My experience with Palm Warblers in Florida (and elsewhere) is that Yellow Palms are typically found in somewhat open pine forest and other relatively xeric forested habitats in high relative abundance, but can be found in many other habitats, but in much, much lower numbers (where they are greatly outnumbered by Western Palms) and in greatly varying numbers from year to year. Western Palms, however, are found in great numbers in relatively open habitats, whether mesic or xeric, but can be found in forested habitat, too (though in much lower densities than in more-open areas). Considering the relative dearth of appropriate habitat for Yellow in developed areas of the state, it doesn't surprise me that the form is somewhat rare in such places (though not at all entirely absent). I have also noted here and, particularly, in Cape May, NJ, that the migration timing of the two subspecies is slightly, but noticeably different, with Yellows preceding Westerns in spring and succeeding them in fall.
It is important to know that the Yellow Palm breeding range is considerably smaller than that of Western Palm and barely, if at all, reaches Ontario. This great difference has a huge impact on many facets of the ecologies and distributions of the two subspecies, particularly on migration range and overall abundance. One most also note that the migration range of Western runs, generally, well east of the Rockies and that the form does not winter in Middle America (except for small numbers in the Yucatan, tiny numbers in Panama, and even fewer along the Gulf coast of Gulf-coast countries). Thus, as can be seen from the eBird winter map
and noted that my assessments and those of others here match those of the BNA account.
"Subspecies exhibit temporal and spatial differences in migration. Yellow Palm Warbler migrates slightly earlier in spring than Western Palm Warbler and slightly later in fall.... The earlier spring migration of Yellows may reflect a more advanced phenology along their typical migration route, the Coastal Plain, compared to the western, inland routes of the Western Palm Warbler (see below); perhaps also an earlier breeding season."
Habitat in winter:
"In central Florida, the two subspecies were found to differ in habitat use: Western Palm Warbler outnumbering the Yellow Palm Warbler almost 3:1 in mesic (wetter) habitats, while this ratio was reversed in xeric (dryer) habitats (Poole et al. 2005)."
These differences provide the rationale for me to report Palm Warblers to subspecies in eBird whenever I possibly can, and I encourage others to do so. However, beware that there are 'tweeners and that even Westerns in alternate plumage can be fairly yellow below.
From: Daniel Estabrooks <000000078b08fc2d-dmarc-request...>
To: BRDBRAIN <BRDBRAIN...>
Sent: Fri, Mar 10, 2017 4:46 pm
Subject: [BRDBRAIN] Palm Warbler Habitat Stuff - Summary
I’ve gottena LOT of responses to my post about Palm Warblers, many of them off-list, withquite a few interesting questions/observations/suggestions. So I figured I’drespond to all of it at once.
First off, I’vebeen seeing large numbers of Yellow Palms at various preserves throughout thewinter, so I don’t think it’s a migration thing.
I haven’tnoticed a difference in habitat in terms of wet-vs.-dry or wooded-vs.-open, butI’d never really thought about it until several people brought it up. That’ssomething I’ll keep an eye out for in the future. (For what it’s worth, I saw aYellow Palm in scrub habitat a couple days ago at Lake Marion Creek WMA. Sothat would go along with the hypothesis that they like it drier… but that’sjust one observation.)
I know I’ve neverseen a Yellow Palm in an urban area EVER. I literally can’t think of a singleone at any point in my life. What’s really struck me, as I mentioned in myoriginal post, is that proximity to an urban area seems to be a very reliablepredictor of which subspecies I’ll find… with Westerns being in or near urbanareas and Yellows being far from them.
I no longerhave access to Web of Science because my current university is small and poor,but I’ve spent some time with Google Scholar and haven’t found much of anythingrelative to habitat preference in Palms or their taxonomy in general.
It’s toolate now, since the spring migration has already started, but in the fall Iplan to keep careful track of the subspecies, exact location, habitat, andproximity to an urban area of each Palm Warbler that I see. All the informationwill go in my eBird reports, and who knows… maybe something will become clear.
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