Mystery Bird: Northern Parula, Parula americana

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[Mystery birds] Northern Parula, Parula americana, photographed at Quintana and Beach, Texas. [I will identify this bird for you tomorrow]

Image: Joseph Kennedy, 20 March 2009 [larger view].

Nikon D200, Kowa 883 telescope with tsn-pz camera eyepiece 1/1250s f/8.0 at 1000.0mm iso400.

Please name at least one field mark that supports your identification.

Rick Wright, author of Aimophila Adventures and Managing Director of WINGS Birding Tours Worldwide, writes:

It's easy to be distracted by color in a bird as beautiful as this; but let's stick to the strategies of focusing instead on shape and structure. Starting at the rear, we have to wonder where this tiny bird's tail went. There aren't many birds this small and this short-tailed, and that simple observation lets us rule out gnatcatchers, chickadees, vireos, flycatchers, and a whole host of other small passerines.

What about the warblers? Most parulids are larger and longer of tail than this quiz bird, but the rear end fits the parulas very well. If we keep moving forward, we discover a bright white belly, very broad but discrete white wingbars, and sky-blue upperparts with a greenish mantle patch. This is a parula for sure. The huge white eye crescents and the black and reddish breast bands rule out Tropical Parula, leaving us with a firm identification as Northern Parula, a common and conspicuous bird over much of eastern North America right now.

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Blue head + white eye arcs + yellow back and breast = northern parula

Agreed on the Northern Parula. Blue warbler with an olive patch on its breast, not to mention its distinctive blue/orangeish/yellow/white underbelly. The only other real possibility is the Tropical Parula, and that has only yellow and white on its underbelly, as well as a dark face mask.

Norhtern Parula - blueish grey warbler with olive back, broken eye ring, wing bars, can see side view of the glorious warm sunrise on its throat