Monday, May 9, 2022

Episode 627 (5-9-22): A Trio of Songbirds with Tree Nests Near Water

CLICK HERE to listen to episode audio (5:05).

Sections below are the following:
Transcript of Audio
Audio Notes and Acknowledgments
Extra Information
Related Water Radio Episodes
For Virginia Teachers (Relevant SOLs, etc.).

Unless otherwise noted, all Web addresses mentioned were functional as of 5-6-22.


From the Cumberland Gap to the Atlantic Ocean, this is Virginia Water Radio for the weeks of May 9 and May 16, 2022.   This episode from is part of a series this year of episodes related to trees and shrubs.

MUSIC – ~14 sec – instrumental. 

That’s part of “New Spring Waltz,” by the late Madeline MacNeil, who was a well-known and highly regarded musician based in Virginia’s Shenandoah Valley.

Each new spring brings a chance to focus on the life cycles of wildlife.  This mid-spring episode of Water Radio explores some connections among nesting birds, trees, and water.  Have a listen for about 30 seconds to three mystery sounds, and see if you know these three bird species who nest in trees near water, either always or at least sometimes.  And here’s a hint: you’ll be singing a melodious trill, if you hit this mystery out of the park.

SOUNDS  - 29 sec.

If you guessed two warblers and an oriole, you’re right!  And you get bodacious bird bragging rights if you recognized, first, the Prothonotary Warbler; second, the Northern Parula, also a kind of warbler; and third, the bird for which Baltimore’s baseball team is named, the Baltimore Oriole.  All three of these songbirds are found in Virginia in the spring and summer breeding season.  During that period, the Prothonotary Warbler is common in Virginia’s central and southern Coastal Plain and can occasionally be found in some other parts of the Commonwealth; the Baltimore Oriole is common outside of the Coastal Plain; and the Northern Parula is common statewide.  The three species show a range of attachment to water-side trees as their nesting habitat.  The Prothonotary Warbler is particularly known for nesting in cavities in trees around water; in fact, the bird is sometimes called the “Swamp Warbler” in the southeastern United States.  The Northern Parula typically nests in trees along rivers and wetlands, especially in areas where it can find the materials it prefers for making its hanging nests: Spanish Moss or a kind of stringy lichen; this bird is also known to make nests out of debris left in trees after floods.  The Baltimore Oriole is the least water-attached of these three species, being found nesting high in trees in many areas outside of deep woods, including parks and yards; however, streamsides are among the species preferred areas for the bird’s fibrous, hanging nests.

If you’re near streams, rivers, or wetlands and you see or hear any of these three birds, look to nearby trees for cavities or hanging materials that may be harboring the birds’ next generation.

Thanks to Lang Elliott for permission to use the bird sounds, from the Stokes Field Guide to Bird Songs.  Thanks also to Janita Baker of Blue Lion Dulcimers and Guitars for permission to use Madeline MacNeil’s music, and we close with about 25 more seconds of “New Spring Waltz.”

MUSIC – ~26 sec – instrumental.


Virginia Water Radio is produced by the Virginia Water Resources Research Center, part of Virginia Tech’s College of Natural Resources and Environment.  For more Virginia water sounds, music, or information, visit us online at, or call the Water Center at (540) 231-5624.  Thanks to Ben Cosgrove for his version of “Shenandoah” to open and close this episode.  In Blacksburg, I’m Alan Raflo, thanking you for listening, and wishing you health, wisdom, and good water.


“New Spring Waltz” is from Madeline MacNeil’s 2002 album “Songs of Earth & Sea”; copyright held by Janita Baker, used with permission.  More information about Madeline MacNeil is available from Ms. Baker’s “Blue Lion Dulcimers & Guitars” Web site, online at

The sounds of the Baltimore Oriole, Northern Parula, and Prothonotary Warbler were from the Stokes Field Guide to Bird Songs-Eastern Region CD set, by Lang Elliott with Donald and Lillian Stokes (Time Warner Audio Books, copyright 1997), used with permission of Lang Elliott.  Lang Elliot’s work is available online at the “Music of Nature” Web site,

Click here if you’d like to hear the full version (2 min./22 sec.) of the “Shenandoah” arrangement/performance by Ben Cosgrove that opens and closes this episode.  More information about Mr. Cosgrove is available online at


Baltimore Oriole at the U.S. Fish and Wildlife’s National Conservation Training Center in Shepherdstown, W. Va., August 2015.  Photo by Michelle Smith, made available for public use by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service's National Digital Library, online at; the specific URL for the photograph was, as of 5-9-22.

