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Palm Warbler

Setophaga palmarum ORDER: PASSERIFORMES FAMILY: PARULIDAE

IUCN Conservation Status: Least Concern

A warbler that doesn’t act like one, the Palm Warbler spends its time walking on the ground, wagging its tail up and down. This brownish-olive bird has a bright rusty cap and a bold pale eyebrow stripe. They breed mainly in Canada’s boreal forest, but most people see them during migration or on wintering grounds foraging in open areas. You may see two forms: an eastern subspecies that’s bright yellow below, and a more western subspecies with a pale belly.

Songs

Male Palm Warblers sing a buzzy trill that some liken to a Chipping Sparrow song. The song is made up of 4–16 buzzy notes that each swell up in pitch slightly. Strung together, the notes have trilling quality. Each song lasts for about 1–3 seconds separated by 12–18 seconds of silence. Males often sing from atop trees and shrubs.

Calls

  • song
     
  • Courtesy of Macaulay Library
    © Cornell Lab of Ornithology.

They give two different types of calls: a thin seep and a louder smack. They often give the thin seep call in flight. The louder smack is often given as an alarm call.

Search the Macaulay Library online archive for more sounds and videos

Backyard Tips

Create a bird friendly backyard for migrating or wintering Palm Warblers by planting native plants. Learn more about birdscaping at Habitat Network.

Find This Bird

Unless you live in Canada, spring, fall, and winter are your best times to see Palm Warblers. They spend the winters in the Caribbean and in a narrow strip along the southeastern United States and occasionally along the West Coast. They're a fairly common early migrant across much of the East, reaching New England by mid-to-late April. They start slowly heading south in late August. Weedy fields, forest edges, and scrubby areas are great places to look for them during migration and winter. Look through groups of birds foraging on the ground—they’re often with sparrows, juncos, and Yellow-rumped Warblers—so watch for their characteristic tail wagging to pull them out of the crowd. They also forage in low shrubs and isolated trees in open areas, where they sometimes sally out for insects like a flycatcher. Palm Warblers typically aren't skittish, so if you find one, you should have enough time to get a good look.

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bird image Blue-winged Warbler by Brian Sullivan

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