YEAR OF THE BIRD!
Yellow Swamp Canaries
by Kali Bunn
2018 marks the year of the bird, and this weekend, the 2 nd Saturday of May,
marks National Migratory Bird Day. Louisiana’s fertile forests, swamps and marsh
are ideal migrating, nesting, and wintering zones for nearly 100 million birds. One
of many who are in danger in Louisiana, the Prothonotary Warbler, also known as
the Yellow Swamp Canary, has seen a 42% population decline since the 1960s.
This small, yellow bird migrates to Louisiana in the Spring and Summer. The
Prothonotary Warbler has a very specific nesting habitat, cavity holes in trees
above or very close to water. The constant land loss in the state makes it harder
and harder for these birds to find proper nesting areas. To help stave off this
species decline, the Audubon Society of Louisiana has installed bird nesting boxes
in various wildlife areas throughout the state. These boxes provide a home for the
birds and a way for scientist to track bird development and the return of the bird
to the state each year after migration.
The male warbler appears in March and April, establishing territory and
ideal nesting habitats for the females, who fly in about a week later. The male
puts on elaborate mating displays of fluffed feathers and high-pitched songs,
sounding like, “sweet-sweet-sweet-sweet-sweet”. Building their nests with moss,
dry leaves, twigs and bark, the birds make an ideal home for their eggs. Laying 3-8
at a time, the eggs hatch within two weeks and the little fledglings are ready to
leave the nest within 10 days.
While you’re out enjoying the Louisiana swamps this Spring and Summer,
keep an eye out for these quick and playful yellow birds. They will soon be on
their way to their wintering grounds in the Caribbean, Central and South America.
It’s always a “sweet-sweet-sweet-sweet-sweet” treat to see these warblers in the
wetlands, simply for birdwatching, or the peace of mind knowing that they
indicate a healthy and thriving Louisiana.