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Uncommon Visitor in Brennan Woods

July 18, 2019

Image Description Here

The Prothonotary (pro-THON-oh-tary) Warbler (Pronotaria citrea) is a small songbird of the New World warbler family sometimes described as “dripping sunshine” because of its striking and cheerful yellow color.

Its name comes from papal scribes (“prothonotary clerks”) in the Roman Catholic Church, who were noted for their brilliant yellow robes. These tiny birds weigh less than two nickels but eat enormous numbers of spiders and insects in the wetlands and swamps where they often hang out. The yellow feathers stand out in the dark shadows of the swamps and wetlands.

These warblers arrive here In early summer, usually in May, as they migrate as far north as Wisconsin to breed. Recent research discovered that many prothonotary warblers winter in South America in a wetland-filled and forested area of Columbia. We see them in northeast Indiana as they make their long trek north for breeding season. They nest in wetlands near lakes and streams, building mossy nests in holes often made by woodpeckers in dead standing trees.

Brennan Woods in the Conservancy-owned Clear Lake Nature Preserve is an ideal breeding location for prothonotary warblers with its fen, wetlands and proximity to both Clear and Round Lakes. The population of these birds is declining, primarily as wetland habitats disappear.

The Conservancy’s mission of protecting and preserving natural habitat in the Clear Lake Township and Watershed is a welcome mat for beautiful and increasingly scarce birds like the prothonotary warbler.

Take a walk in the Clear Lake Nature Preserve. Check out Fred Wooley’s Birdhouse. Maybe the prothonotary warbler will stop by, too.

Sources: The Ornithology Lab of Cornell University’s website,; “Speaking of Science” blog 6/21/2019,

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