I know that you have heard the old adage, expect the Unexpected. I long time ago I realized that this is especially true when it comes to birds. Recently a birder residing in Americus (Sumter County) also learned this statement is true. One morning this winter when he looked out his window, he was amazed to see a prothonotary warbler feeding at one of his feeders. I am sure he could not believe his eyes!
The prothonotary warbler breeds throughout the state, with the exception of northeast Georgia, however, most nest in the Coastal Plain. Within this breeding range, it prefers to live close to water. As such, it nests in swamps, and along the shorelines of rivers and lakes.
It is Georgia’s only warbler that nests in cavities. Incidentally, it sometimes builds its nest in nesting boxes erected in backyards located near water.
Typically, prothonotary warblers arrive in March and April and leave the Peach State in late summer to winter in the mangrove swamps of found from Central America southward on northern Brazil.
During the nesting season, prothonotary warblers dine mainly on insects, spiders and the like. We know comparatively little about the bird’s winter diet. However, some biologists suggest that this fantastically beautiful warbler possibly supplements its diet with nectar, seeds, and fruit.
The bird that miraculously appeared at a Sumter County feeder eats safflower seeds offered in a platform feeder. The bird’s host believes that the fact that his yard is located close to a swamp may have something to do with it selecting to feed in his yard.
This is an extremely rare occurrence. I have searched the many volumes in my library that deal with birds, as well as the Internet and found no mention of a prothonotary warbler dining on seeds at a feeder during the winter. However, I am certain it must have occurred before.
One of the takeaways from this experience is, because this rare sighting was reported, we now know a little more about this amazing migrant. Please keep that in mind when you see a rare bird, or observe a bird’s behavior you have never witnessed, report it. There is always a possibility that you too will add to our understanding of the wild creatures with whom we share the world. If you do not, as far as the scientific world is concerned, it never happened.