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.

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

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

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.