Photo: Rob Curtis/Vireo

Mourning Warbler

Geothlypis philadelphia

Often elusive and hard to see well, the Mourning Warbler sings a repetitious chant from thickets and raspberry tangles in the north woods. This bird lives near the ground at all seasons, foraging in low brush and in the forest understory even during migration; it tends to be solitary, not readily joining flocks of other warblers. It got its name because the extensive black throat patch of the male suggested to pioneer naturalists that the bird was dressed in mourning.
Conservation status Current numbers probably stable. Because it inhabits shrubby second growth in both summer and winter, not as vulnerable as some warblers to loss of habitat.
Family Wood Warblers
Habitat Clearings, thickets, slashings, undergrowth. Breeds in brushy northern habitats, including dense shrubbery in old deciduous woods clearings, brushy cut-over lands, lowland thickets of raspberry and blackberry tangles, or bog and marsh edges; often in temporary habitats, growing up after fires or clearcuts. In winter in the tropics, lives in low, dense thickets and overgrown fields in lowlands and foothills.
Often elusive and hard to see well, the Mourning Warbler sings a repetitious chant from thickets and raspberry tangles in the north woods. This bird lives near the ground at all seasons, foraging in low brush and in the forest understory even during migration; it tends to be solitary, not readily joining flocks of other warblers. It got its name because the extensive black throat patch of the male suggested to pioneer naturalists that the bird was dressed in mourning.
Photo Gallery
  • adult male
  • adult female
  • adults with nestlings
Feeding Behavior

During the breeding season, forages primarily in shrubs within a few feet of the ground; hops while feeding on ground. Sometimes makes short flights to catch flying insects. Generally feeds alone rather than joining flocks.


Eggs

3-4, sometimes 5. Creamy white with brown spots or blotches. Incubated by female only, about 12 days. Male feeds female on nest during incubation. Young: Both parents feed nestlings. Young leave the nest after 7-9 days. Care of fledglings may continue for another 4 weeks or more.


Young

Both parents feed nestlings. Young leave the nest after 7-9 days. Care of fledglings may continue for another 4 weeks or more.

Diet

Probably mostly insects. Details of the diet are poorly known, but has been seen foraging for caterpillars, beetles, and other insects; also eats spiders. In winter in the tropics, sometimes feeds on the protein bodies from the leaf-bases of young cecropia trees.


Nesting

Details of the breeding behavior are not well known. Male sings to defend nesting territory; during territorial boundary encounters with rival males, he may bob violently, flip wings outward, and fan his tail. Nest: Usually placed on ground next to shrub at base of weeds in raspberry or blackberry briars, or among fern, goldenrod, or grass tussocks. Also sometimes in bush within a couple of feet of the ground. Nest (probably built by both sexes) is an open, bulky cup made of leaves, with a core of weeds and coarse grasses, lined with fine grass and hair.

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

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

Migration

In spring, apparently moves north overland through Mexico and Texas, rather than crossing the Gulf of Mexico like many other migrants; evidently retraces same route in fall. Migrates relatively late in spring and early in fall.

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Migration

In spring, apparently moves north overland through Mexico and Texas, rather than crossing the Gulf of Mexico like many other migrants; evidently retraces same route in fall. Migrates relatively late in spring and early in fall.

  • All Seasons - Common
  • All Seasons - Uncommon
  • Breeding - Common
  • Breeding - Uncommon
  • Winter - Common
  • Winter - Uncommon
  • Migration - Common
  • Migration - Uncommon
Songs and Calls
Loud, ringing, musical song, teedle-teedle, turtle-turtle, the last pair of notes lower.
Audio © Lang Elliott, Bob McGuire, Kevin Colver, Martyn Stewart and others.
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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

Mourning 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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