Meet the parula

Northern parula
Northern Parula

Peace River Wildlife Center’s adorable patient of the week goes to a northern parula.  Brought to us by an astute couple who noticed him at the base of a window at the library in Port Charlotte, the little guy had suffered head trauma and was briefly unable to fly.  That short stint of vertigo would have been enough for some wily predator to take advantage, had he not been brought to us.

One of the smallest warblers, the parula’s summer breeding range is almost exclusively in the eastern half of North America from Florida to southern Canada, although they do skip certain states like Iowa, Wisconsin, and Michigan.  Scientists speculate that air pollution there inhibits the growth of the mosses the birds use for nest building.  (Or maybe the birds are just embarrassed to be seen in states with such outranked and overrated football teams.)  They winter in eastern Mexico, the Lesser Antilles, and Florida.  (Go, Gators!)

Since the parula’s diet consists primarily of insects, they spend most of their time at the tops of the tree canopy and are rarely seen at feeders.  It is therefore advantageous to this species as well as many other resident and migratory brds if you plant native vegetation in your yard.  Those plants attract and provide proper nutrition and nesting, resting, and hiding spots for both local and travel-weary birds.

Northern parula
Northern parula

The northern parula has bluish-grey feathers above, with two white wing bars and a partial white eye ring.  It has a yellowish patch on its back and a yellow throat and breast, with a white belly. The males have a brownish-black band across the chest.  Our patient is a juvenile, so we are not sure what sex it is since the chest band will not have developed yet.

This small bird has had a large identity crisis over the years.  It was originally called a “finch creeper”, but that sounds like someone who doesn’t understand personal boundaries.  It was later practically crushed under the designation “blue yellow-backed warbler.”  Its current name refers to it as a diminutive form of parus (or titmouse)—hence it is a “tiny titmouse.”  A fitting name finally for an absolutely adorable bird.

Our petite patient was able to be released after a 24-hour stay.  We gave it some anti-inflammatory medication (like Tylenol for birds) and let it safely sleep off its headache.  By the next morning, it was flitting about and was taken back to the library where it was found.  Hopefully it will check out a book on workplace safety.

by- Robin Jenkins, DVM