Living Bird Magazine
Palm WarblerSetophaga palmarum
- ORDER: Passeriformes
- FAMILY: Parulidae
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.More ID Info
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.
- Reinita Palmera (Spanish)
- Paruline à couronne rousse (French)
Create a bird friendly backyard for migrating or wintering Palm Warblers by planting native plants. Learn more about birdscaping at Habitat Network.
- Cool Facts
- Though the Palm Warbler’s name might imply it is a tropical bird, it’s actually one of the northernmost breeding of all warblers (only the Blackpoll Warbler breeds farther north). They got their name from J. P. Gmelin who named them based on a specimen collected on Hispaniola, a Caribbean island with a lot of palm trees.
- The subspecies of Palm Warbler in the East (“Yellow” Palm Warbler) migrates earlier in the spring than its western counterpart. “Yellow” Palm Warblers start moving north in early April and Western Palm Warblers start moving north shortly thereafter. The two subspecies of Palm Warbler also migrate along different routes in spring; the "Yellow" Palm Warbler travels east of the Appalachian Mountains while the "Western" Palm Warbler migrates through the Mississippi Valley. Watch them migrate on the eBird animated occurrence map.
- The oldest known Palm Warbler was 6 years, 7 months old.
- Canada's boreal forests stretch for miles and miles. The great boreal forest, often called “North America’s bird nursery,” is the summer home to billions of migratory birds and an estimated 98% of all Palm Warblers.