Black-and-White Warbler – Profile | Fly | Egg | Song | Traits | Nest

Black-and-White Warbler

The uncommon visitor Black-and-White Warbler is considerably harking back to our resident Black-throated Gray Warbler however with the addition of a white central crown stripe and a white-streaked back and without the Black-throated Gray’s yellow spot in front of the attention.

Black-and-White Warbler profile

It can be more elongated and flat-headed in look and has a telltale behavior of hitching alongside bark and branches, moderately like a nuthatch.

This bird is usually a favorite warbler for starting birders, as a result of it’s straightforward to see and straightforward to acknowledge. It was as soon as referred to as the “Black-and-white Creeper,” a name that describes its behavior fairly nicely.

Like a nuthatch or creeper (and in contrast to different warblers), it climbs about on the trunks and main limbs of timber, in search of bugs within the bark crevices. It typically feeds low, and nests even decrease, normally on the ground.


The black-and-white warbler breeds in northern and eastern North America. It ranges from the Northwest Territories to the northwest and Newfoundland and Labrador to the northeast, to North Carolina to the southeast, and Texas to the southwest.

This species is migratory, wintering in Florida, Central America, and northern South America all the way down to Peru. The IUCN estimates the extent of incidence, or range, to be 11 500 000 km2.

This species happens as a vagrant in Iceland, Ireland, Faeroes, and the UK.

Black-and-White Warbler Overview

The black-and-white warbler (Mniotilta varia) is a species of New World warbler, and the one member of its genus, Mniotilta.

Black-and-White Warbler breeds in northern and eastern North America and winters in Florida, Central America, and the West Indies all the way down to Peru. This species is a really uncommon vagrant to western Europe.

Relative to different New World warblers, it’s not nicely studied.

One of the earliest-arriving migrant warblers, the Black-and-white Warbler’s skinny, squeaky song is, without doubt, one of the first indicators that spring birding has sprung.

This crisply striped bundle of black and white feathers creeps alongside tree trunks and branches like a nimble nuthatch, probing the bark for bugs with its barely downcurved bill.

Though you sometimes see these birds solely in timber, they construct their little cup-shaped nests within the leaf litter of forests throughout central and eastern North America.

Black-and-White Warbler Description

The black-and-white warbler is 11 cm (4.three in) to 13 cm (5.1 in) in size with a mass of Eight g (0.28 oz) to 15 g (0.53 oz) grams. Wingspan ranges from 7.1-8.7 in (18-22 cm).

True to their name, black-and-white warblers are black and white in color. Both sexes have black and white crowns with a white eyebrow, black streaking on a white stomach, black wings with two white wing bars, a black tail, a black-and-white streaked back, streaky undertail coverts, and grey-black legs and feet.

Breeding males have a black-and-white streaked throat and black cheek, whereas females have a gray cheek and a white-cream-colored throat and sides.

First fall males are similar to adult females in color and patterning, whereas first fall females resemble adult females however with much less streaking and a more noticeable buffy wash. Juveniles are closely spotted and are much like first fall people in any other case.

This species is 12 cm (5 in) long and weighs 11 g (0.39 oz). The summer season male black-and-white warbler is boldly streaked in black and white, and the bird has been described as a flying humbug.

Each wing is black with two white wing bars. Female and juvenile plumages are comparable, however duller and fewer streaky than males.

This warbler will be confused with the blackpoll warbler (Setophaga striata). The blackpoll warbler can be black and white in its summer season plumage, however has a stable black cap.

The black-and-white warbler will also be confused behaviourally with the pine warbler (Setophaga pinus) and yellow-throated warbler (Setophaga dominica).


Black-and-white Warblers are medium-sized warblers (small songbirds). They have a reasonably long, barely downcurved bill. The head typically seems considerably flat and streamlined, with a brief neck. The wings are long and the tail is brief.

Black-and-White Warbler Behavior

Mniotilta varia is diurnal and migratory. It can be typically solitary, though it joins mixed-species flocks in winter and through migration.

