Bird Database

Northern Parula

(Setophaga americana)

State of the Birds
At a Glance





Strongly increasing


Predation, Collisions, Habitat Loss

Conservation Actions

Maintain large unfragmented forest blocks

Northern Parula

(Setophaga americana)

The Northern Parula is one of our smallest warblers, and among the most colorful. Rather than bold patches of orange or yellow however, the parula is a more subtle blend of blue-gray, green, and bright yellow, accented in males by bold black and rusty bands across its breast. Female and fall birds are duller but still colorful. The song is a distinctive rising buzz that cuts off at the end. It comes in two basic versions, a continuous trill that can’t be mistaken for anything else and one broken into smaller parts that recalls a Black-throated Blue or Cerulean Warbler.

Parulas have a somewhat unusual range consisting of two sections separated by an unoccupied area stretching from the Midwest to the mid-Atlantic states. In both sections they use a wide range of forests, from purely deciduous to purely coniferous, but a key component in all cases is the presence of hanging plants in which the warblers build their nests. In the southeast this role is filled by Spanish moss, and Northern Parulas can be abundant in the most-draped bottomlands from Louisiana to the Carolinas. Up here in New England and across the forest to the west into Canada they frequently use “old man’s beard” lichen, although other masses of hanging material also serve their needs. The nest itself is built into a hollowed-out portion of the moss or lichen, with access via an opening in the side. In this manner they recall an oriole nest, but luck is needed to find one when their habitat is festooned with possible nesting sites.

In winter most parulas head to the Caribbean, with a few remaining in southern Florida. Released from their need for hanging plants, they use almost all forest types from mangroves to mountaintops and can be one of the most common species in dry forests of the Greater Antilles. Researchers studying the wintering warblers in Puerto Rico were among the first to raise the alarm about declining populations of migratory birds, including the Northern Parula. Over that same time frame, however, numbers have generally been increasing on the breeding grounds. This is particularly true in the Northeast, where populations have roughly doubled since the late 1990s and the species is gradually expanding its range southward into central New Hampshire.

Seasonal Abundance

Relative abundance based on eBird data. Numbers indicate likelihood of finding this species in suitable habitat at a given time of year, not actual numbers encountered.

Northern Parula
Range Map

Information for the species profiles on this website was compiled from a combination of the sources listed below.

  • The Birds of New Hampshire. By Allan R. Keith and Robert B. Fox. 2013. Memoirs of the Nuttall Ornithological club No. 19.

  • Atlas of the Breeding Birds of New Hampshire. Carol R. Foss, ed. 1994. Arcadia Publishing Company and Audubon Society of New Hampshire

  • Birds of the World. Various authors and dates. Cornell Laboratory of Ornithology.

  • Data from the Breeding Bird Survey

  • Data from the Christmas Bird Count