How to Identify a Northern Parula

Updated: Mar. 22, 2022

Learn how to attract and identify a northern parula, a blue and yellow bird in the warbler family. Find out what they eat and where to find them.

What Does a Northern Parula Look Like?

13 Kenspringer Bbam19Courtesy Ken Springer

“This bird (above) visited us last April. What is it,” asks Birds & Blooms reader Ken Springer.

In this photo you’ve captured all the ID marks of a warbler called the northern parula. It has a blue head and shoulders, two white wing bars and a bright yellow throat and chest, and we can even see a little of the green triangle on the center of its back.

With its unique name, you might be surprised to find out that this bird is in the warbler family. Other birds you may not realize are warblers include the American redstart, the Northern waterthrush, and the ovenbird.

Learn about black-throated blue (and green!) warblers.

Northern Parula Range

The northern parula is one of the smallest and most colorful members of the warbler family. In early May, it would be migrating north from its winter home in the tropics to a summer home somewhere in the eastern U.S. or southern Canada.

Discover the top warbler hotspots to visit in spring.


Northern Parula, Mcdade TrailCourtesy Nancy Tully

According to the Kaufman Field Guide to Birds of North America, this bird is heard more often than seen. Their distinctive song is a thin, sputtering buzz that rises up and and then snaps back down at the end.

“Thrilled was an understatement when I spotted this male northern parula (above) while walking the McDade trail in northeast Pennsylvania. He was very hard to find and photograph—I could hear him better than I could see him. But for a few seconds he let me take a couple of shots!” says Birds & Blooms reader Nancy Tully of East Stroudsburg, Pennsylvania.

Learn about yellow warblers: The sunniest spring birds.

Nesting Habits

northern parulaCourtesy Rick Cafiero
Northern parula in Vero Beach, Florida

This bird hides its nest among Spanish moss, usnea lichen or other hanging plant material.

Meet the Tennessee warbler and the acrobatic Nashville warbler.

What Do Northern Parulas Eat?

Northern Parula Carroll County; Maryland 5.4.19Courtesy Donald Dedmon
Northern parula in Carroll County, Maryland

Warblers like northern parulas seldom come to bird feeders. Their diets consist primarily of insects. But they’re strongly attracted to water, so these migrating birds undoubtedly will be happy to find a backyard bird bath.

Learn how to identify a palm warbler and a magnolia warbler.