Blackburnian Warbler – Profile | Facts | Fly | Song | Traits | Nest

Blackburnian Warbler

The adult male Blackburnian Warbler in breeding plumage is immediately recognizable by the brilliant red-orange of the throat, higher breast, and face, the place it surrounds a darkish triangular ear patch.

Blackburnian Warbler profile

The coloration shortly fades into the white decrease breast. Otherwise, the bird is generally black-and-white: sides strongly streaked black, giant white wing patch, darkish back with white streaks.

The Blackburnian warbler, scientific name Setophaga fusca [formerly Dendroica fusca]) is a small New World warbler. They breed in eastern North America, from southern Canada, westwards to the southern Canadian Prairies, the Great Lakes area, and New England, to North Carolina.

Blackburnian warblers are migratory, wintering in southern Central America and in South America, and are very uncommon vagrants to western Europe.

Adult females and non-breeding males are comparable typically pattern however much less boldly marked and with a more subdued, yellow-orange coloration. First-fall females, the dullest of all, are grey and yellow in look, however, even then the facial pattern and broad, pale-yellow eyebrow are good identification clues.

Blackburnian Warbler Description

No birder can overlook that first breeding male Blackburnian Warbler: the intricate black-and-white plumage set off by flame-orange face and throat, the impossibly high-pitched flourish on the end of the song, the cool of north-woods habitat within the morning.

These forest-canopy specialists are seldom seen at eye level besides throughout migration when they could be discovered amongst dozens of different warbler species at sites that focus migrants in spring and fall.

They spend winters in South America in open forests together with shade-coffee plantations.

Blackburnian warblers are small passerines and average-sized wood-warblers. They measure around 11 to 13 cm (4.3 to 5.1 in) long, with a 20 to 22 cm (7.9 to eight.7 in) wingspan, and weigh 8 to 13 g (0.28 to 0.46 oz).

The average mass of an adult bird is 9.7 g (0.34 oz), though is barely higher in fall as a result of fats reserves, averaging 10.2–10.4 g (0.36–0.37 oz).

Among standard measurements, the wing chord is 6.3 to 7.3 cm (2.5 to 2.9 in), the tail is 4.2 to 5 cm (1.7 to 2.0 in), the bill is 0.9 to 1 cm (0.35 to 0.39 in), and the tarsus is 1.6 to 1.8 cm (0.63 to 0.71 in).

In summer, male Blackburnian warblers display darkish grey backs and double white wing bars, with yellowish rumps and darkish brown crowns.

The underparts of those birds are white and are tinged with yellow and streaked black. The head is strongly patterned in yellow and black, with a flaming-orange throat.

It is the one North American warbler with this placing plumage. Other plumages, together with the autumn male and adult feminine, are washed-out variations of the summer male, and particularly lack the brilliant colors and powerful head pattern.

The Blackburnian warbler is virtually unmistakable if seen effectively, even the feminine due to her dull-yellow supercilium, contrasting with greyish cheeks and yellow throat contrasting with the darkish streaky sides and back.

The solely different wood-warbler with an orange throat is the flame-throated warbler of Central America and maybe very distinctive, missing the contrasting blackish streaking in regards to the head and whitish underside of a male Blackburnian.

Basic plumages present weaker yellows and grey instead of black within the breeding male. Blackburnian warblers’ songs are an easy sequence of high swi notes, which regularly ascend in pitch.

Transliterations have included zip zip zip zip zip zip zip zip, titititi tseeeeee or teetsa teetsa teetsa teetsa.

Their call is a high sip. Genetic analysis has proven that their closed dwelling relative is the Bay-breasted warbler, the latter species may be specialized to forage in the identical coniferous bushes at decrease ranges.

Hybridization within the wild has been recorded as soon as every with a Bay-breasted warbler (in West Virginia, with a black-and-white warbler (in Pennsylvania) and presumably a wintering hybrid with a Kirtland’s warbler (in Hispaniola).

Blackburnian Warbler Behavior

Blackburnian Warblers choose bugs and their larvae from high within the tops of each coniferous and deciduous bushes, the place they typically search whole branches from base to tip by hopping and creeping alongside them, trying up on the underside of leaves and inside clumps of lifeless leaves when present.

They additionally pluck bugs from the underside of leaves by hovering (often called “hover-gleaning”) and infrequently catch bugs in flight.

A fiery gem of the treetops. In the northern forest in the summertime, the male Blackburnian Warbler might perch on the topmost twig of a spruce, displaying off the flaming orange of his throat as he sings his skinny, wiry song.

The feminine additionally stays high within the conifers, and the nest is often constructed far above the ground. Long-distance migrants, most Blackburnians spend the winter in South America, the place they’re typically frequent in mountain forests within the Andes.

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Blackburnian Warbler Habitat

Breeds in coniferous forest (with spruce, white pine, or balsam fir) and blended coniferous-deciduous forest, typically with hemlock bushes.

Migrants are interested in comparable habitats (cemeteries with tall conifers particularly) however can seem in virtually any surroundings with bushes.

