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northern parula

northern parula (Setophaga americana) [female]
Photo © Rob Curtis/The Early Birder

northern parula (Setophaga americana) [male]
Photo © Rob Curtis/The Early Birder

Features and Behaviors

Two white bars per wing, blue-gray back and tail feathers, a dark breast band, a green patch on the back and white arcs above and below each eye that do not touch are characteristics of the male. The female is similar in coloration, although paler, and lacks the breast band. This bird is about four and one-half inches long.

The northern parula is a common migrant statewide and a common summer resident in southern Illinois, with decreasing occurrence northward in the state. It can be found in bottomland forests, swamps and streams in upland ravines. It nests from 10 to 40 feet above ground in a tree growing near water. A typical clutch contains four to five eggs. This species eats mainly insects, although fruits may become part of the diet in fall and winter. It winters in the southern United States, West Indies, Mexico and Central America. Spring migrants arrive in Illinois in April. Fall migrants start leaving in September.

Illinois Range


Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Aves
Order: Passeriformes
Family: Parulidae

Illinois Status: common, native