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Prothonotary Warbler: Central Park

19 May 2021

Spring Bird Notes: Catch the last great wave of migration, now through late May (and the weather continues to be fine). Weekday walks and the early (730am) weekend walks provide the best experience. The evening walks on Tuesday and Thursday at 5:30pm with Ms. Sandra Critelli have been wonderful. See the SCHEDULE page of this web site for meeting locations/info.

A female Prothonotary Warbler dropped into Central Park this past Sunday, 16 May, and remained through Tuesday the 18th. We'll avoid discussion of the etymology of this warbler's common name, except to point out that all the robes we see for Protho-Notaries in the Catholic Church are purple to maroon in color...Rather, we can speak with meager authority on historical Prothonotary Warblers in our area:

In this week's Historical Notes, we send articles on (a) a 2 June 1894 Prothonotary Warbler near Van Cortlandt Park (the Bronx) described by the great NYC Birder, E. P. Bicknell; and (b) the first known nesting of the Prothonotary Warbler in NY State on Long Island in June 1979. We then switch gears to NYC weather: a summary of the (c) March 2021 weather here in Gotham, followed by (d) the weather for April 2021 in NYC. The latter two articles are by Rob Frydlewicz from his wonderful NYC Weather Blog:

Prothonotary Warbler (adult female)

Great Dismal Swamp, Virginia on 14 June 2013 by D. Allen

Bird Walks for late May 2021

All Walks @ $10/person

1. Thursday, 20 May at 8:30am. Bird Walk. Dock on Turtle Pond. $10. Directions to All Meeting Locations can be found here

1a. Thursday, 20 May at 5:30pm. Bird Walk led by SANDRA CRITELLI. Boathouse Cafe; 74th street/East Drive $10. Every Thursday up to and including 27 May.

2. Friday, 21 May at 8:30am. Bird Walk. Conservatory Garden; 105th street and 5th Avenue (uptown!) $10. Directions to All Meeting Locations can be found here

3. Saturday, 22 May at 7:30am and again at 9:30am. Bird Walk. Boathouse Cafe; 74th street/East Drive $10. If you do the 7:30am walk, you get the 9:30am walk for free.

4. Sunday, 23 May at 7:30am and again at 9:30am. Bird Walk. Boathouse Cafe; 74th street/East Drive $10. If you do the 7:30am walk, you get the 9:30am walk for free.

5. Monday, 24 May at 8:30am. Bird Walk. Strawberry Fields (IMAGINE MOSAIC) at 72nd st. and Central Park West (inside the park) $10. Directions to All Meeting Locations can be found here

6. Tuesday, 25 May at 5:30pm. Bird Walk led by SANDRA CRITELLI. Boathouse Cafe; 74th street/East Drive $10. Last Tuesday evening walk.

7. Thursday, 27 May at 8:30am. Bird Walk. Dock on Turtle Pond. $10. Directions to All Meeting Locations can be found here

7a. Thursday, 27 May at 5:30pm. Bird Walk led by SANDRA CRITELLI. Boathouse Cafe; 74th street/East Drive $10. Last Thursday evening walk.

Call (718-828-8262) or Email us with questions:


The fine print: Our walks on weekends meet at 7:30/9:30am at the Boathouse Restaurant (approx. 74th street and the East Drive). Please note: the Boathouse is not one of the buildings that surround the nearby Model Boat Pond - people make this mistake all the time! Fridays we meet at Conservatory Garden; Mondays at Strawberry Fields - check the "Meeting Points" page of this web site for exact meeting location.

Our home phone is 718-828-8262...and Deborah's cell is: 347-703-5554. Email is ( If you are lost and trying to get to the bird walk, call Deborah's cell phone...but remember on weekends there will be 2-3 other people calling who are also lost - please be patient. If in doubt about whether a walk will take place or not the morning of the walk: check the main landing page of this web site as well as the "Schedule" page - if the walk is cancelled, information will be posted there by 6am the day of the walk, and usually by 11pm the night before. If still confused and as a last resort, call us at home - if no one answers it means we left for the bird walk. We end all our Central Park walks (except Fridays) near the Boathouse at about noon; you can get a cup of coffee and a muffin there (around $6 total) - though the Boathouse is closed right now and will re-open in April 2021 according to the owners. Walks last about 3 hrs (less if hot or rainy), and you can leave at anytime - we won't be offended. If you need directions/help to your next destination, just ask someone on the walk - we aim to please.

Scarlet Tanager in Central Park on 18 May 2021 by D. Allen

Here is what we saw last week (brief highlights):

Thursday, 13 May (Dock on Turtle Pond at 8:30am): 15 warbler species seen today - but the highlight was the Pileated Woodpecker at nearby Riverside Park seen by Alexi Kalagerakis MD and a few others.

Deborah's List of Birds for Thursday, 13 May: Click Here


Friday, 14 May (Conservatory Garden at 105th st. at 8:30am): 16 Warbler species today - and the first day of abundant termite hatches. Toward the end of the walk, in the north woods, we were able to watch Yellow-rumped Warblers swooping in for termites emerging from nests in the ground.