Wintering birds in Central and South America make the most of many montane habitats with bushes.

Woodlands; conifers in the summertime. Breeds in boreal coniferous and blended forests, particularly spruce and hemlock.

The southern part of the breeding range in the Appalachians, can inhabit fully deciduous forests.

When migrating, happens in all types of bushes and brush. During winter within the tropics, often in the humid mountain forests.

Creatures of the Canopy

Most species that share the same morphology, diet, or different organic traits will keep away from competitors by geographically separating themselves.

This is just not the case with warblers. Many warbler species overlap in the identical geographic area, the place they usually separate themselves based mostly on foraging behavior or ecological area of interest.

Blackburnian Warblers, for instance, are creatures of the forest cover and particularly the treetops.

Blackburnian Warblers hunt caterpillars, beetles, spiders, and different small bugs on the higher branches of bushes, principally conifers. They are primarily “gleaners,” searching for out and capturing prey from foliage and crevices. They may seize some bugs in flight or by diving or “hawking.”


Mostly bugs, particularly caterpillars. In summer, feeds on many caterpillars, notably these of spruce budworm; additionally eats beetles, ants, flies, and lots of different bugs, additionally spiders. Especially throughout winter, will take some berries as effectively.

Feeding Behavior

Feeds principally in treetops, looking alongside small branches and twigs. Also hovers to take bugs from undersides and suggestions of foliage. Will search lifeless leaf clumps; often flies out to catch flying bugs.

In spruce forests, males are inclined to forage higher than females. In winter within the Andes, forages in blended flocks with varied tropical birds.

Blackburnian Warbler Ecology

Blackburnian warblers are solitary throughout winter and extremely territorial on their breeding grounds and don’t combine with different passerine species exterior of the migratory interval.

However, throughout the migration, they typically are part of native blended foraging flocks of species akin to chickadees, kinglets, and nuthatches.

Similarly, within the tropics, they have been discovered to be pretty social whereas participating in migration however solitary from different passerines whereas wintering. These birds are mainly insectivorous, however will embrace berries of their diets in wintertime.

They often forage by looking for bugs or spiders in treetops. Their breeding season diet is dominated by the larvae of Lepidoptera, i.e. moths and butterflies.

They might assist control the spruce budworm (typically thought-about a dangerous pest) when breakouts happen, on the native if not at an epidemic level.

In one research from Ontario, 98% of the diet was made of bugs, the remaining 2% being spiders. Among the migratory Setophaga warblers, it’s thought-about one of many specialists at foraging within the micro-habitat of the tree’s top cover.

Blackburnian Warbler Breeding

The breeding habitats of those birds are mature coniferous woodlands, the central part of their breeding range being within the southeastern portion of Canada’s boreal forest.

However, their distribution as a breeding species continues broadly down a lot of New England and the Appalachian Mountains, from New York to northernmost Georgia, in elevated blended woodlands, particularly ones containing spruce and hemlocks.

Hemlocks particularly are most certainly to host Blackburnian warblers in blended forests. It usually winters in tropical montane forests, from roughly 600 to 2,500 m (2,000 to 8,200 ft), primarily from Colombia to Peru, more sporadically in Panama and the Amazon area.

Blackburnian warblers start their first clutches in mid-May to early June within the contiguous United States and about 1 to 2 weeks later in Quebec.

These species construct a nest consisting of an open cup of twigs, bark, plant fibers, and rootlets held to branch with spider internet and lined with lichens, moss, hair, and lifeless pine needles that are positioned close to the end of a branch.

Although usually solely laying one brood per year, if a nest is destroyed they’re able to produce a second and even third brood. Three to 5 whitish eggs are laid in its nest which is often positioned 2–38 m (6.6–124.7 ft) above the ground, on a horizontal branch.

Nests often constructed outwardly with twigs, bark, plant fibers, and rootlets; lined with lichens, mosses, high-quality grasses, hair, lifeless pine needles, and even often such unique substances as a string, willow cotton, horsehair, and cattail down.

Only the feminine broods and spends about 80% day actively brooding, with the male often serving to deliver meals to the nest.

Among warblers, they’re comparatively hardly ever parasitized on the nest by brown-headed cowbirds, most certainly because of the cowbird’s lack of success in dense pine-dominated forests.

Blue jays and American red squirrels have been verified to prey on nestlings and new fledglings, whereas a merlin was recorded killing a brooding adult feminine.

Sharp-shinned hawks and Cooper’s hawks are possible, however not confirmed, predators of adult Blackburnian warblers.

By far the best risk confronted by this species is the destruction of forest habitat, which some predict might trigger the Blackburnian warbler to lose up to more than 30% of its wintering or breeding habitat.

However, presently this species continues to happen over a big range and might seem in stable numbers the place habitat is acceptable.

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4, typically 3-5. White to greenish-white, with blotches of reddish-brown, concentrated close to the bigger end. Only females incubate, most likely 12-13 days.

Male feeds feminine throughout incubation. Young: Both parents feed nestlings. When the younger go away from the nest, the parents separate, every caring for a part of the brood.


