Prothonotary Warbler

Photo: Inge Curtis

The warblers are coming! We don’t notice them until they land in the yard because they mostly fly through the night when it is cooler and safer from predators. This male Prothonotary Warbler is a little gem who declares his territory with repeated tsweets from perches close to a stream or standing water. Like many other birds, this species is named for its appearance. The word ‘prothonotary’ means first notary in Greek, originating in Roman Byzantium and adopted for Catholic prelates in the Middle Ages. Still used as a title for law clerks and officials, none today wear the gorgeous yellow apparel of ancient office holders.

As a cavity nester, the pair in Inge’s garden sets up home in a nest box with a snake guard. So closely does she observe them that she believes the same pair return annually. And so familiar are they with her home that one slipped inside her house to sing for her from the top of a table lamp. Had she not grabbed a camera in time to record it no one would have believed the story!

By Roger Gosden

A British and American scientist specializing in reproduction & embryology whose career spanned from Cambridge to Cornell's Weill Medical College in NYC. He married Lucinda Veeck, the embryologist for the first successful IVF team in America. They retired to Virginia, where he became a master naturalist and writer affiliated with William & Mary.

1 comment

  1. What a gorgeous yellow, rather like a canary with a longer beak. Thank you for explaining the name, we were trying to fathom it before we read the text ☺️

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