top of page

Prothonotary Warblers and Ukrainian Easter Eggs = Late April Central Park

Updated: Apr 22, 2022

male Prothonotary Warbler 19 April 2022 Central Park Deborah Allen

21 April 2022

The Central Park birding world stopped to gaze when a Prothonotary Warbler arrived at the north end on Saturday 16 April - a bit early compared to historical records. For the etymology of "Prothonotary" Wikepedia is one's friend: Click Here

In this week's HISTORICAL NOTES we feature articles about the Prothonotary Warbler in our immediate area 1888-1924: (a) an April 1888 record from Long Island; (b) June 1894 from the Bronx near Van Cortlandt Park; (c) May 1908 in Central Park via Anne A. Crolius; (d) May 1916 from Forest Park, Queens. And finally in (e/f/g) Prothonotary breeding records (our only warbler that nests in a tree cavity) from southern and northern New Jersey 1916-1924 including one nest, "situated within one hundred and fifty feet of one of the busiest auto roads of northern New Jersey" on 5 July 1924.

For extensive info on a Prothonotary Warbler pair nesting on Long Island, New York State in June 1979, see the Historical Notes in our Newsletter from 19 May 2021: Click Here .

Below are Ukrainian Easter Eggs (Pysanky) as we celebrate Velykden, "the Great Day" of Easter in the Ukrainian Orthodox Religion. Pysanky keeps the world alive - click here. Exquisite Ukrainian Easter Eggs can be found at the Ukrainian Museum in Manhattan.

Good! Bird Walks for Late April - each $10

All Walks @ $10/person - all in Central Park

1. Friday, 22 April: (8:30am) Conservatory Garden (105th street and 5th Avenue) $10

2!!!. Saturday, 23 April: 7:30am and again at 9:30am; Boathouse Cafe $10

3!!!. Sunday, 24 April: 7:30am and again at 9:30am; Boathouse Cafe $10

4. Monday, 25 April: (8:30am) Strawberry Fields (72nd st. and Central Park West) $10

5. Thursday, 28 April: (8:30am) Dock on Turtle Pond (mid-park at about 79th st.) $10

!!!: if you do the 7:30am walk, you can come on the 9:30am for free (two for one).

*For all our walks: no need to book ahead or pay in advance - just show up at the right time and place and away you go with us. Binoculars can be rented for $10.

Any questions send them our way: or call: 718-828-8262 (home)

Palm Warbler Central Park, 19 April 2022 by Deborah Allen

The fine print: *No need to book ahead or pay in advance - just show up at the right time and place and away you go with us! In April-May-June, our walks on weekends meet at 7:30am and again at 9:30am at the Boathouse Restaurant (approx. 74th street and the East Drive) through early June 2022. Please note: the Boathouse is not one of the buildings that surround the nearby Model Boat Pond - people make this mistake all the time! Friday walks meet uptown at 8:30am at Conservatory Garden (105th street and 5th Ave); Mondays at 8:30am at Strawberry Fields (Central Park West at 72nd street). Directions to All Meeting Locations can be found here

WEATHER: 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 (718-828-8262) - if no one answers it means we left for the bird walk. We end all our Central Park walks (except Fridays) at the Boathouse at about 12noon to 1pm; you can get a cup of coffee and a muffin there (around $6 total). 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 are a helpful group.

male Belted Kingfisher Central Park, 14 April 2022 by Deborah Allen

Here is what we saw last week (brief highlights)

Friday 15 April through Monday 18 April (inclusive). One of the great debates we've had over the years concerns the movements of spring migrants in Central Park as they search for food. Do birds landing in the Ramble gradually make their way north foraging in the treetops as they go toward the north woods? Or do birds mostly land and stay withing a circumscribed/defined area of the park until they decide to continue migrating to breed in other places? We ask this question because this spring of 2022, it sure seems to us that there are a lot more warblers up at the north end (102nd street to 110th) than in the Ramble (72nd to 79th). However, if one watches individuals that hang around, such as the Yellow-throated Warbler of early April - that bird stayed within a 75 yard radius where it was originally found in the Ramble. Other rare birds that are "one-offs" - (the only ones of their kind in the park at the time) have done the same such as the Kirtland's Warbler that stayed in the vicinity of the Reservoir feeding on the flowers of Turkey Oaks (non-native species). And the Prothonotary Warbler that we feature in this week's Newsletter - that male has stayed in the same general area of the "Pool" (102nd street) since its discovery (16 April). So it seems that the dearth of migrants in the south end (Ramble) compared to the northern part of the park is...just chance - or is there a reason we have not yet determined? Anyway, Deborah did well last Friday at the north end (lots of Palm and Pine Warblers - see her list below); Saturday we had two firsts in the Ramble: Blue-headed Vireo (2) and Ovenbird (Thank You Karen)...but there were two firsts at the north end I would have preferred instead! Those were the ongoing Prothonotary Warbler and a Prairie Warbler. Sunday and Monday featured northerly winds and very few arrivals in the park (Ruby-crowned Kinglets) - so we had to make do with using sound to induce Brown-headed Cowbird males to do display dances (ditto male Red-winged Blackbirds); and we've found that for a migrant bird, male Yellow-bellied Sapsuckers are quite aggressive - chasing off other males that get too close to their favorite trees (Sweetgums and Spruce). We can use certain calls to bring them in to chase off intruders...apologies these woodpeckers just find the evil SOB (sweet old bob).

