Hermit Warbler

Setophaga occidentalis

This warbler nests in forests of fir, hemlock, and other conifers, in the mountains and along the coast, from California north to Washington. It also winters locally on the California coast, almost always in conifers. No more of a "hermit" than other warblers, it often joins mixed flocks of birds in the mountain pine forests during migration. This species is closely related to Townsend's Warbler, and the two often interbreed where their ranges meet in Washington and Oregon.
Conservation status Could be vulnerable to loss of habitat with cutting of northwestern forests. Still common within its range.
Family Wood Warblers
Habitat Conifer forests; in migration, conifers and deciduous woods. Breeds mostly in moist, dense forests near sea level, especially in forests of Douglas-fir, hemlock, and western redcedar. Also nests in cooler, wetter forests of fir and other trees at higher elevations. In winter found in pine-oak forests of mountains in Mexico, also in oaks and conifers along California coast.
This warbler nests in forests of fir, hemlock, and other conifers, in the mountains and along the coast, from California north to Washington. It also winters locally on the California coast, almost always in conifers. No more of a "hermit" than other warblers, it often joins mixed flocks of birds in the mountain pine forests during migration. This species is closely related to Townsend's Warbler, and the two often interbreed where their ranges meet in Washington and Oregon.
Photo Gallery
Feeding Behavior

Forages mainly in the canopy of tall trees, sometimes up to 200' above the ground. Males often forage higher than females. Takes insects from twigs while perching and while hovering, and flies out to catch insects in mid-air. Moves from trunk of tree out to branch tips, then begins again at trunk. Will hang from twigs like a chickadee. In migration and winter, often forages in flocks with other birds.


Eggs

4-5, sometimes 3. Creamy, with fine brown flecks in wreath at larger end. Incubation is probably by both parents, probably about 12 days. This species apparently is almost never parasitized by cowbirds. Young: Fed by female and possibly by male as well. Young leave the nest 8-10 days after hatching.


Young

Fed by female and possibly by male as well. Young leave the nest 8-10 days after hatching.

Diet

Mostly insects. Has been observed feeding on caterpillars, tiny beetles, and flying insects; also small spiders.


Nesting

Males arrive on the breeding grounds in early May, and establish territories by singing. The first eggs are laid by the first part of June. Nest: Typical site is on horizontal branch, well out from trunk and 20-40' above the ground. Nest is a compact, deep, open cup of fibrous weeds stalks, pine needles, twigs, lichen, moss, cobwebs, and lined with soft material such as soft bark, feathers, and animal hair. Female alone builds nest.

Illustration © David Allen Sibley.
Learn more about these drawings.

Text © Kenn Kaufman, adapted from
Lives of North American Birds

Migration

Migrates most commonly north along the Pacific Coast in spring and south through the mountains in fall. Southward migration begins early, with many on the move in August or even late July.

Download Our Bird Guide App

Migration

Migrates most commonly north along the Pacific Coast in spring and south through the mountains in fall. Southward migration begins early, with many on the move in August or even late July.

  • All Seasons - Common
  • All Seasons - Uncommon
  • Breeding - Common
  • Breeding - Uncommon
  • Winter - Common
  • Winter - Uncommon
  • Migration - Common
  • Migration - Uncommon
Songs and Calls
A series of high notes, somewhat less buzzy than the song of a Townsend's Warbler; recalls Yellow Warbler song in pattern but less emphatic. Call is a soft chup.
Audio © Lang Elliott, Bob McGuire, Kevin Colver, Martyn Stewart and others.
Learn more about this sound collection.

How Climate Change Will Reshape the Range of the Hermit 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 Hermit 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.

Explore Similar Birds