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Northern Prairie Wildlife Research Center

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Forest and Rangeland Birds of the United States

Natural History and Habitat Use

Northern Parula -- Parula americana

RANGE: Breeds from southeastern Manitoba and central Ontario east to New Brunswick south to south-central and southern Texas, the Gulf Coast, and Florida, and west to the eastern edge of the Plains States. Winters in Florida and from Mexico to Central America.

STATUS: Common.

HABITAT: Primarily associated with swampy woods, especially in the Southeast, where it inhabits mature coniferous and deciduous woodlands where mosslike lichens or Spanish moss are found. In the North, found in swamps and bogs with abundant bearded lichens; in the South, frequents trees draped with Spanish moss. Occasionally occurs in woodlands without moss or lichens.

SPECIAL HABITAT REQUIREMENTS: Bearded lichen (Usnea) or Spanish moss (Tillandsia) for nesting material or for nest sites.

NEST: Usually suspends nest near the tip of a tree limb that is covered with Usnea or Tillandsia at heights averaging 10 feet, but ranging from 6 to 100 feet above the ground. Conceals nest with moss or lichen, and constructs it of these materials as well. In areas where they are not available, uses other materials.

FOOD: Forages in a chickadeelike fashion, gleaning insects and spiders from twigs and foliage.

REFERENCES: Bent 1953a, DeGraff et al. 1980, Graber and Graber 1951, Griscom and Sprunt 1979, Johnsgard 1979.

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