New World warbler

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New World warbler
Protonotaria-citrea-002 edit.jpg
Prothonotary warbler (Protonotaria citrea)
Scientific classification e
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Aves
Order: Passeriformes
Superfamily: Passeroidea
Family: Parulidae
Wetmore et al., 1947

See text



The New World warblers or wood-warblers are a group of small, often colorful, passerine birds that make up the family Parulidae and are restricted to the New World. They are not closely related to Old World warblers or Australian warblers. Most are arboreal, but some, like the ovenbird and the two waterthrushes, are primarily terrestrial. Most members of this family are insectivores.

This group likely originated in northern Central America, where the greatest number of species and diversity between them is found. From there, they spread north during the interglacial periods, mainly as migrants, returning to the ancestral region in winter. Two genera, Myioborus and Basileuterus, seem to have colonized South America early, perhaps before the two continents were linked, and together constitute most warbler species of that region.

The scientific name for the family, Parulidae, originates from the fact that Linnaeus in 1758 named the northern parula as a tit, Parus americanus, and as taxonomy developed, the genus name was modified first to Parulus and then to Parula. The family name derives from the name for the genus.


The family Parulidae was introduced for the New World warblers in 1947 by the American ornithologist Alexander Wetmore and colleagues with Parula as the type genus.[1]


All the warblers are fairly small. The smallest species is Lucy's warbler (Oreothlypis luciae), around 6.5 g and 10.6 cm (4.2 in). Which species is the largest depends upon which are to be included in the family. Traditionally, this was considered to be the yellow-breasted chat, at 18.2 cm (7.2 in). Since this may not be a parulid, the Parkesia waterthrushes, the ovenbird, the russet-crowned warbler, and Semper's warbler, all of which can exceed 15 cm (5.9 in) and 21 g, might be considered the largest.

The migratory species tend to lay larger clutches of eggs, typically up to six, since the hazards of their journeys mean that many individuals will have only one chance to breed. In contrast, the laying of two eggs is typical for many tropical species, since the chicks can be provided with better care, and the adults are likely to have further opportunities for reproduction.

Many migratory species, particularly those which breed further north, have distinctive male plumage at least in the breeding season, since males need to reclaim territory and advertise for mates each year. This tendency is particularly marked in the large genus Setophaga (formerly Dendroica). In contrast, resident tropical species, which pair for life, show little if any sexual dimorphism, but exceptions occur. The Parkesia waterthrushes and ovenbird] are strongly migratory, but have identical male and female plumage, whereas the mainly tropical and sedentary yellowthroats are dimorphic. The Granatellus chats also show sexual dimorphism, but due to recent genetic work, have been moved into the family Cardinalidae (New World buntings and cardinals).


A number of issues exist in the taxonomy and systematics of the Parulidae.

  • The New World warblers are closely related to the tanagers, and some species, such as the conebills Conirostrum and the bananaquit, have been placed into either group by different authorities. Currently, the conebills are normally placed in the Thraupidae and the bananaquit is placed in its own family.
  • The green-tailed warbler, yellow-breasted chat, and white-winged warbler are other species about which have questions as to whether they should be considered as warblers or tanagers. Current data suggest they are neither, but rather, in their own families.
  • The pardusco, Nephelornis oneilli, is also of uncertain affinities.

Genera and species[edit]

Genus Leucopeza

Genus Limnothlypis


  1. ^ Wetmore, A.; Friedmann, H.; Lincoln, F.C.; Miller, A.H.; Peters, J.L.; van Rossem, A.J.; Van Tyne, J.; Zimmer, J.T. (1947). "Twenty-second supplement to the American Ornithologists' Union checklist of North American birds" (PDF). Auk. 64 (3): 445-452 [451].

Further reading[edit]

  • Curson, Quinn and Beadle, 1994. New World Warblers. 252 p. ISBN 0-7136-3932-6
  • Dunn, Jon. 1997. A field guide to warblers of North America. Boston : Houghton Mifflin Co., x, 656 p. : ill. (some col.), col. maps ; 19 cm.
  • Harrison, Hal H. 1984. Wood warblers’ world. New York : Simon and Schuster, 335 p., 24 p. of plates : ill. (some col.) ; 25 cm.
  • Lovette, I. J. and E. Bermingham. 2002. What is a wood-warbler? Molecular characterization of a monophyletic Parulidae. The Auk. 119(3): 695–714. PDF fulltext
  • Lovette, I.J.; Pérez-Emán, J.L.; Sullivan, J.P.; Banks, R.C.; Fiorentino, I.; Córdoba-Córdoba, S.; Echeverry-Galvis, M.; Barker, F.K.; Burns, K.J.; Klicka, J.; Lanyon, S.M.; Bermingham, E. (2010). "A comprehensive multilocus phylogeny for the wood-warblers and a revised classification of the Parulidae (Aves)". Molecular Phylogenetics and Evolution. 57 (2): 753–770. doi:10.1016/j.ympev.2010.07.018.
  • Morse, Douglass H. 1989. American warblers : an ecological and behavioral perspective. Cambridge, Massachusetts : Harvard University Press, xii, 406 p. : ill., maps.

External links[edit]