September signals the start of fall warbler migration in southeast Michigan, so now is your chance to spot this week’s Bird of the Week, the Northern Parula, and many other warblers on the long southern flight to their wintering grounds in Mexico, South and Central America. The adult Parula has a blue-grey back with a yellow/olive spot in the middle, white belly and a short tail. Look for the dark upper bill and yellow lower bill that are key identifiers of this bird. The male has a bright yellow breast and throat with black and brown bands, white crescents around the eyes, and two white wing bars.
Lace up those hiking boots, grab your binoculars and field guide and head out to one of your 13 Metroparks, where thousands of acres of high quality, protected forest and wetland habitat provide vital shelter and an insect feast to these small colorful birds. Search high and low in trees and shrubs in forests near wetland habitats, such as a pond or river, as this insectivore searches for protein-rich caterpillars, ants, bees, moths and more. The insect buffet provides the energy the Parula and many other warblers need to continue their long-distance nighttime migration. If only they preferred to eat mosquitos!
If you miss out on spotting the Parula and any other warblers you had your heart set on seeing in Michigan, don’t worry! They’ll be back next May for a quick stopover to fuel up during their northern migration to the upper peninsula and Canada. To watch and listen to a Northern Parula in action, visit https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fn8uzlYnt50. Happy Birding!