Photo: Brian E. Small/Vireo

Kentucky Warbler

Geothlypis formosa

During spring and summer, the fast, rolling song of the Kentucky Warbler comes from the undergrowth of eastern forests. This bird spends most of its time on the ground in moist, leafy woodlands, walking on the leaf-litter under thickets as it searches for insects. Despite its bright colors, it can be surprisingly hard to see in the shadows of the deep forest interior.
Conservation status Has declined with clearing of forest in some areas. Becomes more vulnerable to cowbird parasitism as forest is broken up into smaller patches. Also faces loss of habitat on wintering grounds.
Family Wood Warblers
Habitat Woodland undergrowth. In summer, prefers deep shaded woods with dense, humid thickets, bottomlands near creeks and rivers, ravines in upland deciduous woods, and edges of swamps. In winter in the tropics, requires dense lowland forests and second growth, mostly in lowlands but also in foothills.
During spring and summer, the fast, rolling song of the Kentucky Warbler comes from the undergrowth of eastern forests. This bird spends most of its time on the ground in moist, leafy woodlands, walking on the leaf-litter under thickets as it searches for insects. Despite its bright colors, it can be surprisingly hard to see in the shadows of the deep forest interior.
Photo Gallery
  • adult male
  • adult female
  • adult male
Feeding Behavior

Forages mainly by walking on ground, seeking insects among the leaf litter, flipping over dead leaves, sometimes leaping up in the air to take insects from the underside of foliage. In winter in the tropics, sometimes accompanies swarms of army ants, picking up insects that flee the ants. Individuals defend small winter feeding territories.


Eggs

4-5, sometimes 3-6. Creamy white, with brown spots. Incubation by female only, 12-13 days. Cowbirds often lay eggs in nests of this species. Young: Nestlings are fed by the female and rarely by the male. Young leave the nest 8-10 days after hatching. Both sexes then feed the fledglings for up to 17 days.


Young

Nestlings are fed by the female and rarely by the male. Young leave the nest 8-10 days after hatching. Both sexes then feed the fledglings for up to 17 days.

Diet

Mostly insects. Feeds on various insects including moths, bugs, ants, grasshoppers, beetles, caterpillars, aphids, grubs; also spiders, plus a few berries.


Nesting

During defense of breeding territories, males are persistent singers, singing as often as every 12 seconds. Nest: Placed on ground or within a few inches of it; at foot of shrub, in grass tussocks, bedstraw, or goldenrod, or sometimes in the lowest fork of small trees. Nest (built by both sexes) is a bulky, open cup of leaves, with a core of weeds, grass stems; lined with rootlets and hair.

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

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

Migration

Migrates mostly at night. Many fly across the Gulf of Mexico in spring and fall. Often departs from breeding grounds during August.

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Migration

Migrates mostly at night. Many fly across the Gulf of Mexico in spring and fall. Often departs from breeding grounds during August.

  • All Seasons - Common
  • All Seasons - Uncommon
  • Breeding - Common
  • Breeding - Uncommon
  • Winter - Common
  • Winter - Uncommon
  • Migration - Common
  • Migration - Uncommon
Songs and Calls
Loud, penetrating, rich tur-dle, tur-dle, tur-dle, tur-dle, reminiscent of song of Carolina Wren.
Audio © Lang Elliott, Bob McGuire, Kevin Colver, Martyn Stewart and others.
Learn more about this sound collection.

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