Palm Warbler

Setophaga palmarum


Early Spring Date: March 31
Late Spring Date: May 21
Most Frequently Seen: April 18-26

Palm Warblers have two distinct populations. Birds from the eastern population migrate through Monticello Park early in the spring and are one of the earliest arriving warbler species. They generally arrive around the second week in April. Your best chance to see one is during the end of the third week and the beginning of the fourth week in April. The western population is not as common and tends to pass through Monticello in May. Palm Warblers nest in Canada and the far northern states.

Where to See Them in the Park

Palm Warblers are not common at Monticello. They generally stay low and often can be seen on the ground. They sometimes sing from branches in the mid-canopy and below.

Physical Description

Palm Warblers compulsively pump their tail when on the ground or when foraging in trees. The tail pumping can be more important than plumage when trying to identify them.

Eastern Palm Warbler
Eastern Breeding - Photo by William Young

Western Palm Warbler
Western Breeding - Photo by William Higgins

The Eastern race in breeding plumage is yellow underneath and has a yellow line over the eye. The Western race in breeding plumage has a yellow throat and a yellow line over the eye, but is dingy brown or gray below. Both races have a brown cap in breeding plumage.

Western Palm Warbler
Western Immature - Photo by Ashley Bradford

Western Palm Warbler
Western Immature - Photo by Ashley Bradford

Western Palm Warbler
Western Immature - Photo by Ashley Bradford

Immature birds of both races are paler. The streaking on the breast ranges from faint to moderately heavy. The amount of yellow on the underparts can also be variable.

Western Palm Warbler
Western Immature - Photo by Ashley Bradford

The Palm Warbler is another "yellow-rumped warbler" who is not a Yellow-rumped Warbler.

Western Palm Warbler
Western Immature - Photo by Ashley Bradford

Both races of Palm Warblers have yellow undertail coverts in breeding and immature plumage.

Vocalizations

The song of the Palm Warbler is a series of weak notes that can be either sweet or buzzy. The notes sometimes form a slow trill.

Hear the song of the Palm Warbler.

Notes

The term "snowbird" is applied to people from Canada or the northern states who either move to or spend the winter in Florida or somewhere else with a warmer climate. Most warblers are avian "snowbirds", and Palm Warblers are one of the most visible snowbird species. A great many winter in Florida, and they can be seen in areas with large human populations and a lot of palm trees. They are often on the ground in parks and other areas, pumping their tails as they look for food.

Origin of Names

Common Names: Palm because the first specimen collected was in palm trees on Hispaniola, a Caribbean island that includes Haiti and the Dominican Republic. The New World Warblers were named for their similar appearance to European warblers, to whom they are not related. Most of the New World warblers do not warble (sing continuously with notes that change frequently).
Genus Name: Setophaga means "moth eating".
Species Name: Palmarum means "in the palm trees".

Palm Warbler video footage

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