Both parents feed nestlings. When the younger go away from the nest, the parents separate, every caring for a part of the brood.

Blackburnian Warbler Nesting

Details of nesting behavior not well-known, partly as a result of nests are high and arduous to watch. Male defends nesting territory by singing, typically by attacking intruding males. In courtship, the male sings and performs shows with gliding flight and fluttering wings and tails.

Nest: Almost at all times positioned in dense vegetation close to suggestions of branches of conifers, and often high, typically as much as 80′ above ground.

Nest (most likely constructed by feminine) is cup-shaped and product of twigs, bark, and fibers; lined with lichens, moss, grass, hair, and conifer needles.


A typical medium-sized warbler with a brief, skinny, pointed bill, trim body, and medium-length tail. The total form is much like the widespread Yellow Warbler.


The breeding male, with vivid orange in face and throat, is unmistakable; females and immatures present a minimum of a touch of this coloration, however more necessary is the distinctive triangular facial pattern of black (or grey), additionally seen in all plumages.

Blackburnian Warbler Facts

No different North American warbler has an orange throat.

Although the Blackburnian Warbler doesn’t affiliate with different birds whereas it’s nesting, it could deliver its fledged younger to forage in flocks of chickadees, kinglets, and nuthatches. The begging of the warbler chicks may even appeal to chickadees.

In springtime, rival male Blackburnian Warblers carry out exceptional territorial conflicts that recall an aerial ballet.

They chase each other via and across the treetops, flying in loops, plummeting downward via the branches in a whirling pattern, gliding with tail raised and unfold, or slowly flapping in exaggerated “moth flight,” as researchers call it. Once territories are established, the aerobatics die down.

Blackburnian Warblers nest close to many carefully associated species within the genus Setophaga, together with Magnolia, Black-throated Green, and Yellow-rumped Warblers.

During the breeding season, interspecies conflicts typically happen. Blackburnian Warblers are usually subordinate to those different species, though they’re dominant to a lot smaller Northern Parula.

Tiny Blackburnian Warblers are sturdy fliers that travel between North and South America twice every year, so maybe it isn’t stunning that they’re often discovered very far astray. At instances, “vagrants” have been recorded in Greenland, Iceland, Scotland, and the Azores off western Africa.

The oldest recorded Blackburnian Warbler was a male, and a minimum of eight years, 2 months old when it was recaptured and rereleased throughout banding operations in Minnesota.

Blackburnian Warbler Migration

As with many migratory songbirds, Blackburnian Warblers usually travel after dusk after which settle into habitat to relaxation and forage throughout the day.

Most fly straight throughout the Gulf of Mexico, and the earliest arrivals have a tendency to succeed in the southern United States by March or early April. Once within the United States, the birds might gradually their velocity, typically touring solely 25 miles in a single day.

Depending on their vacation spot, males attain the breeding grounds in mid-April to mid-May, typically arriving a number of days before females. The birds pair virtually instantly and start the duty of nest-building.

Blackburnian Warblers virtually at all times construct their nests within the outer reaches of conifer tree limbs, typically 10 yards or more above the forest ground. Females appear to construct their nests without assistance from their mates, finishing the building of the cup-like construction in a number of days.

Fledgling Blackburnian Warblers stay with one or each parent till they’ll forage efficiently on their very own. Sometimes the younger birds congregate with different fledglings, together with these of Black-capped Chickadees.

Both adults and juvenile Blackburnain Warblers start their migration south in August or September, typically becoming a member of bigger mixed-species flocks of warblers and different songbirds for the journey.

They attain their wintering grounds as early as September or as late as November, usually foraging alone or in small mixed-species flocks.


With estimated international inhabitants of 14 million, Blackburnian Warbler is outlined as a species of least conservation concern.

However, particular person populations could also be susceptible to pressures referring to deforestation and habitat degradation on each of their wintering and breeding grounds.

Because the birds want absolutely forested habitat, their numbers typically decline when forests are fragmented by improvement, logging, or illness.

For instance, the species has largely disappeared from areas the place woolly adelgids — invasive insect pests — have decimated fir and hemlock. These areas embrace the southern Appalachians in addition to some New Jersey, New York, and New England forests.

Deforestation of the Blackburnian Warbler’s most popular winter habitat — montane forests in Central and South America — might present a higher risk to the species. The species might profit from bird-friendly agroforestry, akin to shade-grown coffee or cacao.

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Where to search out Blackburnian Warbler

Closely tied to boreal hemlock forests, this songbird breeds from eastern Alberta to Atlantic Canada, the higher Midwest, New England, and south within the eastern mountains to the Carolinas.

Its migration route takes it throughout the Gulf of Mexico indirect flight to and from winter grounds within the humid conifer forests of South America. It is an off-the-cuff vagrant within the Northwest.

Washington has 4 accepted information—two from the Eastside in spring and two in fall from west of the Cascades. British Columbia’s six records occurred from 5 June to 29 August.

Idaho has about 5 information, principally in the fall. Oregon additionally has 5 records, two in fall and three in spring, all however considered one of them from east of the Cascades.

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