Prothonotary Warbler : : Prothonotaria citrea
June 05, 2012
I worked on a Prothonotary Warbler in the bird lab, last week at the Field Museum. Like everything else I work on, it was an unfortunate window kill. It was an adult female that was at least a year old. I had come across Prothonotaries in the lab before, but knew little about this species of warbler. They have amazingly bright yellow plumage, and thus their name refers to the yellow cloaks worn by Roman Catholic papal clerks (prothonotaries).
P. citrea prefers wet habitat: swamps, bottomland hardwood forests, and mangrove forests. It winters in mangrove forests of Central and South America, and breeds in bottomland hardwood forests mainly in the Southeastern US. They are supposedly the only wood warbler species that will nest in tree cavities, often using holes previously excavated by woodpeckers.
As they require pretty specific habitat, their survival depends on us preserving it. There have been nesting box programs that have some amount of success in boosting breeding populations. It remains to be seen, however, how the effects of loss of wintering habitat in Central and South America will affect their numbers.