Northern Parula

Setophaga americana
Northern Parula specimens on display in the exhibit "Birds of D.C."

A small (4 ½ inches) wood warbler, the male Northern Parula is most easily identified by its bluish-gray head, yellow throat, and greenish back, as well as its white eye-ring and wing bars. Female Northern Parulas are similar to males, but are paler and duller, especially on the head and throat. In its winter range, this species may be separated from the similar Tropical Parula by that species’ yellower breast and lack of eye-rings. The Northern Parula breeds across much of the eastern United States and southern Canada. It is absent as a breeding bird in parts of the coastal Mid-Atlantic region, upstate New York, the upper Midwest, and extreme southern Florida. In winter, Northern Parulas may be found in the Florida Keys, the West Indies, southern Mexico, and on the Caribbean coast of northern Central America. Northern Parulas breed in a number of wet forest habitats, including swamps and bogs. In winter, this species may be found in other types of habitat, including agricultural fields, humid tropical forests, and scrub. Northern Parulas primarily eat small invertebrates, including insects and spiders, but this species may also eat seeds and berries in winter. In appropriate habitat, Northern Parulas may be observed foraging for insects at the ends of branches in the tree canopy. Birdwatchers may also listen for this species’ song, a whirring “zeeeeeeeee-up.” Northern Parulas are primarily active during the day, but, like many migratory songbirds, this species migrates at night.

DC Information

Common breeding bird, nesting late April to late June. Found throughout wooded habitat from early April to mid-October. The female lacks the male’s black and red throat band.

Distribution Map

distribution map for this species

Bird Vocalizations

Sound from xeno-canto. XC32086 Parula americana (Northern Parula)

Sound from xeno-canto. XC54021 Parula americana (Northern Parula)

Sound from xeno-canto. XC54022 Parula americana (Northern Parula)