The first time I saw one of these striking little birds I was astounded by its color and its boldness. This little guy perched in that tree and sang to me while I fumbled with my camera to take this picture.
Prothonotary Warblers, Protonotaria citrea, come to parts of Texas to mate and reproduce. They like their nest sites near or over water so they can find plenty of the insects and spiders they like to eat. They are one of the only two species of warblers to nest in cavities of trees or old woodpecker nests. Their habitat needs have put their population in decline in the Southeastern U. S. and in parts of Canada.
You may see Prothonotary Warblers as they pass through Texas from their wintering grounds in the Yucatan and northern Venezuela between March and May. From April to July is breeding season for these birds and they will breed where they can find the forested wetlands they prefer. In Texas, this means mostly in the eastern part of the state. This bird was photographed in early April of 2012 at the Fort Worth Nature Center and Preserve which is a forested wetland along a portion of the Trinity River. If you miss them on their way north, you can watch for their return during September through October.
If you live in the Southern U.S. from the Mississippi river to Florida, you can put nest boxes out for these spectacular little birds. You can find plans for a nest box and instructions how you can help slow the decline of this species at Cornell University’s Ornithology Lab website.
There needs to be permanent water nearby and these little fellas don’t seem to be bothered by people in their nest territories.
This picture was taken in late April, 2015. I am guessing that breeding season was underway and that this little guy was trying to attract a mate. I never saw a female close enough to photograph but they have similar but duller colors than the male which is unusual for birds. Males in breeding plumage usually are the brightly colored ones while the females lack all the finery. You can read more about Prothonotary Warblers and other members of the Parulidae family at Texas A&M University’s Breeding Bird Atlas website.