Northern Parula at Kennebago Lake in Maine, July 2011.  Photo by Bill Thompson, made available for public use by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service's National Digital Library, online at; the specific URL for the photograph was, as of 5-9-22.

Prothonotary Warbler bringing food to its nest in South Carolina, March 2012.  Photo by Mark Musselman, made available for public use by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service's National Digital Library, online at; the specific URL for the photograph was, as of 5-9-22.


The scientific names of the birds in this episode are as follows:

Baltimore Oriole – Icterus galbula;
Northern Parula – Setophaga Americana (formerly Parula americana);
Prothonotary Warbler – Protonotaria citrea.


Used for Audio

Chesapeake Bay Program, “Birds,” online at  The Baltimore Oriole entry is online at

Cornell University Lab of Ornithology, “All About Birds,” online at
The Baltimore Oriole entry is online at;
the Northern Parula entry is online at;
the Prothonotary Warbler entry is online at

Cornell University Lab of Ornithology, “Birds of the World,” online at (subscription required).
The Baltimore Oriole entry is online at; the Northern Parula entry is online at; the Prothonotary Warbler entry is online at 

Merriam-Webster, “Warble,” online at

Chandler S. Robbins et al. A Guide to Field Identification of Birds of North America, St. Martin’s Press, New York, N.Y., 2001.

Virginia Department of Wildlife Resources (formerly Department of Game and Inland Fisheries):
“Fish and Wildlife Information Service,” online at
The Baltimore Oriole entry is online at;
the Northern Parula entry is online at;
the Prothonotary Warbler entry is online at

Virginia Department of Wildlife Resources (formerly Department of Game and Inland Fisheries), “List of Native and Naturalized Fauna in Virginia, August 2020,” online (as a PDF) at

For More Information about Birds in Virginia and Elsewhere 

Cornell University Lab of Ornithology, “Merlin Photo ID.”  The application for mobile devices allows users to submit a bird photograph to get identification of the bird. Information is available online at

Cornell University Lab of Ornithology and the Audubon Society, “eBird,” online at  Here you can find locations of species observations made by contributors, and you can sign up to contribute your own observations.

Stan Tekiela, Birds of Virginia Field Guide, Adventure Publications, Inc., Cambridge, Minn., 2002.

University of Michigan Museum of Zoology, “Animal Diversity Web,” online at

Virginia Society of Ornithology, online at  The Society is a non-profit organization dedicated to the study, conservation, and enjoyment of birds in the Commonwealth.

Xeno-canto Foundation, online at  This site provides bird songs from around the world. 

For More Information about Trees and Shrubs in Virginia and Elsewhere

Center for Watershed Protection, “Trees and Stormwater Runoff,” online at

Chesapeake Bay Program, “Field Guide: Plants and Trees,” online at, “Flora of North America,” online at

Sanglin Lee and Alan Raflo, “Trees and Water,” Virginia Water Resources Research Center, Virginia Water Central Newsletter, pages 13-18, online at   (A Virginia Cooperative Extension version of this article—“Trees and Water,” by Sanglin Lee, Alan Raflo, and Jennifer Gagnon, 2018—with some slight differences in the text is available online at

Texas A&M University AgriLife Extension, “How Trees Grow,” online at

U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Forest Service, Forests of Virginia, 2018, Resource Update FS-264, Asheville, N.C., 2020; available online at

U.S. Department of Agriculture/U.S. Forest Service, “State and Private Forestry Fact Sheet—Virginia 2022,” online (as a PDF) at

U.S. Department of Agriculture/Forest Service/Climate Change Resource Center, “Forest Tree Diseases and Climate Change,” online at

U.S. Department of Agriculture/Forest Service/Northern Research Station (Newtown Square, Penn.), “Forest Disturbance Processes/Invasive Species,” online at”

U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA)/Natural Resources Conservation Service, “PLANTS Database,” online at

Virginia Botanical Associates, “Digital Atlas of the Virginia Flora,” online at

Virginia Department of Conservation and Recreation/Natural Heritage Division, online at

Virginia Department of Forestry, “Virginia’s Forests,” online at  Some of the useful pages at that site are the following:
“Benefits of Trees,” online at;
“Common Native Trees of Virginia,” 2020 edition, online (as a PDF) at;
“Forest Management and Health/Insects and Diseases,” online at;
Tree and Forest Health Guide, 2020, online (as a PDF) at;
“Trees for Clean Water Program,” online at;
“Virginia Statewide Assessment of Forest Resources,” November 2020, online (as a PDF) at (see page 19 for statistics on forested land; p. 21 for economic benefits; and p. 23 for water quality benefits);
“Tree Identification,” online at

Virginia Forest Landowner Education Program, Virginia Cooperative Extension and Virginia Tech College of Natural Resources and Environment, online at

Virginia Forest Products Association, online at

Virginia Native Plant Society, online at

A.S. Weakley, J.C. Ludwig, and J.F. Townsend, Flora of Virginia, Bland Crowder, ed.  Copyright by the Foundation of the Flora of Virginia Project, Inc., Richmond.  Botanical Research Institute of Texas, Fort Worth, 2012.

