Breeding Bird Atlas 1 Additional Accounts

Prothonotary Warbler

Protonotaria citrea

The claim that this southern warbler is a breeding species in Massachusetts, while tenuous, is probably legitimate. The first suggestion of state breeding occurred in Concord, Middlesex County, in 1886 when William Brewster collected a male, female, and juvenile “in a swamp along the Sudbury River” between May 9 and August 17. Brewster was apparently convinced he had missed establishing a definite breeding record, despite compelling evidence to the contrary (Griscom 1949).

More enigmatic was an apparently unmated female Prothonotary Warbler that built a nest in a garage in Hawley, Franklin County, in 1979 but was never joined by a male (Kellogg). A bona fide breeding attempt occurred in Sharon, Norfolk County, from May 27 to June 21, 1982, when a pair built a nest and was incubating eggs before the eggs were eventually destroyed by House Wrens (BOEM). Although there have been a number of reports through the years of persistently singing male Prothonotary Warblers in suitable breeding habitat into early summer, none have led to further evidence of nesting.

A rare but regular visitor to Massachusetts in late April and May and late August and September, this species will likely attempt to breed in the state again, especially since it has nested as close to Bay State borders as Connecticut and Long Island, New York.