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Number of species: 82

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Northern Parula - Setophaga americana

Northern Parula has a partial preformative molt, and an absent to limited prealternate molt of feathers on the head and breast that is often difficult to detect. Sex can usually be determined by plumage, although presence or absence of molt limits can be helpful in distinguishing FCF/FCU (HY/SY) males from DCB/DCU (AHY/ASY) females.

Quick tips

  • Check the primary coverts - on FCF/FCU (HY/SY) birds they have little or no edging and are paler than the greater coverts, while on DCB/DCU (AHY/ASY) birds they have distinct blue edging and are uniform with the greater coverts.
  • Look at the tail - on HY/SY birds the rectrices are fairly narrow and pointed, whereas on AHY/ASY birds they are relatively broad and rounded at the tip.
  • Look at the overall plumage - within each age class males tend to be more bluish overall and have larger white patches on the rectrices, while females are more greenish and have smaller white patches on the rectrices.

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: May - July)
Largely grayish above and whitish below, generally lacking yellow
No images available yet
FCF - (HY: June - December; SY January - April)
Primary coverts paler than greater coverts and with little or no bluish edging; rectrices relatively narrow and pointed, with limited white on outer feathers; crown, neck, and back similarly greenish (F) or with crown and neck contrastingly bluish-gray (M)
M
Thumbnail - MG2-2670-68043-Setophaga_americana_AOU_7_52-2624.jpg Thumbnail - MG2-2670-68043-Setophaga_americana_AOU_7_52-2622.jpg Thumbnail - MG2-2670-68043-Setophaga_americana_AOU_7_52-2623.jpg
F
Thumbnail - MG2-2550-58741-Setophaga_americana_AOU_7_52-2621.jpg Thumbnail - MG2-2550-58741-Setophaga_americana_AOU_7_52-2619.jpg Thumbnail - MG2-2550-58741-Setophaga_americana_AOU_7_52-2620.jpg
FCU - (SY: February - August)
Primary coverts paler than greater coverts and with little or no bluish edging; rectrices relatively narrow and pointed, with limited white on outer feathers; crown, neck, and back similarly greenish (F) or with crown and neck contrastingly bluish-gray (M)
M
Thumbnail - MG2-2520-48048-Setophaga_americana_AOU_7_52-2615.jpg Thumbnail - MG2-2520-48048-Setophaga_americana_AOU_7_52-2613.jpg Thumbnail - MG2-2520-48048-Setophaga_americana_AOU_7_52-2614.jpg
F
Thumbnail - MG2-2550-81628-Setophaga_americana_AOU_7_52-2612.jpg Thumbnail - MG2-2550-81628-Setophaga_americana_AOU_7_52-2610.jpg Thumbnail - MG2-2550-81628-Setophaga_americana_AOU_7_52-2611.jpg
DCB - (AHY: June - December; ASY January - April)
Primary coverts dark, with distinct bluish edging; rectrices relatively broad and pointed with moderate amount of white on outer feathers; crown, neck, and back greenish to greenish-blue (F) or with crown and neck contrastingly bluish (M)
M
Thumbnail - MG2-2670-68057-Setophaga_americana_AOU_7_52-2633.jpg Thumbnail - MG2-2670-68057-Setophaga_americana_AOU_7_52-2631.jpg Thumbnail - MG2-2670-68057-Setophaga_americana_AOU_7_52-2632.jpg
F
Thumbnail - MG2-2410-96852-Setophaga_americana_AOU_7_52-2627.jpg Thumbnail - MG2-2410-96852-Setophaga_americana_AOU_7_52-2625.jpg Thumbnail - MG2-2410-96852-Setophaga_americana_AOU_7_52-2626.jpg
DCU - (ASY: February - August)
Primary coverts dark, with distinct bluish edging; rectrices relatively broad and pointed with moderate amount of white on outer feathers; crown, neck, and back greenish to greenish-blue (F) or with crown and neck contrastingly bluish (M)
F
Thumbnail - MG2-2520-48672-Setophaga_americana_AOU_7_52-2618.jpg Thumbnail - MG2-2520-48672-Setophaga_americana_AOU_7_52-2616.jpg Thumbnail - MG2-2520-48672-Setophaga_americana_AOU_7_52-2617.jpg

Individuals in active molt

FPJ - (HY: May - July)
Similar to FCJ; some natal down remaining and/or juvenile flight feathers still growing in
No images available yet
FPF - (HY: May - August)
Similar to FCF; median and greater coverts and sometimes the greater alula being replaced
No images available yet
FPA - (SY: January - May)
Similar to FCF; some head and breast feathers being replaced
No images available yet
SPB - (SY: June - August)
Flight feathers being replaced, with retained juvenile primaries, secondaries, and/or primary coverts distinctly pale brownish and very worn
No images available yet
DPB - (AHY: June - August)
Flight feathers being replaced, with retained primaries, secondaries, and/or primary coverts either distinctly adult (relatively bluish gray, less worn) or intermediate
No images available yet
DPA - (ASY: January - May)
Similar to DCB; some head and breast 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 June - August Undergoing preformative or prebasic molt, but cycle is not reliably distinguishable
M-FCF / UCU (FCF, SCB, DCB) U/AHY June - April In formative or basic plumage (molt completed), but cycle is not reliably distinguishable
M-FPA / UPA (FPA, DPA) AHY January - May 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: 82

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