and she would build a nest of bark, grass, ferns and such near the foot of a small tree on a boggy, mossy ground. The pair would together raise their brood of five and maybe even rear a second brood, within the summer months, before beginning their fall migration towards their preferred winter habitat of open grasslands, brushy and wildflower fields, and along fringes of marshes. For those living in Florida and on the edges of other southern states you may see a group of both Yellow Palm Warblers and the more muted Western Palm Warbler scurrying across a field. A group of Palm Warblers is called a ‘Reading of Warblers.’

 

© 2014, Carol Duke. All rights reserved. This article is the property of Native Plants and Wildlife Gardens. If you are reading this at another site, please report that to us

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