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Tropical Parula

Setophaga pitiayumi

Length: 4.5 inches Wingspan: 6.5 inches Seasonality: Non-resident in South Dakota
ID Keys: Bluish-gray upperparts, yellow below, 2 white wingbars, olive patch on back

Tropical Parula - Setophaga pitiayumiThe Tropical Parula is found from northern Mexico southward all the way to Argentina, but also is a summer breeder in far southern Texas. Their range seem to be expanding northward in Texas.  The Tropical Parula was formerly considered a form of the Northern Parula. After being separated as a distinct species, it was originally called the "Olive-backed Parula" before the current name was assigned. Within its range there are many recognized subspecies with minor plumage, voice, and breeding distinctions.

Habitat: Found mostly in oak forests in the Texas portion of its range, typically thick forests with significant growth of Spanish Moss.

Diet: Feeds mostly on insects and spiders, but they will occasionally take berries as well.

Behavior: Feeds by actively moving through the foliage of the forest canopy, gleaning insects from vegetative surfaces.  They also may fly out to capture flying insects in mid-air.  They often will forage very low in the forest canopy, in the forest undergrowth, or even by hopping along the ground.

Nesting: The nest is typically a hollowed out ball of Spanish Moss or similar vegetation hanging on tree branches. The nest typically has a sparse lining of hair, grass, feathers, or other fine material. The female usually lays three eggs (between two and five), and she does most of the incubating.

Song: Song is a thin buzzy trilling.

Migration: Most Tropical Parulas are considered permanent residents, but most of those at the north end of their range, including those in Texas, are migratory, moving southward a short distance in the winter.  Note that a few do generally linger even in the northern part of their range, with Tropical Parulas occasionally found in winter along the Rio Grande in Texas.

Interactive eBird map: Click here to access an interactive eBird map of Tropical Parula sightings

Similar Species: Northern Parula.  They can be distinguished from the Northern Parula by the lack of obvious eye-crescents, among other ID marks.

Conservation Status: Populations of the Tropical Parula appear to be increasing, and they are found over a very wide geographic area.  The IUCN lists the Tropical Parula as a species of "Least Concern".

Further Information: 1) BirdLife International - Tropical Parula

2) WhatBird - Tropical Parula

3) Cornell's NeoTropical Birds - Tropical Parula

Photo Information: Photo by Dario Sanches - Photo licensed under Creative Commons Attribution ShareAlike 2.0 Generic License


Click below for a higher-resolution map
Tropical Parula - Range Map
South Dakota Status: Non-resident in South Dakota

Additional Tropical Parula Photos (coming soon!!)