Photo: Glenn Bartley/Vireo

Tennessee Warbler

Oreothlypis peregrina

This bird is found in Tennessee only briefly, during spring and fall migration; but there is no point in giving it a more descriptive name, because the bird itself is nondescript. The male makes up for his plain appearance with a strident staccato song, surprisingly loud for the size of the bird. Nesting in northern forests, the Tennessee Warbler goes through population cycles: it often becomes very numerous during population explosions of the spruce budworm, a favored food.
Conservation status Local breeding populations rise and fall, apparently in response to outbreaks of certain forest insects, such as spruce budworm. Overall numbers of this warbler seem healthy.
Family Wood Warblers
Habitat Deciduous and mixed forests; in migration, groves, brush. Breeds in bogs, swamps, and forests. Prefers openings in second growth balsam-tamarack bogs, or aspen and pine woods, or edges of dense spruce forest. Nests near slight depressions of boggy ground. During spring migration, mostly high in trees. During fall migration, often lower in saplings, brush, weedy fields.
This bird is found in Tennessee only briefly, during spring and fall migration; but there is no point in giving it a more descriptive name, because the bird itself is nondescript. The male makes up for his plain appearance with a strident staccato song, surprisingly loud for the size of the bird. Nesting in northern forests, the Tennessee Warbler goes through population cycles: it often becomes very numerous during population explosions of the spruce budworm, a favored food.
Photo Gallery
  • adult male, breeding
  • immature male (1st fall)
  • adult female
  • immature (1st fall)
  • adult male and female, breeding
Feeding Behavior

Forages in the outer foliage of trees, sometimes hanging head downward. Takes insects in dense patches of weeds. In summer, male may feed mostly in treetops, female remaining nearer the ground. Forages in flocks of up to 200 on wintering grounds, often in coffee plantations.


Eggs

5-6, sometimes 4-7. May lay more eggs during outbreaks of spruce budworm. Eggs white, with some marks of brown or purple. Rarely parasitized by cowbirds. Incubation by female only, 11-12 days. Young: Development and care of the young, and age when they leave the nest, are not well known. Probably 1 brood per year.


Young

Development and care of the young, and age when they leave the nest, are not well known. Probably 1 brood per year.

Diet

Mostly insects, some berries and nectar. In summer feeds mainly on insects, including caterpillars, scale insects, aphids, beetles, flies, ants, leafhoppers, and others; also spiders. Takes nectar from catkins, and some juice from grapes. In winter in the tropics, feeds on nectar, berries, and the protein-rich structures that cecropia trees produce at base of leaves.


Nesting

Male has loud repetitious song on breeding territory. In ideal habitat, nests are closely spaced in loose colonies. During courtship, male performs song flight up to 60' above the ground. Nest: Concealed in a depression on ground under bushes or overhanging grass. Site is usually on mossy hummock in a wet area, but will nest on fairly dry ground on steep hillsides. Nest (built by female) is open cup made of thin grass stems; lined with fine dry grass, porcupine quills, or moose hair.

Illustration © David Allen Sibley.
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Text © Kenn Kaufman, adapted from
Lives of North American Birds

Migration

In spring, many migrate north across the western part of the Gulf of Mexico. Strays show up regularly in the west, especially along the Pacific Coast in fall, where a few may spend the winter.

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Migration

In spring, many migrate north across the western part of the Gulf of Mexico. Strays show up regularly in the west, especially along the Pacific Coast in fall, where a few may spend the winter.

  • All Seasons - Common
  • All Seasons - Uncommon
  • Breeding - Common
  • Breeding - Uncommon
  • Winter - Common
  • Winter - Uncommon
  • Migration - Common
  • Migration - Uncommon
Songs and Calls
A sharp, staccato di-dit-di-dit-swit-swit-swit-chip-chip-chip-chip-chip, fastest at the end; song often comprised of 3 distinct parts.
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

Tennessee 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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