The Nesting Biology & Parental Behavior of the Prothonotary Warbler, Protonotaria Citrea, in Southwestern Missouri

Date of Graduation

Summer 1996


Master of Science in Biology



Committee Chair

Don Moll


An evaluation of the nesting biology and parental behavior of the prothonotary warbler was conducted in southwestern Missouri using two types of artificial nesting boxes. Female prothonotary warblers laid significantly larger clutch sizes in their first clutch compared to their second. Of the 183 eggs laid, 150 hatched, and 144 young were fledged. The microhabitat of the preferred nesting site was quantified by examining canopy cover, percent water beneath the nesting box, height of the nesting box, distance to nearest perch, and compass orientation of the entrance hole. Only the orientation of the nesting boxes with a preference of a east by northeast direction and heavy canopy cover appeared to influence occupancy rates. As polygyny in prothonotary warblers is not uncommon, parental care was evaluated to determine if females contributed more parental care than males, in terms of incubation, foraging, fecal sac dispersal, and aggression toward possible predators and nest parasites. Field observations suggest that females do contribute more general care to the offspring in monogamous pairs. Both parents tended to leave the nesting boxes in nonrandom directions for both foraging trips and during fecal sac dispersal.

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© Jeffrey N Cantrell