Conservation status May be especially vulnerable to loss of wintering habitat, with cutting of forest at mid-levels in mountains in the tropics.
Family Wood Warblers
Habitat Woodlands; conifers in summer. Breeds in boreal coniferous and mixed forests, especially spruce and hemlock. In southern part of breeding range in Appalachians, can inhabit completely deciduous forests. When migrating, occurs in all kinds of trees and brush. During winter in the tropics, usually in humid mountain forest.
A fiery gem of the treetops. In the northern forest in summer, the male Blackburnian Warbler may perch on the topmost twig of a spruce, showing off the flaming orange of his throat as he sings his thin, wiry song. The female also stays high in the conifers, and the nest is usually built far above the ground. Long-distance migrants, most Blackburnians spend the winter in South America, where they are often common in mountain forest in the Andes.

Feeding Behavior

Feeds mostly in treetops, searching along small branches and twigs. Also hovers to take insects from undersides and tips of foliage. Will search dead leaf clumps; occasionally flies out to catch flying insects. In spruce forests, males tend to forage higher than females. In winter in the Andes, forages in mixed flocks with various tropical birds.


4, sometimes 3-5. White to greenish white, with blotches of reddish brown concentrated near the larger end. Only females incubate, probably 12-13 days. Male feeds female during incubation. Young: Both parents feed nestlings. When the young leave the nest, the parents separate, each caring for part of the brood.


Both parents feed nestlings. When the young leave the nest, the parents separate, each caring for part of the brood.


Mostly insects, especially caterpillars. In summer, feeds on many caterpillars, particularly those of spruce budworm; also eats beetles, ants, flies, and many other insects, also spiders. Especially during winter, will take some berries as well.


Details of nesting behavior not well known, partly because nests are high and hard to observe. Male defends nesting territory by singing, sometimes by attacking intruding males. In courtship, male sings, and performs displays with gliding flight and fluttering wings and tail. Nest: Almost always placed in dense vegetation near tips of branches of conifers, and usually high, sometimes up to 80' above ground. Nest (probably built by female) is cup-shaped and made of twigs, bark, and fibers; lined with lichens, moss, grass, hair, and conifer needles.

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

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From wintering areas (mostly in Andes of South America), many apparently move north through Central America, then fly north across Gulf of Mexico. Fall migration may be spread out over a broader front.

  • All Seasons - Common
  • All Seasons - Uncommon
  • Breeding - Common
  • Breeding - Uncommon
  • Winter - Common
  • Winter - Uncommon
  • Migration - Common
  • Migration - Uncommon

See a fully interactive migration map for this species on the Bird Migration Explorer.

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Songs and Calls

Very thin and wiry, increasing in speed and rising to the limit of hearing, sleet-sleet-sleet-sleet-sleetee-sleeeee. Also tiddly-tiddly-tiddly-tiddly at same speed and pitch.
Audio © Lang Elliott, Bob McGuire, Kevin Colver, Martyn Stewart and others.
Learn more about this sound collection.