Palm Warbler

by Kyle Sweet, The Sanctuary Golf Club, Florida Master Naturalist

Four Keys to ID

1. Size & Shape – Small songbird with a fuller looking belly and longer tail and legs than most other warblers.
2. Color Pattern – Dull brownish-olive above with yellow under the tail and throat. On eastern birds, the belly is yellow. Breeding birds have a rusty cap and rusty streaking on the belly, whereas non-breeding birds have paler undertails and a dull brown crown.
3. Behavior – Tell tale near constant tail wagging. They forage on open ground or in low vegetation.
4. Habitat – While migrating and during the winter, Palm Warblers use weedy fields, fence rows and other areas with scattered trees and shrubs.

Cool Fact: The great Boreal Forest in Canada, often called “North America’s Bird Nursery, is the summer home to billions of migratory birds and an estimated 98% of all Palm Warblers.

A frequent site on the Sanctuary Golf Club’s fairways these days is the Palm Warbler. This small songbird winters in the Southeastern United States, with the highest percentage of them spending their time in Florida.

Recognized by the constant bobbing of their tales, the Palm Warbler is typically seen on the ground foraging on small beetles, caterpillars, grasshoppers, ants and spiders. It will also fly out to catch flying insects in mid-air. Depending on the time of the year, this warbler will also round out it’s diet with seeds and berries.

The Palm Warblers name might imply that it’s a tropical bird, but the opposite is true. It’s actually one of the northernmost breeding of all warblers and got their name based on a specimen collected on Hispaniola, a Caribbean island with plenty of palm trees.

The Palm Warbler won’t be as easy to see as many of our year-round wading birds on the island, but thanks to them not being skittish, you should have enough time to get a good look at this winter resident. Open lawn spaces, parking lots and along road edges are the best places to spot them. Enjoy!

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