PRAIRIE WARBLER(Setophaga discolor) – (See images below)
DESCRIPTION: The Prairie Warbler has an olive green crown and upper parts with some chestnut spotting on the back. Under parts yellow with black stripes on the sides. Some white spots on the tail. Faint yellow bars on the wings. Face yellow with two black stripes, one going across the eyes, which are dark. Bill and legs grey. Females are a washed out version of the males with no black stripes. Small song bird at around 12 cm (5 inches) long.
VOICE: – Song has been compared to a ‘mouse complaining of a tooth ache’ by American ornithologist Elliott Coues.
NAME: Warblers are thus called thanks to their generally melodious songs. The Latin name ‘Setophaga’ means ‘to eat moths’, in reference to the bird’s diet, and ‘discolor’ comes from Old French ‘descolorer’, to change color.
HABITAT: In spite of its name, habitat is in cut or burnt forest areas with new shrub growth, also in open woods. Habitat usually not permanent (it is successional) because re-growing forests become mature, so the species will move to more open spaces. Also found in coastal mangroves.
DIET: Insects for the most part, also arthropods such as spiders and myriapods, and berries when available. Flick its tail while foraging on foliage, sometimes hanging upside down on branches or catching insects on the fly.
NESTING: Nest often parasitized by the Brown-headed Cowbird. Female builds the nest, an open cup lined with plant material and animal hair. Parents may raise two broods per season, but this still doesn’t make up for the loss from parasitism. Usually four creamy eggs are laid, incubated by female. Chicks fed by both parents.
DISTRIBUTION: Breeding range in eastern USA with some rare individual in southern Ontario. Migrates to Florida and the Caribbean for the winter.
Distribution map:
ON PEI: Does not breed on Prince Edward Island. Occurrence  accidental (see note below on ‘vagrancy’) only so far, in the fall.
CONSERVATION:In spite of a population decline of around two-thirds in the last 50 years, this species is still listed as ‘least concern’ by the IUCN, but is on the watch list of the 2014 State of the Birds for the USA. The latter listing means that the species needs some conservation program intervention. One such program is the Central Hardwoods Joint Venture. Threats to the prairie warbler include brood mortality from brown-headed cowbird parasitism, and habitat loss.
Vagrancy: In biology this means an animal going way outside its normal range. For birds, this can happen when there are storms and they get blown off course. On other times, the bird simply wanders in a different direction than usual. Here’s an article about vagrancy in birds.
SIMILAR SPECIES: Magnolia Warbler, Yellow Warbler, Palm Warbler
REFERENCES: (Missouri Department of Conservation)
American Bird Conservancy (Prairie Warbler) (Montana Field Guide)

Prairie Warbler – Fort Clinch Park, FL – Apr. 8, 2018 – Roberta Palmer
Prairie warbler, FL, Roberta Palmer
Prairie Warbler – Jekyll Island, GA – Apr. 8, 2018 – Roberta Palmer
Prairie warbler, GA, Roberta Palmer