Photo: Glenn Bartley/Vireo

Black-and-white Warbler

Mniotilta varia

This bird is often a favorite warbler for beginning birders, because it is easy to see and easy to recognize. It was once known as the "Black-and-white Creeper," a name that describes its behavior quite well. Like a nuthatch or creeper (and unlike other warblers), it climbs about on the trunks and major limbs of trees, seeking insects in the bark crevices. It often feeds low, and nests even lower, usually on the ground.
Conservation status Has disappeared from some former nesting areas, especially in South and Midwest. Still widespread and common.
Family Wood Warblers
Habitat Woods; trunks, limbs of trees. Breeds in mature or second-growth forests, deciduous and mixed. Often in woods on dry, rocky hillsides and ravines. Also nests in dry portions of wooded swamps. In migration, seen most often on trunks and low branches of trees within woodlands and thickets. In winter in the tropics, found in trees from sea level to high in the mountains.
This bird is often a favorite warbler for beginning birders, because it is easy to see and easy to recognize. It was once known as the "Black-and-white Creeper," a name that describes its behavior quite well. Like a nuthatch or creeper (and unlike other warblers), it climbs about on the trunks and major limbs of trees, seeking insects in the bark crevices. It often feeds low, and nests even lower, usually on the ground.
Photo Gallery
  • adult male, breeding
  • adult female
  • adult male, nonbreeding
  • immature male (1st year)
  • adult male, breeding
  • adult male, breeding
Feeding Behavior

Adapted to creeping along limbs and on tree trunks to feed. Switches body from side to side at each hop while foraging. In early spring, takes dormant insects from tree trunks and branches. Sometimes flies out after flying insects.


Eggs

5, sometimes 4, rarely 6. Creamy white, flecked with brown at large end. Incubated by female only, 10-12 days. Commonly parasitized by cowbirds. Young: Fed by both parents. Leave the nest 8-12 days after hatching, before they are able to fly well.


Young

Fed by both parents. Leave the nest 8-12 days after hatching, before they are able to fly well.

Diet

Insects. Feeds on a wide variety of caterpillars (including those of gypsy moths), beetles (including bark beetles, click beetles, and wood borers), ants, flies, bugs, leafhoppers, aphids, and other insects; also spiders and daddy longlegs.


Nesting

Males arrive on breeding grounds in late April, before the females. During courtship, male chases female, with much singing and fluttering. Nest: Placed on ground (or less than 2' up), under dead leaves or limbs, against a shrub, rock, log, or tree. Usually constructed in cavity at top of stump or in a depression in the ground. Open cup (built by female) made of leaves, coarse grass stems, bark strips, pine needles, rootlets; lined with fine grass or hair.

Illustration © David Allen Sibley.
Learn more about these drawings.

Text © Kenn Kaufman, adapted from
Lives of North American Birds

Migration

Spring migration begins rather early; migration is spread over a lengthy period in both spring and fall. Strays may appear in the west at any season. Migrates mostly at night.

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Migration

Spring migration begins rather early; migration is spread over a lengthy period in both spring and fall. Strays may appear in the west at any season. Migrates mostly at night.

  • All Seasons - Common
  • All Seasons - Uncommon
  • Breeding - Common
  • Breeding - Uncommon
  • Winter - Common
  • Winter - Uncommon
  • Migration - Common
  • Migration - Uncommon
Songs and Calls
A thin, high-pitched, monotonous weesy-weesy-weesy-weesy, like a squeaky wheelbarrow.
Audio © Lang Elliott, Bob McGuire, Kevin Colver, Martyn Stewart and others.
Learn more about this sound collection.

How climate change could affect this bird's range

In the broadest and most detailed study of its kind, Audubon scientists have used hundreds of thousands of citizen-science observations and sophisticated climate models to predict how birds in the U.S. and Canada will react to climate change.

Learn more

Read more: climate.audubon.org
Wood Warblers Perching Birds

Black-and-white Warbler

The darker the color, the more favorable the climate conditions are for survival. The outlined areas represent approximate current range for each season.

More on reading these maps.

Each map is a visual guide to where a particular bird species may find the climate conditions it needs to survive in the future. We call this the bird’s “climatic range.”

The colors indicate the season in which the bird may find suitable conditions— blue for winter, yellow for summer (breeding), and green for where they overlap (indicating their presence year-round).

The darker the shaded area, the more likely it is the bird species will find suitable climate conditions to survive there.

The outline of the approximate current range for each season remains fixed in each frame, allowing you to compare how the range will expand, contract, or shift in the future.

The first frame of the animation shows where the bird can find a suitable climate today (based on data from 2000). The next three frames predict where this bird’s suitable climate may shift in the future—one frame each for 2020, 2050, and 2080.

You can play or pause the animation with the orange button in the lower left, or select an individual frame to study by clicking on its year.

The darker the color, the more favorable the climate conditions are for survival. The outlined areas represent approximate current range for each season. More on reading these maps.
Winter
Summer

Winter Range
Summer Range
Both Seasons
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