Beak of the Week – Prairie Warbler

Prairie Warbler (Setophaga discolor)
Family: Parulidae

Now that it’s officially the second half of March, we’re all getting excited because warbler migration season is almost here! Some warblers are beginning to show up around Houston already, and we’re looking forward to seeing them all in our sanctuaries (and backyards) again. Warblers are always a sure sign of the arrival of spring, and many bird enthusiasts enjoy watching their bright colors and active behaviors as they migrate north for the breeding season.

The Prairie Warbler is an early migrant, so it is often one of the first warblers to show up every spring. In the spring sun, the Prairie Warbler shines bright yellow below, with dull grayish-olive upper-parts and chestnut streaks down its back. The distinctive pattern of dark or blackish lines on its otherwise bright yellow face is also a good field mark for identifying a Prairie Warbler.

While warblers are best known for their amazing variety of colors and patterns, they also liven up the outdoors with their songs. The Prairie Warbler’s song consists of a series of 15 or so short notes that rise in pitch. While Prairie Warblers sing most vigorously after they arrive on their summer breeding grounds, they can also be heard singing while they are making their way north for the season.

By Aidan Healey, Conservation Technician, Houston Audubon
Photos by Greg Lavaty

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