October 26, 2011

Palm Warbler – low down, tail bobber

The Palm warbler is an early arrival and late departure from the New England woods and wetlands edge. This small warbler is one of the more considerate warblers to the bird watcher. Slow moving, ground to eye level feeder that maintains yellowish plumage all year long. Often found in small flocks of two to six the Palm warbler was poorly named by some southern naturalist who happened upon this hardy warbler in a palm tree. This warbler is far more at home along New England’s rives and ponds, moist fields, and woodland edge. With a drab back and yellow head, the Palm warbler has a tell-tale red cap (not always visible), and yellow under tail coverts. This bird is also a notorious tail-bobber, continuously raising and snapping its tail, not to a rhythm but like the head of an old man listening to his friend talk politics. “I agree, yup, yeah I agree, yup, yup, you said it.” Though the spring song, a soft trill, is mostly gone the Palm warbler will still utter a concerned, “chip” call during fall migration. Palm warblers don’t travel as far south as some warblers so can be seen earlier and later in the season than many other species, as such they serve as a wonderful first sign of spring as well as late fall reminder that there is life at summer.

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is an educator, bird watcher, and writer fascinated by the intersections of place, people, nature, and culture. He works for Mass Audubon and lives in the heart of Massachusetts. For questions or comments please contact: alexanderjosephdunn@gmail.com

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