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Number of species: 79

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Palm Warbler - Setophaga palmarum

Palm Warbler has a partial preformative molt and limited prealternate molts that are restricted to head feathers. Plumage differs subtly by age and sex, such that age is most reliably determined prior to completion of skull ossification in fall, and sex is often identifiable only through brood patch or cloacal protuberance during the breeding season, although some males can be recognized by plumage.

The two subspecies of Palm Warbler (Western Palm Warbler, S.p. palmarum, and Yellow Palm Warbler, S.p. hypochrysea) are generally separable by plumage, but guidelines for age and sex determination are applicable to both.

Quick tips

  • Check the primary coverts - on FCF/FCA (HY/SY) birds they may appear slightly pointed and a bit paler brown than the replaced greater coverts, whereas on DCB/DCA (AHY/ASY) birds they tend to be somewhat more rounded and the wing is uniformly brown.
  • Look at the tail - on FCF/FCA (HY/SY) birds the outer rectrices tend to be slightly paler and narrower, and with somewhat smaller white spots than on DCB/DCA (AHY/ASY) birds, but the differences can be subtle and only extremes are helpful for ageing.
  • Examine the crown - in fall and winter, any individual with a rusty patch greater than 5 mm long is likely to be a DCB (AHY) male, but DCB (AHY) females and FCF (HY) males can also have smaller rusty patches; in alternate plumage, the longest rusty crown patches (19-21 mm) are indicative of DCA (ASY) males, but the length largely overlaps for other age/sex classes.

Species account prepared by McGill Bird Observatory (2016). Last updated by Marcel Gahbauer (Mar 2022)

The molt categories displayed below may be filtered by month.

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Click on any image below to bring up the side-by-side comparison tool.

Individuals not in molt

FCJ - (HY: June - August)
Largely grayish with dusky streaking; buffy wing bars
No images available yet
FCF - (HY: June - December; SY January - March)
Primary coverts slightly paler than greater coverts, sometimes a bit pointed; rectrices sometimes relatively narrow; crown occasionally with a few rusty feathers (M) but generally without (U)
U
Thumbnail - MG2-2600-16805-Setophaga_palmarum_AOU_7_52-2717.jpg Thumbnail - MG2-2600-16805-Setophaga_palmarum_AOU_7_52-2715.jpg Thumbnail - MG2-2600-16805-Setophaga_palmarum_AOU_7_52-2716.jpg
FCA - (SY: February - August)
Primary coverts slightly paler than greater coverts, sometimes a bit pointed; rectrices sometimes relatively narrow; crown with little to no (F) or moderate to extensive (M) rusty crown patch
No images available yet
DCB - (AHY: June - December; ASY January - March)
Primary coverts largely uniform with greater coverts, generally broad and rounded; rectrices broad and rounded; crown with little to no (F) or moderately extensive (M) rusty crown patch
U
Thumbnail - MG2-2510-81240-Setophaga_palmarum_AOU_7_52-2723.jpg Thumbnail - MG2-2510-81240-Setophaga_palmarum_AOU_7_52-2721.jpg Thumbnail - MG2-2510-81240-Setophaga_palmarum_AOU_7_52-2722.jpg
DCA - (ASY: February - August)
Primary coverts largely uniform with greater coverts, generally broad and rounded; rectrices broad and rounded; crown with little to no (F) or moderate to extensive (M) rusty crown patch
No images available yet

Individuals in active molt

FPJ - (HY: June - August)
Similar to FCJ; some natal down remaining and/or juvenile flight feathers still growing in
No images available yet
FPF - (HY: June - September)
Similar to FCF; median and greater coverts, and often the greater alula being replaced
No images available yet
FPA - (SY: January - April)
Similar to FCA; some head feathers being replaced
No images available yet
SPB - (SY: July - September)
Flight feathers being replaced, with retained juvenile primaries, secondaries, and/or primary coverts distinctly pale brownish and worn
No images available yet
DPB - (AHY: July - September)
Flight feathers being replaced, with retained primaries, secondaries, and/or primary coverts either distinctly adult (generally grayish, less worn) or intermediate
No images available yet
DPA - (ASY: January - April)
Similar to DCA; head feathers being replaced
No images available yet

Applicable unknown plumage/age classes

Molt classes Age Months Key traits
M-FPF / UPU (FPF, SPB, DPB) U July - September Undergoing preformative or prebasic molt, but cycle is not reliably distinguishable
M-FCF / UCU (FCF, SCB, DCB) U/AHY June - March In formative or basic plumage (molt completed), but cycle is not reliably distinguishable
M-FPA / UPA (FPA, DPA) AHY January - April Undergoing prealternate molt, but cycle is not reliably distinguishable
M-FCA / UCA (FCA, DCA) AHY February - August In alternate plumage (molt completed), but cycle is not reliably distinguishable

Number of species: 79

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