Northern Parula

Species Name: Setophaga americana

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Species Distribution in Massachusetts


Federal Rank: None

Massachusetts State Rank: Threatened

Habitat Description

Characteristically found in wet woodlands, such as Red Maple (Acer rubrum) or Atlantic White- cedar (Chamaecyparis thyiodes) swamps, river margins, pond shores, or even small depressions. It usually nests in association with the moss-like lichen, Old-Man’s Beard (Usnea spp.).

Threats to Survival

Unknown, but theorized to be related to their favored nesting material Usnea. Usnea is theorized to be sensitive to acid rain and air pollution, along with destruction of wintering grounds through deforestation and development.

Actions Recommended to Ensure Survival

Research on the nesting ecology, particularly with regard to the extent of the Parula’s dependence upon Usnea, is needed to determine what role, if any, that relationship has impacted the species’ decline. More information is needed on the Parula’s wintering ecology and the effects of habitat alteration on the wintering grounds. If the Northern Parula is being adversely affected by changes in its wintering grounds or by air pollution on the breeding areas, any attempt on the state level through habitat preservation and/or management are likely to be ineffective.