Photo: Glenn Bartley/Vireo

Blackpoll Warbler

Setophaga striata

The Blackpoll is among the most numerous warblers in far northern forests in summer, and perhaps the most impressive migrant of all our small birds. Every fall, most Blackpoll Warblers make an over-water migration from our northeastern coast to northern South America; some may pause in Bermuda or the Antilles, but others apparently fly nonstop for more than 72 hours. In spring they are more leisurely, traveling via the West Indies and Florida, pausing to sing in our shade trees on their way north.
Conservation status Abundant, but may be decreasing in southern parts of breeding distribution. Vulnerable to loss of habitat, especially on winter range.
Family Wood Warblers
Habitat Conifers; broadleaf trees in migration. Breeds in low northern spruce forest, and in alder thickets north of the Arctic Circle and north of treeline. In migration, moves through forests, parks and gardens. In winter in the tropics, found in wooded areas, often in canopy of trees, up to 7,800' elevation.
The Blackpoll is among the most numerous warblers in far northern forests in summer, and perhaps the most impressive migrant of all our small birds. Every fall, most Blackpoll Warblers make an over-water migration from our northeastern coast to northern South America; some may pause in Bermuda or the Antilles, but others apparently fly nonstop for more than 72 hours. In spring they are more leisurely, traveling via the West Indies and Florida, pausing to sing in our shade trees on their way north.
Photo Gallery
Feeding Behavior

Forages in a deliberate manner, creeping along on branches in the tops of taller trees, gleaning insects from bark, leaves, and twigs. Also flies out to catch flying insects. In migration, may forage frequently with other warblers.


Eggs

4-5, sometimes 3. Off-white, with brown and lavender spots. Incubation probably about 12 days, by female. Male feeds female on nest during incubation. Young: Fed by both parents. Leave nest 11-12 days after hatching. 1 brood per year, sometimes 2.


Young

Fed by both parents. Leave nest 11-12 days after hatching. 1 brood per year, sometimes 2.

Diet

Mostly insects and berries. During the breeding season eats aphids, scale insects, caterpillars, beetles, gnats, mosquitoes, cankerworms, sawflies, wasps, ants, termites, and other insects. Also eats spiders and their eggs, pokeberries, and a few seeds. In migration, noted feeding on spiders, aphids, and scale insects found on citrus and native plants in Florida.


Nesting

A few males have more than one mate per nesting season. Females return to nest site of previous year and mate with male holding that territory, whether or not he is already mated. Courtship and nest building are deliberate and protracted, and begin later in the season than in most warblers. Nest: Placed next to trunk, on horizontal branch, usually 2-12' above the ground, rarely more than 30' up. Site is located in the understory of young spruce or fir saplings, sometimes in alder thickets. Bulky open cup (built by female) is made of twigs, bark, sprays of spruce, grass stems, weeds, moss, and lichens; lined with feathers, hair, rootlets.

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

Migration

Spring migration moves north mostly through Florida, spreading west from there. In fall, many fly nonstop from eastern Canada or northeastern United States to northern South America. Every fall, many (to 100 or more) lost strays appear along Pacific Coast.

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Migration

Spring migration moves north mostly through Florida, spreading west from there. In fall, many fly nonstop from eastern Canada or northeastern United States to northern South America. Every fall, many (to 100 or more) lost strays appear along Pacific Coast.

  • All Seasons - Common
  • All Seasons - Uncommon
  • Breeding - Common
  • Breeding - Uncommon
  • Winter - Common
  • Winter - Uncommon
  • Migration - Common
  • Migration - Uncommon
Songs and Calls
Rapid series of high lisping notes all on 1 pitch, increasing and then decreasing in volume; seet-seet-seet-seet-seet-seet-seet-seet.
Audio © Lang Elliott, Bob McGuire, Kevin Colver, Martyn Stewart and others.
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How Climate Change Will Reshape the Range of the Blackpoll Warbler

Audubon’s scientists have used 140 million bird observations and sophisticated climate models to project how climate change will affect this bird’s range in the future.

Zoom in to see how this species’s current range will shift, expand, and contract under increased global temperatures.

Climate threats facing the Blackpoll 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.

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