Mniotilta varia is territorial and defends its house by way of aggression towards conspecifics and different wood-warblers. Aggressive behavior is usually maintained past the time when different wood-warblers have ceased being aggressive.

Males will sing whereas driving different birds from their territory. Females will flush and carry out a distraction display if disrupted on the nest.

Black-and-white Warblers act more like nuthatches than warblers, foraging for hidden bugs within the bark of timber by creeping up, down, and round branches and trunks. Despite their arboreal foraging habits, they nest on the ground on the basis of timber.

Black-and-White Warbler Habitat

The black-and-white warbler is a migratory species, breeding in North America and wintering in North and South America. It is often present in a deciduous forest in its breeding range, however turns into more of a habitat generalist within the non-breeding season.

The black-and-white warbler occupies a broad area of interest and is present in quite a lot of habitats.

In its breeding habitat, it prefers mature forest, however will occupy the successional and second-growth forest. Preferred forest sorts embrace deciduous and combined forest, and this warbler typically occupies swampy forest.

During migration, this species prefers forest to different land cover sorts and is regularly present in riparian areas.

In its wintering habitat, it may be present in quite a lot of land cover sorts, from mangroves to moist, dry, and cloud forests. It occupies each successional and mature forest. It has additionally been famous to winter in shade coffee plantations and gardens.

Males are territorial in each of their summer season and winter habitats.


These birds are boldly striped in black and white. Their black wings are highlighted by two extensive, white wing bars. Adult males have more apparent black streaking, notably on the underparts and the cheek.

Females (particularly immatures) are paler, with much less streaking and normally a wash of buff on the flanks. The undertail coverts have distinctive massive black spots.

Black-and-White Warbler Communication

Mniotilta varia communicates through vocalizations and bodily shows. The song of M. varia is a prolonged (as much as three seconds) sequence of skinny, squeaky, very high-pitched notes (stated to sound like wee-see) in a sequence of 6 to 10 phrases.

It is distinguished from different high-pitched warbler songs by the chanting rhythm and the absence of a posh ending. A second longer, more various, however much less frequent song is typically given in flight.

Calls embrace a boring chip or tik, in addition to a doubled seet-seet (typically singe) flight call.

The black-and-white warbler has a high-pitched song, described as a repeating wee-see that’s repeated a minimum of 6 occasions in succession. It has a chip call in addition to a seet-seet call that’s typically given in flight.

Its song is a high see wee-see wee-see wee-see wee-see wee-see or weesa weesa weetee weetee weetee weet weet weet. It has two calls, a tough tick, and a mushy, skinny fsss.

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Black-and-White Warbler Diet

This bird feeds on bugs and spiders, and, not like different warblers, forages like a nuthatch, shifting up and down tree trunks and alongside branches.

The black-and-white warbler feeds in a way much like a nuthatch or a creeper. It forages on tree trunks and limbs to feed on bugs under the bark’s floor. Its quick legs and long hind toe are diversifications to this foraging technique.

The black-and-white warbler is exclusive amongst warblers in its time spent foraging on tree trunks and interior branches. This bird additionally gleans, like many warblers, for bugs.

Its diet consists of bugs and different arthropods, together with lepidopteran larvae, beetles, ants, and spiders. During migration and breeding, this warbler depends closely on lepidopteran larvae.

During migration, the black-and-white warbler typically joins combined flocks to feed.

Insects. Feeds on all kinds of caterpillars (together with these of gypsy moths), beetles (together with bark beetles, click on beetles, and wooden borers), ants, flies, bugs, leafhoppers, aphids, and different bugs; additionally spiders and daddy longlegs.

Feeding Behavior

Adapted to creeping alongside limbs and on tree trunks to feed. Switches body back and forth at every hop whereas foraging. In early spring, takes dormant bugs from tree trunks and branches. Sometimes flies out after flying bugs.


5, typically 4, not often 6. Creamy white, flecked with brown at the massive end. Incubated by feminine solely, 10-12 days. Commonly parasitized by cowbirds. Young: Fed by each parent. Leave the nest 8-12 days after hatching, before they’re able to fly nicely.


