Birds Vol 1 #5 – The Prothonotary Yellow Warblers

Prothonotary Yellow Warblers Birds by Illustrated by Color Photography, 1897

Prothonotary Yellow Warblers Birds by Illustrated by Color Photography, 1897

Birds Illustrated by Color Photography – Revisited

Vol 1. May, 1897 No. 5



Quite a long name for such small birds—don’t you think so? You will have to get your teacher to repeat it several times, I fear, before you learn it.

These little yellow warblers are just as happy as the pair of wrens I showed you in April “Birds.” In fact, I suspect they are even happier, for their nest has been made and the eggs laid. What do you think of their house? Sometimes they find an old hole in a stump, one that a woodpecker has left, perhaps, and there build a nest. This year they have found a very pretty place to begin their housekeeping. What kind of tree is it? I thought I would show only the part of the tree that makes their home. I just believe some boy or girl who loves birds made those holes for them. Don’t you think so? They have an upstairs and a down stairs, it seems.

Like the Wrens I wrote about last month, they prefer to live in swampy land and along rivers. They nearly always find a hole in a decayed willow tree for their nest—low down. This isn’t a willow tree, though.

Whenever I show you a pair of birds, always pick out the father and the mother bird. You will usually find that one has more color than the other. Which one is it? Maybe you know why this is. If you don’t I am sure your teacher can tell you. Don’t you remember in the Bobolink family how differently Mr. and Mrs. Bobolink were dressed?

I think most of you will agree with me when I say this is one of the prettiest pictures you ever saw.

Prothonotary Warbler (Protonotaria citrea) ©WikiC

Prothonotary Warbler (Protonotaria citrea) ©WikiC



HE Golden Swamp Warbler is one of the very handsomest of American birds, being noted for the pureness and mellowness of its plumage. Baird notes that the habits of this beautiful and interesting warbler were formerly little known, its geographical distribution being somewhat irregular and over a narrow range. It is found in the West Indies and Central America as a migrant, and in the southern region of the United States. Further west the range widens, and it appears as far north as Kansas, Central Illinois, and Missouri.

Its favorite resorts are creeks and lagoons overshadowed by large trees, as well as the borders of sheets of water and the interiors of forests. It returns early in March to the Southern states, but to Kentucky not before the last of April, leaving in October. A single brood only is raised in a season.

A very pretty nest is sometimes built within a Woodpecker’s hole in a stump of a tree, not more than three feet high. Where this occurs the nest is not shaped round, but is made to conform to the irregular cavity of the stump. This cavity is deepest at one end, and the nest is closely packed with dried leaves, broken bits of grasses, stems, mosses, decayed wood, and other material, the upper part interwoven with fine roots, varying in size, but all strong, wiry, and slender, and lined with hair.

Other nests have been discovered which were circular in shape. In one instance the nest was built in a brace hole in a mill, where the birds could be watched closely as they carried in the materials. They were not alarmed by the presence of the observer but seemed quite tame.

So far from being noisy and vociferous, Mr. Ridgway describes it as one of the most silent of all the warblers, while Mr. W. Brewster maintains that in restlessness few birds equal this species. Not a nook or corner of his domain but is repeatedly visited during the day. “Now he sings a few times from the top of some tall willow that leans out over the stream, sitting motionless among the marsh foliage, fully aware, perhaps, of the protection afforded by his harmonizing tints. The next moment he descends to the cool shadows beneath, where dark, coffee-colored waters, the overflow of a pond or river, stretch back among the trees. Here he loves to hop about the floating drift-wood, wet by the lapping of pulsating wavelets, now following up some long, inclining, half submerged log, peeping into every crevice and occasionally dragging forth from its concealment a spider or small beetle, turning alternately its bright yellow breast and olive back towards the light; now jetting his beautiful tail, or quivering his wings tremulously, he darts off into some thicket in response to a call from his mate; or, flying to a neighboring tree trunk, clings for a moment against the mossy hole to pipe his little strain, or look up the exact whereabouts of some suspected insect prize.”

Lee’s Addition:

Prothonotary Warbler (Protonotaria citrea) Neal Addy Gallery

Prothonotary Warbler (Protonotaria citrea) Neal Addy Gallery

By them the birds of the heavens have their home; They sing among the branches. (Psalms 104:12 NKJV)

Another one of the Lord’s neat little birds, the Prothonotary Warbler is a member of the Parulidae Family. The Prothonotary Warbler (Protonotaria citrea) is a small songbird of the New World warbler family. It is the only member of the genus Protonotaria. This bird was named after officials in the Roman Catholic Church known as the “protonotarii”, who wore golden robes. It was once known as the Golden Swamp Warbler.

The Prothonotary Warbler is 5.1 in/13 cm long and weighs 0.44 oz/12.5 g. It has an olive back with blue-grey wings and tail, yellow underparts, a relatively long pointed bill and black legs. The adult male has a bright orange-yellow head; females and immature birds are duller and have a yellow head. In flight from below, the short, wide tail has a distinctive two-toned pattern that is white at the base and dark at the tip.

Prothonotary Warbler (Protonotaria citrea) ©USFWS

Prothonotary Warbler (Protonotaria citrea) ©USFWS

The preferred foraging habitat is dense, woody streams, where the Prothonotary Warbler forages actively in low foliage, mainly for Insects and snails. There are only two Warblers that make nest in tree cavities, this one and the Lucy’s Warbler. They like to use abandoned Woodpecker holes in or near water. They usually lay 3-7 eggs and only one clutch per year.

The song of this bird is a simple, loud, ringing sweet-sweet-sweet-sweet-sweet. The call is a loud, dry chip, like that of a Hooded Warbler. Its flight call is a loud seeep.

Sound of Pronthonotary Warbler song by

Birds Illustrated by Color Photograhy Vol 1 May, 1897 No 5 - Cover

Birds Illustrated by Color Photograhy Vol 1 May, 1897 No 5 – Cover

Birds Illustrated by Color Photography – Revisited

The above article is an article in the monthly serial for April 1897 “designed to promote Knowledge of Bird-Live.” These include Color Photography, as they call them, today they are drawings. There are at least three Volumes that have been digitized by Project Gutenberg.

To see the whole series of – Birds Illustrated by Color Photography – Revisited


(Information from Wikipedia and other internet sources)

Next Article – The Indigo Bunting

Previous Article – The Scissor-tailed Flycatcher

Gospel Presentation


Prothonotary Warbler – All About Birds

Prothonotary Warbler – Wikipedia

The Parulidae Family


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