Deborah's List of Birds for Friday, 14 May: Click Here


Saturday, 15 May (Boathouse Restaurant at 7:30am/9:30am): We reached 18 warbler species for the day plus a White-eyed Vireo.

Deborah's List of Birds for Saturday, 15 May: Click Here


Sunday, 16 May (Boathouse Restaurant at 7:30am/9:30am): Twenty (20) warbler species plus two Yellow-billed Cuckoos in the Tupelo Field. In the afternoon, after the walk, we learned about the Prothonotary Warbler female at the Upper Lobe...

Deborah's List of Birds for Sunday, 16 May: Click Here


Monday, 17 May (Strawberry Fields [Imagine Mosaic] at 72nd street and Central Park West at 8:30am): At 8:35am, David Barrett received word that the female Prothonotary Warbler was still at the Upper Lobe and off we went. All told, 19 warbler species today; a second year (green) male Orchard Oriole at the Dock on Turtle Pond (could nest here) - and nice looks at Cape Warblers in a couple of places. Plus Mary and Emmet Logan of NJ; and Al Levinton at the Upper Lobe (The Big Year guy).

Deborah's List of Birds for Monday, 17 May: Click Here

Blackburnian Warbler (male) 16 May 2021 Central Park Deborah Allen


Prothonotary Warbler near New York City. In the early morning of June 2 last [1894] near Yonkers, New York, I had the great pleasure of seeing a Prothonotary Warbler (Protonotaria citrea) and listening to its song. The exact locality was rather more than a mile east of the Hudson River, and half that distance beyond Van Cortlandt Park at the northern limit of New York City. In the woods at this point a shallow pond, or pool, spreads itself among a scattered grouping of trees and bushes. This was clearly the attraction which kept the bird about the spot, enabling me to watch it at leisure. It was not at all shy, and much of the time was so near to me that, though my field-glass was not dispensed with, there was no need of it for purpose of identification. The exquisite bird kept constantly over the water, frequently coming into conspicuous view on open horizontal branches and sometimes clinging momentarily against a tree trunk. Its usual motions were leisurely, the movements of the head sometimes quite Vireonine. The song, which was repeated at short intervals, though not at all remarkable, was very distinctive, and not fairly to be compared with any other known to me. Listening to it, it seemed as if an unpracticed ear might perhaps have associated it with the Golden-crowned Thrush [Ovenbird], not withstanding its weaker emphasis, with the five to eight notes pitched all on the same key. The call-note was not heard. This would appear to be the first known occurrence of this bird in the State outside of Long Island, where the capture of two has been recorded by Mr. Dutcher.

Eugene P. Bicknell, New York City.

Prothonotary Warbler (adult male) 11 May 2013 in Central Park Deborah Allen


After a number of years in which male Prothonotary Warblers (Protonotaria citrea) have been found singing during the month of June, the first nesting of the species on Long Island has been confirmed. The first sighting occurred on 6 June 1979, when a male was discovered singing at the Nissequogue River State Park in Smithtown, Suffolk County, by Park Naturalist Gregory Mertz and the writer. Mr. Mertz saw the bird fly to a hole in a stump; thereafter we saw both a male and a female make repeated visits to this hole. On 10 June I saw the adults feeding two young in the nest, and on 12 June, Adrian Dignan and I visited the site and again saw two young.

Mr. Dignan returned on 13 June to photograph the birds; his photographs later revealed that there were three young. On 16 June the young were no longer in the nest, although the adults still made occasional visits to the nest-hole. At this point, we wondered whether the young had actually fledged or had been victims of a predator, but on 18 June Richard Houghton saw an adult Prothonotary feeding one newly fledged young bird, and a few days later, Park Naturalist Jack Cahill saw two young being fed.

On 12 September I returned to the site and made some measurements. The lip of the cavity was three feet, ten inches from the base of the stump; the cavity was three inches wide and four inches high; the depth of the cavity from the lip was three inches. The stump was that of a red maple (Acer rubrum), according to Mr. Cahill. The nest itself consisted of grass, strips of purplish bark, perhaps of fox grape, (Vitis labrusca), short pieces of very thin twigs or stems with tiny, crumbly seed-pods, and small, dry pieces of sphagnum moss. Edgar M. Reilly, Jr. (1968, Audubon Illustrated Handbook of American Birds, p. 399) describes the nest of this species as being made of "mosses and lined with grape bark, rootlets, and fine grasses; built in cavities or holes in trees or stumps 3-30 ft. above the ground, but generally below 10 ft." The nest was in an eight-foot stump that leaned out from the bank of a quiet stretch of water leading to a quarter-acre fishing pond; part of the base of the stump was submerged. The low banks of this narrow stretch were lined with sweet pepperbush (Clethm alnifolia) which were crowded around the stump. In the immediate vicinity were two red maples with four-inch trunks, one red maple with a one-and-a-half-inch trunk, a black oak (Quercus velutina) of the same size and a slender young tupelo (Nyssa sylvatica). These trees and shrubs provided good cover from the bank, while the nest-hole faced obliquely over the water, easily accessible to the adults.

