Wildlife and Invasive Species Education (WISE) Species Profile: Prairie Warbler

Common Name: Prairie Warbler

Status: Native

Scientific Name: Setophaga discolor

Occurrence: Florida sub-species is a year-round resident. Migratory sub-species is a winter resident.

Identification: The Prairie Warbler is a very small bird that has an average length of just over 4″. A striking bird, these tiny warblers are sexually dimorphic- males and females exhibiting different coloration. Males are bright yellow and have small, dark streaks on both sides of their flanks. They will also have a more yellow on the head, with a distinct dark semicircle under the eye. Males will also exhibit a small chestnut patch of feathers on its back, just behind its head. Females are not as brightly colored and have grayish feathers on the head. They also have a small semicircle under the eye and dark streaks on the sides, but the coloration is must less pronounced. Immature specimens may also appear this way, as well. Note: The featured image is that if a male.

Description: Unlike the name implies, this species is not found only in prairie type settings. In Central Florida, you will most likely find them darting in and out among large bushes or the tree canopy looking for food. The native sub-species in Florida breeds in mangroves. Migratory birds will breed in areas such as pine forests, oaks, and even Christmas tree farms. These warblers can be quite vocal. They will use a specific song to attract a female, while using another to deter competing males. According to the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, population have steadily declined by 25 from 1966 to 2015.

Diet: Prairie warblers are generalists, feeding on small arthropods such as spiders, and a host of different insects. This will include caterpillars. That are not only insectivores, but will also feed on snails and the occasional fruit. Nests are cup-shaped and most likely will consist of leaves, twigs, and feathers. Females lay between 3 to 5 eggs and will hatch on about 8 to 11 days.

Interesting Facts:

  • The Florida sub-species are larger and have larger white spots on their tails, compared to their migratory cousins. They will also be most common near coastal area, due to their preference of breeding in mangroves.
  • Declining populations are a result from habitat destruction and possibly cowbird parasitism.
  • Males return to the same breeding area year after year, while females will not.

Cover Photo Credit: Jim E. Davis

References: https://www.allaboutbirds.org/guide/Prairie_Warbler/overview





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Posted: December 31, 2021

Category: Natural Resources, UF/IFAS, UF/IFAS Extension, , Wildlife

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