Herbert S. Zim and Alexander C. Martin, as revised by Jonathan P. Latimer et al., Trees—A Guide to Familiar American Trees, St. Martin’s Press, New York, N.Y., 2001.


All Water Radio episodes are listed by category at the Index link above (  See particularly the “Birds” and “Plants” subject categories. 

Following are links to other episodes on warblers or orioles.

Episode 264, 5-4-15
 – featuring the Baltimore Oriole.
Episode 520, 4-13-20
– on waterthrushes.
Episode 572, 4-12-21
– on warblers and spring bird migration generally.

Following are links to other episodes on trees and shrubs.

Introduction to trees and water – Episode 621, 3-21-22.
American Sycamore – Episode 624, 4-11-22.
American Witch Hazel – Episode 238, 10-31-14.
Ash trees – Episode 376, 7-10-17 and Episode 625, 4-18-22.
Early spring wildflowers in woodlands – Episode 573, 4-19-21.
Forest lands and work in Virginia – Episode 623, 4-4-22.
Maple trees – Episode 503, 12-16-19.
Photosynthesis – Episode 602, 11-8-21.
Poison Ivy and related plants, including the shrub Poison Sumac – Episode 535, 7-27-20.
Rhododendrons – Episode 574, 4-26-21.
Tree buds – Episode 622, 3-28-22.
Tree colors and changes in fall, including changes to water movement – Episode 285, 10-12-15.
Trees in watery habitats – Episode 626, 4-25-22.


Following are some Virginia Standards of Learning (SOLs) that may be supported by this episode’s audio/transcript, sources, or other information included in this post.

2020 Music SOLs

SOLs at various grade levels that call for “examining the relationship of music to the other fine arts and other fields of knowledge.”

2018 Science SOLs

Grades K-4: Living Systems and Processes
K.7 – Plants and animals have basic needs and life processes.
1.5 – Animals, including humans, have basic life needs that allow them to survive.
2.4 – Plants and animals undergo a series of orderly changes as they grow and develop, including life cycles.
2.5 – Living things are part of a system.
3.4 – Adaptations allow organisms to satisfy life needs and respond to the environment.
3.5 – Aquatic and terrestrial ecosystems support a diversity of organisms.
4.2 – Plants and animals have structures that distinguish them from one another and play vital roles in their ability to survive.
4.3 – Organisms, including humans, interact with one another and with the nonliving components in the ecosystem.

Grades K-5: Earth Resources
2.8 – Plants are important natural resources.
4.8 – Virginia has important natural resources.

Life Science
LS.6     – Populations in a biological community interact and are interdependent.
LS.7 – Adaptations support an organism’s survival in an ecosystem. 

BIO.8 – Dynamic equilibria exist within populations, communities, and ecosystems.

Virginia’s SOLs are available from the Virginia Department of Education, online at

Following are links to Water Radio episodes (various topics) designed especially for certain K-12 grade levels.

Episode 250, 1-26-15 – on boiling, for kindergarten through 3rd grade.
Episode 255, 3-2-15
– on density, for 5th and 6th grade.
Episode 282, 9-21-15 – on living vs. non-living, for kindergarten.
Episode 309, 3-28-16 – on temperature regulation in animals, for kindergarten through 12th grade.
Episode 333, 9-12-16 – on dissolved gases, especially dissolved oxygen in aquatic habitats, for 5th grade.
Episode 404, 1-22-18 – on ice on ponds and lakes, for 4th through 8th grade.
Episode 407, 2-12-18 – on snow chemistry and physics, for high school.
Episode 483, 7-29-19 – on buoyancy and drag, for middle school and high school.
Episode 524, 5-11-20 – on sounds by water-related animals, for elementary school through high school.
Episode 531, 6-29-20 – on various ways that animals get water, for 3rd and 4th grade.
Episode 539, 8-24-20 – on basic numbers and facts about Virginia’s water resources, for 4th and 6th grade.
Episode 606, 12-6-21 – on freezing and ice, for kindergarten through 3rd grade.