1. Deborah's List of Birds in Central Park for Friday, 15 April 2022: Click Here

2. Deborah's List of Birds in Central Park for Saturday, 16 April 2022: Click Here

3. Deborah's List of Birds in Central Park for Saturday, 17 April 2022: Click Here

4. Deborah's List of Birds in Central Park for Monday, 18 April 2022: Click Here

male Prothonotary Warbler on 19 April 2022 in Central Park Deborah Allen


Prothonotary Warbler [April 1888]. Protonotaria citrea. In April 1888, I recorded a specimen of this Warbler which was sent to me for identification by the keeper of Montauk Light [Long Island], and which I supposed was the first one that had been taken in New York State. I find, however, that as early as May, 1849, one was shot at Jamaica, Queens Co. It was a male in fine breeding plumage, and was mounted by Mr. Akhurst. It is the only one he ever saw from Long Island.

William Dutcher, New York City.


Prothonotary Warbler near New York City [June 1894]. In the early morning of 2 June [1894] last, 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 unpractised 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 [see above note].

Eugene P. Bicknell, New York City.


A Prothonotary Warbler in Central Park [May 1908]

While sitting by one of the inlets of the lake in Central Park on 8 May 1908, I was attracted by an unfamiliar song which awakened my curiosity and put me on the alert to watch for the singer. Very soon I saw what looked like a little gold ball flying toward me from the opposite bank, and lighting in a bush not four feet from me, it poured forth the song I so wanted to hear. I looked, and looked, and my heart gave a bound when I thought of a skin of a Prothonotary Warbler I had cherished for years, every feather of which I knew. "It is without doubt the bird," I exclaimed, "but how did it get so far away from its range?" I remained some time watching it fly back and forth, then went to the American Museum and reported it, and examined specimens to make sure I was right. So far as I know it has never been seen in the park before. On May 5, Mr. Chubb and Dr. Wiegman both saw this bird.

Anne A. Crolius, New York City.


A Prothonotary Warbler in Queens [May 1916].

I should like to report, the Prothonotary Warbler seen by Miss Childs and myself 6 May 1916, in Forest Park [Queens]. We watched the bird make the circuit of a small pond, feeding about the roots of the trees. It finally came onto an old log within ten feet of where we were sitting, then flew into a low bush directly in front of us and preened its feathers. It showed no fear even when we stood up and walked away.

Mary W. Peckham, Brooklyn, N. Y.


The Prothonotary Warbler in South New Jersey in Summer [1924]. On 15 June 1924, Mr. Turner E. McMullen and the writer saw a pair of Prothonotary Warblers, (Protonotaria citrea) while hunting for Parula Warbler's nests, in the lower end of Beaver Swamp, in Cape May County, New Jersey. They were found along a sluggish stream deep within the swamp, the vegetation of which consisted chiefly of sour gums, with dense undergrowth of red maple, holly, magnolia, sweet pepperbush, etc. Judging by their behavior they had young out of the nest close by in the shrubbery, but we had not the time to search for fledglings: the female was the boldest and flitted nervously about with her bill full of insects, often within several feet of us. The Prothonotary Warbler is an extremely rare bird in south Jersey where it is not supposed to breed, and has never to my knowledge been seen in summer except by Mr. Julian K. Potter [see following historical article], who saw a bird in a swamp in Cumberland County.

