The tropical parula is a small warbler with a plumage that varies depending on the region it lives in. Most commonly, the breeding male tropical parula has a head and upperparts that are blue-gray, with a yellow throat, chin, and breast that bleed down into a white lower belly and undertail coverts. The tropical parula has a black mask between the bill and eyes, two white wing bars, and thin, pale yellow legs. The female tropical parula is a duller version of the male and lacks a black mask.
The tropical parula’s song is a high, buzzy trill that rises gradually in pitch before cutting off with a short, final note zee-zee-zee-zee-zee-zeeeeeerrrrr-zip. The tropical parula’s call is a sharp, short tsip.
The tropical parula has an expansive breeding territory from South Texas, through Mexico and Central America and all the way down to Argentina. It is found in most areas in between, but does not inhabit anywhere in the Amazon basin. Some birds live in the same area all year long while the northernmost populations migrate south for the winter. Tropical parulas inhabit a variety of environments from montane forests to dry lowlands. They favor any evergreen and deciduous habitats, especially those with a surplus of Spanish moss.
The tropical parula feeds primarily on insects such as wasps, flies, bees, caterpillars and occasionally some berries. It forages among mid-level among treetops gleaning off leaves. It also hovers and flies out to catch insects midair.
The tropical parula typically places its nest 8 to 40 feet off the ground among dangling Spanish moss or vines. The female builds the nest that is formed into a cup shape using moss, hair, bark, grass, and roots and lined with plant fibers and feathers. The female lays 3 to 4 eggs that are creamy white with brown speckling. The incubation duration is unknown. After hatching, both parents feed the young before they leave the nest after an unknown period of time.