Palm Warblers are a unique bird, even among its fellow warblers. They nest on the ground and are much easier to spot than other warblers thanks to their bobbing tails. Despite its name, the Palm Warbler is primarily a resident of Canada and the northern U.S. and spends time in the southern United States, including Florida, and the Caribbean only during the winter.
Adding to the unique characteristics of the Palm Warbler is the fact that they actually consist of two different subspecies which may be split into individual species in the future. In the western area of their breeding range, they are duller with whiter stomachs and in the eastern area they have completely yellow stomachs. Unlike any other type of warbler, the Palm Warbler, a monogamous bird, nests on the ground rather than in the trees. They build their nests at the bases of small trees or bushes and construct them from pieces of bark, rootlets, grass, and feathers. The only other warbler that nests on the ground is the very rare Kirtland’s Warbler. Palm Warblers, like other warblers, are very active and constantly moving. They are easier to spot, however, thanks to their constantly bobbing tail which reveals their yellow undertail.
The Palm Warbler is a common winter resident in Florida. They are the most common wintering warblers in central Florida behind the Yellow-rumped Warbler. These birds enjoy spending their time in woodlands, thickets, open fields, marshes, and mangroves during their winter stay. They also prefer to forage in open areas during the winter season, searching the ground for insects, seeds, and fruits. The Palm Warbler in Florida can be seen between late September, when they settle in from their migration, until April when they return to the north. A great place to spot the Palm Warbler in Florida is at the Wakodahatchee Wetlands in Delray Beach. They start to appear at the park in September and October and are abundant by November. Although Palm Warblers are usually spotted in the wilderness, it’s also possible to see them in suburban areas. The best way to attract a Palm Warbler is surprisingly not with palm trees but with short trees, low bushes, berry bushes, and seed-bearing flowers.
In the north, Palm Warblers breed in bogs, coniferous forests, and partly open areas with scattered trees and heavy undergrowth. They are some of the first birds to return to their northern habitat in the spring, arriving almost two months before other warblers. Their breeding range covers western and central Canada and east to Labrador and Newfoundland and the northernmost areas of the United States including Minnesota, Wisconsin, Michigan, and Maine.
Florida sees an influx of visitors during the winter months, including the Palm Warbler. Although they’re only here for a short time during the year, they are abundant enough to be seen easily and their bobbing tail certainly helps as well. These unusual warblers, with their different colorations, nesting habits, and early migration patterns, are always a treat when they visit Florida.