Photo: Brian E. Small/Vireo

Wilson's Warbler

Cardellina pusilla

A small and spritely warbler that moves actively in bushes and trees, often flipping its longish tail about as it hops from branch to branch. Typically stays low in semi-open areas, avoiding the interior of dense forest. Although it nests from coast to coast across Canada, Wilson's Warbler is far more common farther west. In the East it is seen in small numbers, but in the Rockies and westward it is often the most abundant migrant in late spring.
Conservation status Numbers probably stable. Adaptable in its choice of wintering habitats, probably not threatened by cutting of forests in the tropics.
Family Wood Warblers
Habitat Thickets along wooded streams, moist tangles, low shrubs, willows, alders. Breeds as far north as timberline, in thickets, second-growth, bogs, or in alder and willow groves near streams and ponds. In migration and winter, occurs from hot lowland thickets up to cool mountain woods; always in scrubby overgrown clearings and thin woods, not in the interior of dense forest.
A small and spritely warbler that moves actively in bushes and trees, often flipping its longish tail about as it hops from branch to branch. Typically stays low in semi-open areas, avoiding the interior of dense forest. Although it nests from coast to coast across Canada, Wilson's Warbler is far more common farther west. In the East it is seen in small numbers, but in the Rockies and westward it is often the most abundant migrant in late spring.
Photo Gallery
  • adult male, Pacific
  • adult female, Pacific
  • juvenile, Pacific
  • adult male, Eastern
  • adult female, Eastern
  • juvenile, Eastern
  • adult female, Pacific
Feeding Behavior

Feeds usually within 10' of ground, searching actively among foliage of bushes. Hops on ground to probe among fallen leaves, and flutters up to take items from the undersides of leaves. Frequently flies out to catch flying insects in mid-air.


Eggs

4-6, sometimes 2-7. Creamy white with variable marks of brown. Incubation is by female only, 10-13 days. Cowbirds regularly lay eggs in nests of this species. Young: Fed by both parents; brooded by female only. Young leave the nest about 8-13 days after hatching. Normally 1 brood per year.


Young

Fed by both parents; brooded by female only. Young leave the nest about 8-13 days after hatching. Normally 1 brood per year.

Diet

Mostly insects. Presumably feeds mostly on insects, like other warblers. Frequent items in diet include bees, wasps, beetles, caterpillars, and aphids. Also eats some spiders, and sometimes berries. In winter in the tropics, sometimes feeds on protein corpuscles found at the bases of leaves of Cecropia trees.


Nesting

Populations that nest along Pacific Coast tend to lay fewer eggs and raise fewer offspring per nesting attempt, and males mate with only one female. Populations that nest in high mountains of West tend to lay more eggs per clutch and fledge more young, and some males have more than one mate. Nest: Usually on ground, sunken in moss or sedges, often at base of shrub. Along Pacific Coast, nests often placed up to 3' above ground, in shrubs or vines. Nest is bulky open cup, built by female, made of dead leaves, grass, and moss; 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

Birds wintering in Mexico apparently migrate around west side of Gulf of Mexico, not across it. In the West, those nesting along the Pacific Coast arrive earlier in spring than those nesting in the mountains of the interior.

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Migration

Birds wintering in Mexico apparently migrate around west side of Gulf of Mexico, not across it. In the West, those nesting along the Pacific Coast arrive earlier in spring than those nesting in the mountains of the interior.

  • All Seasons - Common
  • All Seasons - Uncommon
  • Breeding - Common
  • Breeding - Uncommon
  • Winter - Common
  • Winter - Uncommon
  • Migration - Common
  • Migration - Uncommon
Songs and Calls
A rapid, staccato series of chips, which drop in pitch at the end.
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

Wilson's 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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