Prothonotary Warbler – a beautiful migrant

We are now right in the middle of migration season here in Costa Rica. Most migrants are from the north, including a grand total of 40 warblers. Some 16 of these are either casual or rare visitors to our area but species such as Tennessee Warbler, Chestnut-sided Warbler, Yellow Warbler and Wilson’s Warbler are always easily found.

By contrast the beautiful Prothonotary Warbler (Protonotaria citrea) can be seen most years but only with a little luck. It’s guaranteed to take your breath away if you get a close look. Larry and I, together with Dutch visitor Gijs, found the male pictured below in its typical environment, close to water, down at the Angostura Dam that holds back the mighty Río Reventazón:

Stunning yellow plumage highlights the male Prothonotary Warbler; photo by Larry Waddell

When it returns to North America the ‘golden swamp warbler”, to give it its former common name, is a cavity-nester, unlike most other warblers. It has appeared in my garden, where I have two very small ponds, in only two of the last 10 years, but I have regularly seen it most years in the vicinity of the lake and swampland formed by the Angostura Dam. Here’s a final pic taken on a former occasion in the non-swamp environment of Santa Rosa de Turrialba:

Golden yellow with sleek grey wings: a male Prothonotary Warbler; photo courtesy of John Beer

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