Bird GuideWood WarblersBlack-throated Gray Warbler
Black-throated Gray Warbler
Setophaga nigrescens

At a Glance

This strikingly patterned warbler is typical of semi-arid country in the West. It is often common in summer in the foothills, in open woods of juniper, pinyon pine, or oak, where its buzzy song carries well across the dry slopes. Of all the western warblers, this is the one that shows up most often in the East, but it is still rare enough there to provide excitement for eastern birders.
Perching Birds, Wood Warblers
Low Concern
Arroyos and Canyons, Desert and Arid Habitats, Forests and Woodlands, High Mountains, Shrublands, Savannas, and Thickets
California, Florida, Mid Atlantic, Northwest, Plains, Rocky Mountains, Southeast, Southwest, Texas, Western Canada
Direct Flight, Flitter

Range & Identification

Migration & Range Maps

In the Southwest, arrives early in spring and lingers late in fall, with some remaining through the winter. A rare stray east to the Atlantic Coast, mostly in fall.


5" (13 cm). Strong face pattern with black cheeks, solid black crown. Blackpoll has white cheeks, Black-and-white has striped crown. Female grayer, may have throat mostly white.
About the size of a Robin, About the size of a Sparrow
Black, Gray, White, Yellow
Wing Shape
Tail Shape
Notched, Square-tipped

Songs and Calls

Song a series of buzzes, rising in pitch and intensity, then falling: zee zee zee zee bzz bzz. Call is a dull tup.
Call Pattern
Falling, Flat, Rising, Undulating
Call Type
Buzz, Chirp/Chip


Dry oak slopes, pinyons, junipers, open mixed woods. Breeds in dry coniferous and mixed woods, especially of oak, juniper, and pinyon pine. Also frequents manzanita thickets and chaparral. Prefers open areas, as in second-growth, forest edges, or dry hillsides or canyons. In winter in Mexico, found in lowland dry forest, dense thorn scrub, and pine-oak woods.



Usually 4, sometimes 3-5. Creamy white, with brown marks often concentrated at larger end. Incubated by female for unknown number of days.


Both parents feed the nestlings. Age at which young leave the nest is not well known. Normally only 1 brood per year.

Feeding Behavior

The most common method of foraging during the breeding season is by searching for insects among leaves of low growing foliage; also hovers briefly to pick insects from various surfaces. Also flies out after flying insects. In migration and winter, often forages in mixed flocks with other species.


Mostly insects. Diet is not known in detail. Known to feed especially on oakworms and other green caterpillars.


Details of nesting behavior not well known. Males arrive on breeding grounds in March or April in southern part of the range, in late May in the north. Nest site varies; may be 4-10' from trunk on horizontal branch in larger tree such as fir or oak, or closer to the main trunk in a smaller tree or shrub. Usually placed 7-35' above the ground, but can be 1-50' up. Nest is a neat, open cup, built probably by both sexes, made of weeds, dry grass, and plant fiber; lined with feathers, fur, hair, and moss.

Climate Vulnerability

Conservation Status

Common and widespread in the west.

Climate Map

Audubon’s scientists have used 140 million bird observations and sophisticated climate models to project how climate change will affect the range of the Black-throated Gray Warbler. Learn even more in our Audubon’s Survival By Degrees project.

Climate Threats Facing the Black-throated Gray Warbler

Choose a temperature scenario below to see which threats will affect this species as warming increases. The same climate change-driven threats that put birds at risk will affect other wildlife and people, too.