To the right, in a photograph supplied by Mike Dunn, is a male prothonotary warbler. More photos of this lovely bird can be seen at the bottom of the page. The species was named (in 1783) for its bright yellow plumage, which resembles the robes of papal clerks (“prothonotaries”) in the Roman Catholic Church.
Found in the Piedmont and Coastal areas of North Carolina, this handsome neotropical migrant favors flooded wooded areas (e.g. swamps), especially along rivers. In Raleigh it can be found along the Neuse River at Horseshoe Farm and Anderson Point Parks, as well as some of the swampier areas of the greenway and Lake Raleigh.
Several motives led to the selection of the Prothonotary Warbler as our bird of the year. First, it is on the Audubon watch list due to its slow decline in overall population numbers (although we can also celebrate that the species appears to be increasing across NC). Habitat destruction on both the breeding and wintering grounds is the main threat facing this bird. Second, the bird is a cavity nester, the only eastern wood warbler to do so. Third, Prothonotary Warblers are one of the most common species found along the Lumber River, Wake Audubon’s adopted Important Bird Area – and few species symbolize the majesty of a forested blackwater system like this one. Again, we invite all members of any skill level to help us monitor all the birds at this diverse area. Finally, the bird is a conspicuous species in the areas it is found. The brilliant yellow color, loud ringing song, and relatively outgoing nature make Prothonotary Warblers easy and delightful to see.
We have a number of events planned to celebrate and educate ourselves about this species. Look for a birdhouse construction day March 1, and a Prothonotary Warbler walk in May to see both the birds and check the status of the houses we’ve built.
Wake Audubon is cosponsoring the JC Raulston Arboretum Bird House Competition, which is a weekend long focus on cavity nesting birds. This event, and the associated talk being given should bring even more of a focus on the Prothonotary Warbler. We plan to have a booth with posters and t-shirts to help get the word out about this fascinating species at the Bird House Competition, as well as Bugfest, Fiesta del Pueblo, and all the other festivals we participate in. John Gerwin will be writing a number of “Feathered Facts” columns for the newsletter with particulars about this bird, and we will have monthly fun facts presented at our meetings.
We look forward to a great year of learning about the Prothonotary Warbler. As its song would suggest, it is very “sweet, SWEET, SWEET.”Bird of the Year Index