This first breeding record for Long Island had been anticipated for several years. A singing male was recorded at Manorville, Suffolk County, on 10-11 June, 1961. Barbara Spencer discovered a singing male at Mill Neck, Nassau County, on 1 June 1969, and again on 5 June 1976, in an area of streams, red maples, and tupelos. In Spring 1979, a male and a female were observed at Manorville, according to David Larsen; these birds disappeared and are not known to have nested. There are other such sightings on Long Island.

The Prothonotary Warbler is a southern species that has been extending its range to the north. According to John Bull (1974, Birds of New York State, p. 464), the species was not reported with any regularity in the state until the 1920's and 1930's. The first nesting record was in 1931 at Old Orchard Swamp, near Alabama, Genesee County, where there is now a "permanent colony" of the species. Other such colonies listed by Bull are at the Montezuma National Wildlife Refuge in Seneca and Cayuga counties and at Oneida Lake in Onondaga County.

Maxwell C. Wheat, Jr.

333 Bedell Street, Freeport, New York 21520

American Redstart (adult female) in Central Park on 18 May 2021 by D. Allen


The first week-and-a-half of March 2021 was exceedingly dry, with just 0.16" falling thru St. Patrick's Day. (1 March was the only day with rain.) Then, in the last two weeks of the month, regular rainfalls returned, with 3.25" measured (more than 50% above average for that period). The beginning of the month was also on the cold side, with temperatures four degrees colder than average through the 8th (the coldest day was 2 March, with a high/low of 33F/21F). The rest of the month was six degrees above average, largely due to the last twelve days of the month, which were nine degrees milder than average (high/low average of 64F/45F). Overall, the month was 3.3 degrees F above average, and was the 13th mildest March on record (March 2020 was the eighth mildest). The average high was 4.4F degrees above average; the average low was 2.3F above average.

The month's highlight was the record high of 82F on 26 March – the first reading in the 80s in March since 1998 (and the eighth year in which the first 80+ occurred in March). Besides this first reading in the 80s, March also had the year’s first readings in the 60s (9 March), and 70s (11 March). This was just the third year in which all three occurrences happened in March, joining 1945 and 1977.

For the second year in a row, there was no measurable snow in March, just the third time this has happened; the first time was in 1945 and again in 1946. And for just the fifth time, February, which was one of the snowiest, was bookended by a January and March with little snowfall.

There were eight days that were ten or more degrees milder than average (including the 26 March high of 82F, which was 29 degrees above average), and two others that were more than ten degrees colder than average. Fourteen days were 5 degrees or more above average (including eight in a row, from 21 March through 28 Match, that were seven or more degrees above average); eight were 5e degrees or more below average.

After back-to-back months with diurnal variations below ten degrees, March's was 16.6 degrees (average is 15.1). Additionally, the range between the coldest and highest temperatures in March was 61 degrees (21F and 82F), the widest range since 2007, when it was 67 degrees (11F and 78F). This was in contrast to January and February, both which had variations of only 37 degrees. (The greatest range in March is 72 degrees, which was in 1990, when the temperature extremes were 13F and 85F.)

The month had fifteen days with humidity levels that dropped to 25% or lower at some point in the day (usually in the afternoon), with the lowest being 12% on 15 March at 4:00 PM (and there were two other days with lowest humidity at 13%). Finally, ten days had a peak wind gust of 35 mph or higher, with the peak gust at 44 mph, which was clocked during the evening of the 26th (the day with a high of 82F).



April 2021 featured ten days with highs of 70F or warmer, the first time April reported this many since 2010, and just the tenth time overall. (The average number of such days in April is six.) This above average number of warm days resulted in the month's average high being 2.5 degrees milder than average (its average low was 0.7 degrees above average). Of the ten Aprils with ten or more highs of 70F or warmer, just four rank among the ten mildest Aprils. This April ranked 22nd (out of 153).

The month's coldest temperature was 28° (on 2 April), which was the coldest reading in April in five years. And although this April was significantly milder than April 2020 (which was 2.7 degrees colder than average), its coldest temperature was eight degrees colder. The warmest reading was 85F, which is close to what the warmest reading in April has averaged since 2000 (last April was an exception, with a mildest reading of just 68°). This reading came five weeks after the year's first reading in the 80s (82° on26 March), and it was the warmest reading since Sept. 5.

The month's warmest reading was on 4/28, but the most above-average period of the month was the seven days between April 4 and 10, when temperatures were eight degrees above average (high/low of 68F/49F). In total, the month had twelve days that were five degrees or more above average, and five that were five degrees or more below average.

Another highlight of the month occurred on 8 April when the humidity dropped to 7% during the afternoon - the second lowest level this century. Finally, April's rainfall of 2.69" was nearly two inches below average. All but 0.05" fell between 11 April and 30 April.


Deborah Allen and Robert DeCandido PhD

Follow our Bird Sightings on Twitter: @DAllenNYC and/or @BirdingBobNYC

Wilson's Warbler (male) in Michigan by Doug Leffler


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