Setophaga discolor discolor

Status:  Rare casual spring migrant statewide. Accidental in summer and fall.

Documentation:  Photograph: 26 May-1 Jun 1982 Niobrara Valley Preserve, Brown Co (Brogie and Mossman 1983, Bray et al 1986).

Taxonomy:  Two subspecies are recognized (Pyle 1997): discolor, breeding and wintering in most of the North American range, and paludicola, resident in coastal south Florida. Nebraska birds are presumed discolor.

SpringThere are 19 reports, surprisingly scattered statewide, in the period 21 Apr-5 Jun; 13 are accepted:

30 Apr 2018 Lake McConaughy, Keith Co (; Brogie 2019)

6 May 2000 Carter Canyon, Scotts Bluff Co singing male (Jorgensen 2002)

7 May 1999 Wild Rose Ranch, Hall Co (Jorgensen 2001)

10 May 1979 seen singing in Jewell Park, Bellevue, Sarpy Co 21 Apr-10 May 1979 (Cortelyou 1979, Williams 1979)

11 May 2014 singing male Lancaster Co (Brogie 2015)

12 May 1996 Wilderness Park, Lincoln, Lancaster Co (Brogie 1997)

18 May 1996 Fontenelle Forest, Sarpy Co (Brogie 1997).

19 May 1974 Lincoln (Cortelyou 1974, Williams 1974)

21 May 1991 singing male Box Butte Co (Grzybowski 1991)

25 May 1978 singing male at Oshkosh, Garden Co (Rosche and Johnsgard 1984, Rosche 1994, Williams 1978)

26 May-1 Jun 1982 Niobrara Valley Preserve (cited above)

28 May 2007 Niobrara River extreme eastern Cherry Co (Silcock 2007, Gordon Warrick, personal communication, fide Wayne Mollhoff).

5 Jun 2020 Oliver Reservoir Recreation Area, Kimball Co (Mlodinow,

An additional report, probably correct, was of one singing and thought to be this species but not seen at Brady, Lincoln Co 5 May 2009; another, also heard only, was at Boyer Chute NWR, Washington Co 18 May 2018. An additional five older reports are unaccompanied by any details.

Summer: The only record is of a singing male at NNF Bessey, Thomas Co, 5 Jul 1997 (Brogie 1998).

Bruner et al (1904) cited several reports from the 19th century by Aughey and others, including two of nesting, one in Dakota Co and the other in Richardson Co, accepted by Dunn and Garrett (1997); Aughey (1878) considered it “abundant” in eastern Nebraska, and Taylor (1888) referred to it as a “Summer resident; common” in southeast Nebraska. Although some of these early reports have been questioned (Johnsgard 1979, 1980; Sharpe 1993), Wayne Mollhoff (pers. comm.) pointed out that as the forests were cleared, brushy habitat became more common, albeit often ephemeral, which would have contributed to an increase in numbers of Prairie Warbler. The existence of these old breeding records for this species and also for Blue-winged Warbler, both of which occupy similar habitat which has since largely disappeared from Nebraska, is intriguing.

Fall: There is a single documented record:

6 Sep 1998 immature male Gering Cemetery, Scotts Bluff Co (Brogie 1999).

Additional undocumented reports are 31 Aug 2002 Fontenelle Forest, 22 Sep 1983 Douglas-Sarpy Cos (Williams 1984), and 23 Sep 1972 McPherson Co.


NNF: Nebraska National Forest


Photograph (top) of a Prairie Warbler at Oliver Reservoir Recreation Area, Kimball Co 5 Jun 2020 by Steven Mlodinow.

Literature Cited

Aughey, S. 1878. Notes on the nature of the food of the birds of Nebraska. 1878 Report of the United States Entomological Commission. Government Printing Office, Washington, D.C:, USA.

Bray, T.E., B.K. Padelford, and W.R. Silcock. 1986. The birds of Nebraska: A critically evaluated list. Published by the authors, Bellevue, Nebraska, USA.

Brogie, M.A. 1997. 1996 (Eighth) Report of the NOU Records Committee. NBR 65: 115-126.

Brogie, M.A. 1998. 1997 (Ninth) Report of the NOU Records Committee. NBR 66: 147-159.

Brogie, M.A. 1999. 1998 (Tenth) Report of the NOU Records Committee. NBR 67: 141-152.

Brogie, M.A. 2015. 2014 (26th) Report of the NOU Records Committee. NBR 83: 125-138.

Brogie, M.A., and M.J. Mossman. 1983. Spring and summer birds of the Niobrara Valley Preserve, Nebraska: An annotated checklist. NBR 51: 44-51.

Bruner, L., R.H. Wolcott, and M.H. Swenk. 1904. A preliminary review of the birds of Nebraska, with synopses. Klopp and Bartlett, Omaha, Nebraska, USA.

Cortelyou, R.G. 1974. 1974 (Forty-ninth) Spring Migration and Occurrence Report. NBR 42: 66-86.

Cortelyou, R.G. 1979. 1979 (Fifty-fourth) Spring Migration and Occurrence Report. NBR 47: 42-54.

Dunn, J.L., and K.L. Garrett. 1997. A field guide to warblers of North America. Houghton Mifflin Company, Boston, Massachusetts, USA.

Grzybowski, J.A. 1991. Southern Great Plains Region. American Birds 45: 466-469.

Johnsgard, P.A. 1979. Birds of the Great Plains: breeding species and their distribution.  University of Nebraska Press, Lincoln, Nebraska, USA.

Johnsgard, P. A. 1980. A preliminary list of the birds of Nebraska and adjacent Great Plains states. Published by the author, University of Nebraska, Lincoln, USA.

Jorgensen, J.G. 2001. 1999 (Eleventh) Report of the NOU Records Committee. NBR 69: 85-91.

Jorgensen, J.G. 2002. 2002 (sic; =2000). (12th) Report of the NOU Records Committee. NBR 70: 84-90.

Pyle, P. 1997. Identification Guide to North American Birds. Part I, Columbidae to Ploceidae. Slate Creek Press, Bolinas, California, USA.

Rosche, R.C. 1982. Birds of northwestern Nebraska and southwestern South Dakota, an annotated checklist. Cottonwood Press, Crawford, Nebraska, USA.

Rosche, R.C. 1994. Birds of the Lake McConaughy area and the North Platte River valley, Nebraska.  Published by the author, Chadron, Nebraska, USA.

Sharpe, R.S. 1993. Samuel Aughey’s list of Nebraska birds (1878): a critical evaluation. NBR 61: 3-10.

Silcock, W.R. 2007. Spring Field Report, March-May 2007. NBR 75: 34-52.

Taylor, W.E. 1888. A catalogue of Nebraska birds arranged according to the Checklist of the American Ornithological Union. Annual Report of the Nebraska State Board of Agriculture for the year Nebraska: State Journal Company, Lincoln, Nebraska, USA.

Williams, F. 1974. Southern Great Plains Region. American Birds 28: 918-922.

Williams, F. 1978. Southern Great Plains Region. American Birds 32: 1024-1028.

Williams, F. 1979. Southern Great Plains Region. American Birds 33: 784-787.

Williams, F. 1984. Southern Great Plains Region. American Birds 38: 218-221.

Recommended Citation

Silcock, W.R., and J.G. Jorgensen.  2020.  Prairie Warbler (Setophaga discolor). In Birds of Nebraska — Online.

Birds of Nebraska – Online

Updated 1 Sep 2020