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Palm Warbler Life History


Open WoodlandsPalm Warblers breed in bogs and areas with scattered evergreen trees and thick ground cover in the boreal forest. During migration they stop in weedy fields, forest edges, fence rows, and other areas with scattered trees and shrubs. They use similar areas on the wintering grounds including second-growth forest patches, marshes, prairies, parks, and coastal scrub. Back to top


InsectsPalm Warblers primarily eat insects including beetles, flies, and caterpillars. During the winter they also eat seeds and berries such as bayberry, sea grape, and hawthorn when available. They pick most insects from the ground or low shrubs, but they also nab a few insects in midair. Back to top


Nest Placement

GroundPalm Warblers place their nests on the ground nestled in peat moss, usually at the base of a small tree or shrub. They also occasionally nest on or slightly above the ground in drier evergreen forests.

Nest Description

They build a cup-shaped nest out of grass, sedges, rootlets, and ferns. They line the inside of the nest with finer grasses, feathers, and hair. Nests are about 3 - 4.5 inches in diameter and 2 inches tall.

Nesting Facts

Clutch Size:4-5 eggs
Egg Length:0.6-0.8 in (1.6-1.9 cm)
Egg Width:0.5-0.5 in (1.2-1.3 cm)
Egg Description:White speckled with brown and lavender spots.
Condition at Hatching:Naked with patches of light brown down.
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Ground ForagerThe Palm Warbler, unlike most warblers, spends a lot of time walking on the ground and bobbing its tail as it goes—an obvious trait whether the bird is on the ground or perched in a tree or shrub. Despite its affinity for the ground it also forages and sings from taller trees and shrubs. It sometimes sallies out to grab an insect from a low shrub or tree like a flycatcher. The male sings from high perches to establish its territory soon after arriving on the breeding grounds. He chases intruding males out of his territory and then sings from a high perch to proclaim ownership. Pairs form shortly after the male sets up his territory, typically from late April until the middle of May. The two birds stay together during the breeding season but split up afterwards. Pairs tend to keep themselves during the breeding season, but they join mixed-species foraging flocks with sparrows, Ruby-crowned Kinglets, Pine Warblers, and Yellow-rumped Warblers during the nonbreeding season. Back to top


Low Concern

Palm Warblers are fairly common, and their populations have been fairly stable between 1966 and 2019, according to the North American Breeding Bird Survey. Partners in Flight estimates the global breeding population at 13 million and rates them 9 out of 20 on the Continental Concern Score, indicating a species of low conservation concern. About 98% of all Palm Warblers breed in the vast boreal forest of Canada. This remote region is vulnerable to extractive industries such as peat harvesting, tar sands oil development, and logging, and climate change. Palm Warblers are also one of the most frequently killed species at lighted towers across the United States. A TV tower in Florida caused the death of more than 1,800 Palm Warblers during a 25-year period.

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Dunne, P. (2006). Pete Dunne's essential field guide companion. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, New York, USA.

Partners in Flight. (2020). Avian Conservation Assessment Database, version 2020.

Sauer, J. R., D. K. Niven, J. E. Hines, D. J. Ziolkowski Jr., K. L. Pardieck, J. E. Fallon, and W. A. Link (2019). The North American Breeding Bird Survey, Results and Analysis 1966–2019. Version 2.07.2019. USGS Patuxent Wildlife Research Center, Laurel, MD, USA.

Sibley, D. A. (2014). The Sibley Guide to Birds, second edition. Alfred A. Knopf, New York, NY, USA.

Stephenson, T. and S. Whittle (2013). The Warbler Guide. Princeton University Press, New Jersey, USA.

Wilson Jr., W. Herbert. (2013). Palm Warbler (Setophaga palmarum), version 2.0. In The Birds of North America (P. G. Rodewald, editor). Cornell Lab of Ornithology, Ithaca, New York, USA.

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