Northern Parula,  Abaco Craig Nash


The NORTHERN PARULA Setophaga americana is a stumpy little migratory warbler with white arcs above and below the eyes, and with a slate-coloured back distinctively smudged with an olive patch in both sexes. These birds are winter residents on Abaco, and are common throughout the island and cays. They are arriving right now, including juveniles making their first trip to Abaco. Wonder what they’ll make of it?

This photo shows the distinctive colour difference between feet (orangey) and legs (grey-brown)Northern Parula, Abaco - Bruce Hallett (adult male)

Range Map: Summer (Yellow) & Winter (Blue)220px-Parula_americana_map.svg

Parulas are primarily insect eaters, with a preference for caterpillars and spiders. They sometimes dart from a perch to snatch insect prey in mid-air. In winter they vary their diet with berries and fruit. You are most likely to see one foraging busily in bushes and low trees – maybe coming up for air by poking its head above the foliage…

Northern Parula, Abaco (Craig Nash)


WHAT THE HECK IS  A “PARULA”? Originally, Linnaeus classified this little bird at a Tit, or Parus. For some reason, “as taxonomy developed the genus name was modified first to Parulus and then the current form” (Wiki Hat-tip). But although none of the other 37 Abaco warbler species is a Parus, Parulus or Parula, they all come under the family name Parulidae. The august institutions that deal with these things have classified the Parula as a ‘Setophaga’, along with many other warblers.

This photo shows the distinctive upper chest band of the adult bird very clearlyBAHAMAS - Northern Parula Warbler, Abaco -  Becky Marvil

The CORNELL LAB list of adult Parula identifiers is shown below, with adult females being similar ‘but with greener backs’. These specifics are pretty much borne out by the birds shown here (except for the last bird, an immature female just beginning to develop the Parula characteristics). The next photo by Woody Bracey, is a perfect example of what to look out for. 

  • Small songbird.
  • Blue-gray hood and wings.
  • Yellow chest with black and reddish band across it.
  • White crescents above and below eyes.
  • Green back.
  • Two white wingbars.

Northern Parula, Abaco (Woody Bracey)

Parulas produce different sounds to listen out for – a ‘chip’ call that could be any number of birds (IMO); a song; and a trill. Here are examples of each from the essential bird call site Xeno Canto.

CHIP CALL Paul Marvin / Xeno Canto

SONG Paul Marvin / Xeno Canto

TRILL Jelmer Poelstra / Xeno Canto

ABACO BAHAMAS - Northern Parula 2, 1-22-12, Nursery copy 2

This is an immature female parula, a ‘first fall’ bird, and therefore on its first visit to AbacoNorthern Parula, Abaco - Bruce Hallett (imm. - 1st fall female)

I’ll end with an excellent 2:18 mins-worth of Parula-based video from Wild Bird Video Productions






CREDITS: Photos – Craig Nash, Bruce Hallett, Becky Marvil, Gerlinde Taurer; Audio – Xeno Canto; Video -Wild Bird Video Productions; Cornell Lab; a smidge of Wiki

“ROSETTA STONE FOR WARBLERS” – Cornell Lab of Ornithology Research


  has found a way to investigate the nocturnal migrations of warblers using spectrograms. Many of the warblers featured in the project are found on Abaco and will be familiar to the more discerning birder – though I admit that ID of  members of this large family of little yellowy birds, even in broad daylight, remains a blind spot for me (and I suspect I am not the only one). Click the chart below for a clearer view. A downloadable / printable version is available via the link given below. It is also worth visiting  the page to compare the brief audio cheeps of the Northern Parula, Magnolia Warbler and Black-throated Green Warbler and their respective spectrograms

“These spectrograms are a visual representation of the very brief flight calls made by North American warblers during their nocturnal migrations. Some of these call notes sound almost identical to our ears, but spectrograms show minute differences between them. Scientists can compare spectrograms of night recordings to spectrograms of known species to identify nocturnal migrants in total darkness. Andrew Farnsworth, a scientist in the Cornell Lab’s Conservation Science program, developed this “Rosetta Stone” in 2006 in collaboration with Michael Lanzone, Cellular Tracking Technologies, William R. Evans, and Michael O’Brien. It covers all 48 warbler species of the U.S. and Canada (including Grace’s and Red-faced warblers, not shown), and is a major tool in our Acoustic Monitoring Project”

Click chart to enlarge

Putting Sound to Work for Conservation: “Our staff will use results from the Rosetta Stone… to “train” computers to identify the sounds of warblers and other nocturnally migrating birds, as well as other species including whales and forest elephants”

Working Toward a Bird Migration Forecast: “A new grant from the National Science Foundation will fund BirdCast, a project that will combine bird observations (both sightings and sound recordings) with weather models and terrain data to forecast migrations. The results of the predictions will help scientists understand migratory behavior and may aid decisions about wind turbine placement and other questions about environmental hazards to birds”

To see the complete article CLICK LOGO===>>> 

To learn more about BirdCast and the Acoustic Monitoring Project from the original article CLICK LINK===>>>  Cornell Chronicle 

Prairie Warbler on the Delphi Club guest drive, Abaco