Northern Parula Warbler

Northern Parula by David J. L'Hoste
© David J. L'Hoste
Parula americana
The Northern Parula Warbler is an extremely abundant summer resident throughout the hardwood forests of the state, except in the northwest corner, where it is only fairly common. It nest even on the narrow oak-lined chenieres adjacent to the Gulf. Its weak, lisping trill that “kicks up” on the end can be heard wherever there are large trees, from early March until late summer, when the song period of nearly all birds terminates. The Northern Parula is not only one of the first migrants to arrive, reaching southern Louisiana in late February or the first days of March, but it is also one of the last to complete its exodus in fall. Although an occasional individual winters in the southern part of the state, this is the exception rather than the rule, for most Northern Parulas are gone by the first part of November.
One would think that the Spanish moss that profusely drapes the trees of our state would harbor the nests of many small birds, but the Northern Parula is one of the very few birds that actually makes its home inside it. It lays four or five white eggs with rufous marking in a wreath around the large end.
Both Audubon and Wilson called this bird the Blue Yellow-backed Warbler, but to the generation that followed them this name did not seem an appropriate one; so the bird became Parula Warbler. The addition of the modifier Northern is required to distinguish this species from its close relative, the Tropical Parula Warbler (Parula pitiayumi) of southern Texas and Middle and South America. The word Parula is the diminutive of Parus, the generic name for titmice and chickadees, and was applied to this warbler because of its habit of searching under foliage for insects in the manner of a chickadee. Now the fashion is again for literally descriptive names, such as Blue Yellow-backed Warbler. But I hope the authors will not go back to Audubon’s and Wilson’s name even though it is a perfectly fitting one. Either name is appropriate in its own way, but the policy of trying to find a more appropriate one than the one currently in vogue leads to nothing but confusion and instability in our nomenclature. As the older name suggests, the bird is light bluish gray above, except for the middle of the back, which is greenish yellow.
In the male, a narrow band of dark chestnut or rufous separates the yellow of the throat from the yellow breast. Females lack this breast band but may be distinguished by their bluish upperparts and yellow breast, and by the prominent white wing bars, white-tipped outer tail feathers, and white eyelids. Immature birds are strongly tinged above with yellowish green but otherwise closely resemble adult females.
--George H. Lowery, Jr., 1974, Louisiana Birds

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