4, 2013 PRAIRIE WARBLER... This tail-wagging
yellow warbler with black streaks on its sides is not found in
the prairies but in scrubby fields and forests throughout the
eastern and south-central US. The northern race of the
Prairie Warbler is a familiar summer breeder in forest edges in
much of the eastern US. It winters in coastal South
Carolina south throughout peninsular Florida and the Bahamas to
the West Indies.
The Florida race, considered to
be a separate subspecies from the northern migratory race, lives
in the mangrove woodlands on the Gulf and Atlantic coasts.
Florida birds are slightly larger and have larger white spots on
their tails. The Florida sub-species is a permanent
resident. They feed mostly on insects, perching or hopping
on branches to pick their prey from the undersides of leaves.
They will feed occasionally by hanging upside down from the tips
of twigs, hawking insects by hovering in mid-air or dropping to
the ground to snag a bug.
The bird is about 4.75 inches
long and weighs about 0.27 oz. He has a round head and
long, narrow tail. His bright yellow underparts and dark
semicircle under the eye make him distinctive.
The male Prairie Warbler has
two song types which are very similar but differ in volume and
speed. The faster song is directed at attracting the
female during courtship and to maintain the pair bond. The
slightly slower song is sung to warn other males that they are
entering his territory. Both songs are a series of
high-pitched, slightly musical buzzes which generally steadily
rise in pitch.
Males may have more than one
mate, breeding in loose colonies. Migratory males return
to the same breeding ground (or stay in the same area in the
case of permanent residents) while females move from one area to
another. During courtship, males perform slow
butterfly-like display flights and chase the females.
In coastal Florida mangrove
habitat, the nest site is selected by the female. She
builds an open cup made of densely felted plant materials.
She lays 3-5 off-white eggs with brown spots concentrated at the
larger end of the egg. She incubates the eggs for 11-14
days. The male does assist in feeding the offspring which
leave the nest 8-11 days after hatching. Fledglings remain
with their parents for 40-50 days when they become independent.
Prairie Warblers often raise two broods per season.
Most surveys show declining
numbers of Prairie Warblers over the past few decades.
This has been attributed to declining habitat which requires
frequent fires to maintain brushy areas. Parasitism by
cowbirds is also a problem.
Our thanks to Chuck Tague
for providing the above photo taken during an HRA field trip to
Wekiwa Springs State Park in April.
Information above was gathered
Sibley Guide to Birds, Lives of
North American Birds by Kaufman and the 1986-1991 Florida
Breeding Bird Atlas data maintained by Florida Fish & Wildlife