Photo: SamFried/Audubon Photography Awards

Magnolia Warbler

Setophaga magnolia

Although it is small and very active, the Magnolia Warbler is not as difficult to observe as some warblers, because it often stays low in shrubbery and short trees. It favors second-growth habitats both summer (in the north woods) and winter (in the tropics), so it has not been hurt by habitat destruction as much as some migrants. Named by chance, since pioneer ornithologist Alexander Wilson happened to spot his first one in a southern magnolia tree during migration.
Conservation status Numbers apparently stable or even increasing in some areas. Adapts to second-growth woods and cut-over areas better than some other warblers.
Family Wood Warblers
Habitat Low conifers; in migration, other trees. Breeds most commonly in areas of short young spruce; also in young hemlocks and pines, and in dense understory of taller coniferous forest. During migration may be in any kind of deciduous shrubs or low trees. In winter in tropics, often in second-growth and scrub as well as edges of taller forest.
Although it is small and very active, the Magnolia Warbler is not as difficult to observe as some warblers, because it often stays low in shrubbery and short trees. It favors second-growth habitats both summer (in the north woods) and winter (in the tropics), so it has not been hurt by habitat destruction as much as some migrants. Named by chance, since pioneer ornithologist Alexander Wilson happened to spot his first one in a southern magnolia tree during migration.
Photo Gallery
  • adult male, breeding
  • adult female, breeding
  • immature male (1st winter)
  • immature female (1st summer)
  • adult male, nonbreeding
  • adult male, breeding
  • adult male, breeding
  • adult female feeding nestlings
Feeding Behavior

forages by hopping along branches, gleaning insects from conifer needles, leaves, and twigs. Takes most insects from underside of vegetation. Sometimes hovers or makes short flights after insects. In summer, males may tend to feed higher than females.


Eggs

Usually 4, sometimes 3 or 5. White, variably marked with brown, lavender, olive, and gray. Incubation is by female only, 11-13 days. Young: Fed by both parents. May leave nest at age of 8 days, usually 9-10 days. Young can fly at this stage, but may be fed by parents for up to 25 more days. 1 brood per year, perhaps rarely 2.


Young

Fed by both parents. May leave nest at age of 8 days, usually 9-10 days. Young can fly at this stage, but may be fed by parents for up to 25 more days. 1 brood per year, perhaps rarely 2.

Diet

mostly insects. In breeding season, eats a variety of insects, including beetles, moth caterpillars, leafhoppers, and aphids; also spiders. May eat many spruce budworms when that insect is at epidemic numbers. Occasionally eats berries during inclement weather when insects may be scarce. Diet in migration and winter poorly known.


Nesting

Male arrives on breeding grounds before female and establishes territory. Has two song types: one to defend territory against intruding males, other apparently to attract and communicate with mate. Nest site is well hidden in dense low conifer (especially spruce or hemlock), often near trunk on horizontal branch. Usually less than 10' above ground, sometimes up to 30'. Nest is flimsy cup of grasses, weeds, twigs, with lining of fine black rootlets. Both sexes help build nest, but female does most of work.

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

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

Migration

Migrates at night. Most fly across Gulf of Mexico in spring and fall. Winters in Mexico, Central America, and West Indies, but most common in winter in Yucatan Peninsula. Strays reach west coast in spring and especially in fall.

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Migration

Migrates at night. Most fly across Gulf of Mexico in spring and fall. Winters in Mexico, Central America, and West Indies, but most common in winter in Yucatan Peninsula. Strays reach west coast in spring and especially in fall.

  • All Seasons - Common
  • All Seasons - Uncommon
  • Breeding - Common
  • Breeding - Uncommon
  • Winter - Common
  • Winter - Uncommon
  • Migration - Common
  • Migration - Uncommon
Songs and Calls
Weeta-weeta-weeteo. Call note a tslip.
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

Magnolia 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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