Richard F. Miller, Philadelphia, Pa.

male Prothonotary Warbler 16 April 2022 in Central Park Sandra Critelli

Prothonotary Warbler at South Vineland, N. J. On 19 June 1914, while studying birds in the Maurice River swamp, about two miles west of South Vineland, New Jersey, a swamp with which I have been long familiar, I had the pleasure of observing a Prothonotary Warbler (Protonotaria citrea) under conditions which left no doubt as to the bird's identity. For several seasons past I had observed a male Redstart (Setophaga ruticilla) during the month of June in a certain portion of the swamp and went there on this occasion to determine whether or not this species was breeding. On arriving at the spot I not only found the male Redstart but also the female and soon noticed the latter carry food to its young -- a bird just able to fly, in a small water birch tree near by. The Redstarts kept up an incessant chirping and soon other birds in the neighborhood joined in with their notes of Marta, creating quite a disturbance. Presently a new note was heard, well back in the swamp, which I took for the alarm call of the [Northern] Water-Thrush (Seiurus n. noveboracensis) although I knew that it was hardly probable that such was the case, it being far too late for such an occurrence. I waited quietly; the bird continued chirping and drawing nearer, and I was soon able to see the bright yellow bird at a distance of about fifteen feet. I observed it for a number of minutes while it continued to hop about and utter its Water-Thrush like note of alarm. The bird appeared quite excited and I searched a number of likely looking stumps for a nest but without result, nor did I see more than one bird. After a short time the bird disappeared in the thick undergrowth. I was positive that I had seen a Prothonotary Warbler which I believe is a very rare bird in this locality, and on looking the matter up in Chapman's, 'Warblers of North America' found that the alarm note of this species is very difficult to distinguish from that of the Water-Thrush and this fact I think cleared up any possible doubt as to the bird's identity. The only other bird inhabiting this region that could possibly be mistaken for the Prothonotary is the female Hooded Warbler and although this bird has a very sharp note of alarm it does not in the least resemble that of the [Northern] Water-Thrush.

The swamp at the place mentioned extends for about a quarter of a mile on each side of the river. The vegetation of course is, like that of all south Jersey streams, very thick and direct to explore. The warbler was observed in that portion quite close to the river which is covered most of the time with a few inches of water although during droughts it is comparatively dry, with water in small pools only.

Julian Potter, Camden, N. J.

female Prothonotary Warbler Great Dismal Swamp, 14 June 2013 Deborah Allen

Nesting of the Prothonotary Warbler in Northern New Jersey. On 30 June 1924, Rev. W. D. Quattlebaum of East Orange, New Jersey, discovered a Prothonotary Warbler (Protonotaria citrea) entering a hole in a stump near the Passaic River at a point between West Caldwell and Pine Brook, New Jersey. This interesting news was reported and on July 5, we accompanied him to the spot. Here, situated within one hundred and fifty feet of one of the busiest auto roads of northern New Jersey, we were shown what we believe to be the first breeding record for this bird in the State. The nest site was in a decayed red-birch stump, the opening being 8 feet from the ground, within a foot from the top and facing southeast. The site was one hundred feet from the river proper, but during the spring rains the river had overflowed much of this territory and upon receding had left a number of small ponds. On the edge of one of these the nest stump was located. The two most common trees near this site were the red-birch (Betula nigra) and the silver maple (Acer saccharinum), while poison ivy (Rhus radicans) over-ran everything on or near the ground.

Upon investigation we found that the nest contained two young. Both parents entered the nest-hole with food and with little concern because of our presence, the male singing frequently.

On July 9, the birds were observed by Messrs Quattlebaum, W. DeWitt Miller, W. G. Van Name and Carter, the two young birds being banded by the last. Again the male was in full song. At dawn on July 11, we found that heavy rains had caused the river to again overflow, the ground about the nest site being flooded. While we were not prepared for this emergency and did not visit the nest, observations from the road disclosed the birds entering the nest-hole, and the male was heard to sing occasionally. Messrs. Maunsell S. Crosby and Ludlow Griscom visited the spot the same day, arriving about noon, and while both parents were observed, they were not seen to visit the nest and the young were not in evidence. It is possible that the nest was vacated during the forenoon. On July 13, Howland did not find the birds in the vicinity.

The diameter of the opening to the nest-hole was one and three-eighth inches, the nest being two inches below the opening. The nest was composed principally of decayed leaves, plant stems, a little moss and plant fiber, the cup being lined with very fine rootlets, fine grasses and leaf stems, a little moss and a strand or two of horse-hair. The cup was two and one quarter inches in diameter, one and one-quarter inches in depth. The cup was entirely open on one side, the nest conforming to the shape of the inside of the trunk. The nest was most compact and weighed five sixteenths of an ounce.

R. H. Howland, T. Donald Carter, American Museum of Natural History, New York City.

Bud’ velyki yak verba, zdorovi ’yak voda, bohati yak zemlia’. = Be as big as the willow, healthy as water, rich as the earth

Deborah Allen and Robert DeCandido PhD

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

Ukrainian Easter Eggs


bottom of page