Birds – Prairie Warbler

(Dendroica discolor) Wood Warbler family

Length—4.75 to 5 inches. About an inch and a half shorter than the English sparrow.

Male—Olive-green above, shading to yellowish on the head, and with brick-red spots on back between the shoulders. A yellow line over the eye; wing-bars and all under parts bright yellow, heavily streaked with black on the sides. Line through the eye and crescent below it, black. Much white in outer tail feathers.

Female—Paler; upper parts more grayish olive, and markings less distinct than male’s.

Range—Eastern half of the United States. Nests as far north as New England and Michigan. Winters from Florida southward.

Migrations—May. September. Summer resident.

Doubtless this diminutive bird was given its name because it prefers open country rather than the woods—the scrubby under-growth of oaks, young evergreens, and bushes that border clearings being as good a place as any to look for it, and not the wind-swept, treeless tracts of the wild West. Its range is southerly. The Southern and Middle States are where it is most abundant. Here is a wood warbler that is not a bird of the woods—less so, in fact, than either the summer yellowbird (yellow warbler) or the palm warbler, that are eminently neighborly and fond of pasture lands and roadside thickets. But the prairie warblers are rather more retiring little sprites than their cousins, and it is not often we get a close enough view of them to note the brick-red spots on their backs, which are their distinguishing marks. They have a most unkind preference for briery bushes, that discourage human intimacy. In such forbidding retreats they build their nest of plant-fibre, rootlets, and twigs, lined with plant-down and hair.

The song of an individual prairie warbler makes only a slight impression. It consists ” of a series of six or seven quickly repeated zees, the next to the last one being the highest ” (Chap-man). But the united voices of a dozen or more of these pretty little birds, that often sing together, afford something approaching a musical treat.