Fed by each parent. Leave the nest 8-12 days after hatching, before they’re able to fly nicely.

Black-and-White Warbler Nesting

Males arrive on breeding grounds in late April, before the females. During courtship, the male chases the feminine, with a lot of singing and fluttering.

Nest: Placed on the ground (or lower than 2′ up), underneath useless leaves or limbs, in opposition to a shrub, rock, log, or tree.

Usually constructed in the cavity at top of a stump or in a melancholy within the ground. Open cup (constructed by feminine) fabricated from leaves, coarse grass stems, bark strips, pine needles, rootlets; lined with high-quality grass or hair.

Black-and-White Warbler Reproduction

It breeds in the broadleaved or combined forest, ideally in wetter areas. Black-and-white warblers nest on the ground, laying 4–5 eggs in a cup nest.

The black-and-white warbler is of the first warblers to reach its spring breeding grounds. In the southernmost range of its breeding habitat, it could start breeding in mid-April.

Males are territorial and defend their territory, each by singing and chasing opponents away. When a feminine arrives in a male’s territory, he pursues her in an effort to breed. The male might display by flapping his wings.

The nest is cup-shaped, typically positioned on the ground amongst roots or in opposition to a tree, or in crevices on tree stumps. The species prefers to nest in damp areas.

The nest is constructed with grassy materials, bark, and dry leaves, and lined with softer materials resembling moss and hair. The feminine is answerable for many of the nest-building.

The feminine lays 4-5 eggs, that are light brown and speckled with darker brown. The feminine begins incubating as soon as the final or second-to-last egg is laid.

Incubation lasts 10 to 12 days and is completed solely by the feminine. During incubation, the feminine is typically fed by the male.

Both parents take care of the nestlings. The younger fledge after Eight to 12 days and keep across the nest whereas they enhance their flight capacity. During this time, the parents stay close by.

This species typically produces one brood per year.

Ecosystem Roles

Mniotilta varia impacts the populations of bugs it eats. It additionally offers meals for its predators. Finally, M. tilta hosts exterior and inside parasites, together with feather mites, lice, and blood parasites.


Spring migration begins moderately early; migration is spread over a prolonged interval in each spring and fall. Strays might seem within the west at any season. Migrates principally at night.

Black-and-White Warbler Facts

The Black-and-white Warbler is the one member of the genus Mniotilta. The genus name means “moss-plucking,” a reference to its behavior of probing bark and moss for bugs.

Black-and-white Warblers have an extra-long hind claw and heavier legs than different wood-warblers, which assist them to maintain onto and transfer round on bark.

As warblers go, Black-and-white Warblers are combative: they’ll assault and struggle with different species that enter their territory, together with Black-capped Chickadees, Red-breasted Nuthatches, and American Redstarts.

This aggressive behavior extends to the wintering grounds, the place they defend territories, and when feeding in combined flocks will drive different Black-and-white Warblers away.

The oldest identified Black-and-white Warbler was 11 years, three months old—a feminine that was banded in North Carolina within the 1950s and recovered in Pennsylvania more than a decade later.

Where to seek out

Black-and-white Warblers are pretty frequent and infrequently intent on foraging alongside tree limbs so that they don’t are typically shy. Watch for them creeping pretty quickly on, round, and underneath bigger branches of taller timber.

Black-and-white Warblers are additionally fairly vocal. Their song is skinny, virtually squeaky, however penetrating, so it’s a great way to seek out them.

Watch for them throughout migration (particularly early within the season): a minimum of one or two are sometimes present in any moderately good arrival of migrant warblers.


The IUCN classifies the black-and-white warbler as Least Concern as a result of its massive range and inhabitants size. However, its inhabitants are reducing.

Habitat loss and degradation, particularly forest fragmentation, are the primary elements contributing to the species’ decline. If habitat loss continues, in both or each summer season or wintering habitat, the species might proceed to say no sooner or later.

Pesticides resembling fenitrothion and phosphamidon have contributed to the species’ decline within the 1970s, and others resembling chlorinated hydrocarbons might proceed to have an impact.

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