Photo: Glenn Bartley/Vireo

Black-throated Gray Warbler

Setophaga nigrescens

This strikingly patterned warbler is typical of semi-arid country in the West. It is often common in summer in the foothills, in open woods of juniper, pinyon pine, or oak, where its buzzy song carries well across the dry slopes. Of all the western warblers, this is the one that shows up most often in the East, but it is still rare enough there to provide excitement for eastern birders.
Conservation status Common and widespread in the west.
Family Wood Warblers
Habitat Dry oak slopes, pinyons, junipers, open mixed woods. Breeds in dry coniferous and mixed woods, especially of oak, juniper, and pinyon pine. Also frequents manzanita thickets and chaparral. Prefers open areas, as in second-growth, forest edges, or dry hillsides or canyons. In winter in Mexico, found in lowland dry forest, dense thorn scrub, and pine-oak woods.
This strikingly patterned warbler is typical of semi-arid country in the West. It is often common in summer in the foothills, in open woods of juniper, pinyon pine, or oak, where its buzzy song carries well across the dry slopes. Of all the western warblers, this is the one that shows up most often in the East, but it is still rare enough there to provide excitement for eastern birders.
Photo Gallery
  • adult male, breeding
  • adult female
  • adult male,breeding
  • immature male (1st spring)
  • adult male, breeding
Feeding Behavior

The most common method of foraging during the breeding season is by searching for insects among leaves of low growing foliage; also hovers briefly to pick insects from various surfaces. Also flies out after flying insects. In migration and winter, often forages in mixed flocks with other species.


Eggs

Usually 4, sometimes 3-5. Creamy white, with brown marks often concentrated at larger end. Incubated by female for unknown number of days. Young: Both parents feed the nestlings. Age at which young leave the nest is not well known. Normally only 1 brood per year.


Young

Both parents feed the nestlings. Age at which young leave the nest is not well known. Normally only 1 brood per year.

Diet

Mostly insects. Diet is not known in detail. Known to feed especially on oakworms and other green caterpillars.


Nesting

Details of nesting behavior not well known. Males arrive on breeding grounds in March or April in southern part of the range, in late May in the north. Nest site varies; may be 4-10' from trunk on horizontal branch in larger tree such as fir or oak, or closer to the main trunk in a smaller tree or shrub. Usually placed 7-35' above the ground, but can be 1-50' up. Nest is a neat, open cup, built probably by both sexes, made of weeds, dry grass, and plant fiber; lined with feathers, fur, hair, and moss.

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

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

Migration

In the Southwest, arrives early in spring and lingers late in fall, with some remaining through the winter. A rare stray east to the Atlantic Coast, mostly in fall.

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Migration

In the Southwest, arrives early in spring and lingers late in fall, with some remaining through the winter. A rare stray east to the Atlantic Coast, mostly in fall.

  • All Seasons - Common
  • All Seasons - Uncommon
  • Breeding - Common
  • Breeding - Uncommon
  • Winter - Common
  • Winter - Uncommon
  • Migration - Common
  • Migration - Uncommon
Songs and Calls
Song a series of buzzes, rising in pitch and intensity, then falling: zee zee zee zee bzz bzz. Call is a dull tup.
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-throated Gray 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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