Prothonotary Warbler is a charming spring visitor


Among the flames of a tiny bottlebrush tree, a sprightly yellow, blue-winged warbler, a Prothonotary, hopped and rested during its visit to the Island to wind down and stuff itself with insects after an exhausting trans-Gulf flight.

Posing for photos as it did, this warbler starred in a parade of vibrant migrants at the South Padre Island Convention Center one rainy, mid-April afternoon, with groves that day attracting such notables as the Cape May, Cerulean and Blackburnian warblers, along with Indigo Buntings and Rose-breasted and Blue Grosbeaks.

Spring and fall migration seasons provide months-long opportunities to photograph migrants within the Valley’s short and often sparse trees and shrubs, with some birds so weary from long, arduous flights that they hop within an arm’s length of observers. Even enthusiasts living in the migrants’ breeding areas may never see them, with so many birds occupying dense, lofty foliage, or, like the Prothonotary, dark swamps and river bottoms.

Like a tennis ball with huge black eyes and a long, thin beak, this little warbler, whose head and underparts shine bright yellow, has an olive-tinted back. Both its tail, whose white spots flash during flight, and barless wings are grayish blue.

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