The Magnolia WarblerSetophaga magnolia, is a member of the wood warbler family Parulidae. This warbler was first discovered in magnolia trees in the 19th century by famed ornithologist Alexander Wilson while in Mississippi.
The Magnolia Warbler can be distinguished by its coloration. The breeding males often have white, gray, and black backs with yellow on the sides; yellow and black-striped stomachs; white, gray, and black foreheads and beaks; distinct black tails with white stripes on the underside; and defined white patches on their wings, called wing bars. Breeding females usually have the same type of coloration as the males, except that their colors are much duller. Immature warblers also resemble the same dull coloration of the females. The yellow and black-striped stomachs help one to distinguish the males from other similar birds, like the Prairie Warbler and Kirtland's Warbler (which, however, have a breeding range to the south and east of the Magnolia Warbler's).
The Magnolia Warbler is found in the northern parts of some Midwestern states and the very northeastern parts of the US, with states such as Minnesota and Wisconsin comprising its southernmost boundaries. However, it is mostly found across the northern parts of Canada, such as in Saskatchewan, Manitoba, Ontario, and Quebec. During the winter, the warbler migrates through the eastern half of the United States to southern Mexico and Central America. The warbler breeds in dense forests, where it will most likely be found among the branches of young, densely packed, coniferous trees. The Magnolia Warbler migrates to the warmer south in the winter, wintering in southeastern Mexico, Panama, and parts of the Caribbean. In migration it passes through the eastern part of the United States as far west as Oklahoma and Kansas. During migration season, the magnolia warbler can also be found living in woodlands.
The Magnolia Warbler undergoes multiple molts during its lifetime. The first molts begin while the young offspring are still living in the nest, while the rest take place on or near their breeding grounds. The warblers molt, breed, care for their offspring, and then migrate.
This warbler usually eats any type of arthropod, but their main delicacies are caterpillars. The warbler also feeds on different types of beetles, butterflies, spiders, and fruit during their breeding season, while they increase their intake of both fruit and nectar during the winter. These birds also tend to eat parts of the branches of mid-height coniferous trees, such as spruce firs, in their usual breeding habitat.
Male Magnolia Warblers go to their breeding grounds about two weeks before the females arrive. After the females come to the breeding grounds, both the males and females cooperate to build the nest for a week. Because of the difficulty of locating their nests among the forest’s dense undergrowth, it is hard to know whether the warblers re-use their original nests each breeding season, or whether they abandon them for new ones.
Because the males are technically as equally responsible for feeding the newborns as the females are, this means that the males are monogamous because they expend a large amount of energy looking for food for their young. In order to keep the nest clean, females eat the fecal sacs of their newborns; as the chicks grow older, both parents simply remove the sacs from the nest. The baby warblers are ready to fly out of the nest by the time they are ten days old.
John James Audubon’s Black & Yellow Warbler (Magnolia Warbler), Plate 123 from Birds of America. John James Audubon illustrated the Magnolia Warbler in Birds of America, Second Edition (published, London 1827–38) as Plate 123 under the title, "Black & Yellow Warbler – Sylvia maculosa" where a pair of birds (male and female) are shown searching flowering raspberry for insects. The image was engraved and colored by Robert Havell's London workshops. The original watercolor by Audubon was purchased by the New York History Society where it remains As of January 2009.