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10 places to find Prothonotary Warbler

Prothonotary
Prothonotary Warbler. Photo by Bill Stripling

The cover story of our May/June 2022 issue looks at the Prothonotary Warbler and the work of the Jackson Audubon Society in Jackson, Mississippi, as it monitors the local Prothonotary breeding population each year. 

The striking warbler species breeds in the eastern United States and southern Ontario — from Minnesota to Texas to Florida — in bottomland hardwood forest, bald cypress swamps, and along large rivers and lakes. “The current population is approximately 1.6 million birds,” writes Charles Pfeifer, the author of our article. “Some may say that this isn’t so bad. After all, many endangered species number less than 100 individuals. The problem is that the warbler has experienced an alarming 40 percent drop in its population since the 1960s. Moreover, after the widespread logging of cypress swamps and bottomland hardwood forests in the late 1800s and early 1900s, the number left today is a small fraction of what once was.”

The species can be seen in many locations in North America, Central America, the Caribbean, and northern South America. (Learn more on eBird.) Here are 10 hotspots where you’re sure to spot the warblers:

  • Atchafalaya Basin, Louisiana. Hosts about 5 percent of the global breeding population. Go to Whiskey Bay Road and Indian Bayou Road. The basin is larger than the Florida Everglades and five times more biologically productive than any other river basin in North America.
  • Jean Lafitte National Park and Preserve (Barataria Preserve, Hotspot Near You No. 135), near New Orleans, Louisiana. Try the Bayou Coquille Trail. 
  • Mississippi Coastal Birding Trail, Ward Bayou WMA, Vancleave, Mississippi.
  • Pascagoula River WMA in southern Mississippi.
  • Francis Beidler Forest, South Carolina, Hotspot Near You No. 158. An Audubon center and sanctuary. World’s largest virgin cypress-tupelo swamp forest.
  • Congaree National Park, South Carolina. The largest intact expanse of old-growth bottomland hardwood forest remaining in the southeastern United States.
  • Sloughs Wildlife Management Area, Corydon, Kentucky.
  • Upper Mississippi River National Wildlife Refuge, along Iowa/Illinois border.
  • Minnesota Valley National Wildlife Refuge (Hotspot Near You No. 21) and Fort Snelling State Park, Minneapolis, Minnesota.
  • Salamanca Island Road National Park, Colombia. Hosts 2 to 3 percent of the wintering population.

Expanded reserve protects warbler wintering area

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