Conservation status Within its limited range in our area, numbers probably stable. Could be vulnerable to loss of habitat with cutting of forest farther south.
Family Olive Warblers
Habitat Pine and fir forests of high mountains. Breeds in mountain pine forests, generally at elevations of 6,000' and above. Prefers ponderosa pine, but also occurs in other pines, firs, Douglas-firs, and in adjacent oaks. In winter, at least some individuals move down into oak woodlands in lower foothills.
In forests of pine, fir, and oak in southwestern mountains, the Olive Warbler is common in summer and sometimes remains through winter. As it searches for insects high in the trees, it might seem like a typical warbler, aside from its soft whistled callnote and the copper-colored head of the adult male. But DNA studies show that it is quite distinct, so it is now placed in its own family.

Feeding Behavior

Usually forages in the upper one-third of pines and other trees. Creeps over branches and twigs of pines, taking insects from the twigs and from the bases of needle clusters. When not breeding, often seen foraging in mixed flocks including other warblers and also titmice, nuthatches, and other birds.


Usually 3-4. Bluish-white with olive and brown marks at large end. Female incubates (and male might also?), but length of incubation period and roles of the parents are poorly known. Young: Probably both parents feed the nestlings, but details (including age at which young leave the nest) are not well known.


Probably both parents feed the nestlings, but details (including age at which young leave the nest) are not well known.


Probably mostly insects. Details of the diet are not well known. Has been observed feeding on insects, and these undoubtedly make up majority of food.


Details of breeding behavior not well studied, partly owing to the placement of its nest in the upper reaches of trees. Nest: Placed from 30'-70' up, usually in pine, and usually 15-20' out from the trunk on a branch. Nest (built by female) is an open cup of moss, lichen, pine bud scales, pine needles; lined with the soft white plant fibers from the underside of silver oak leaves, and rootlets.

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

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Thought to be mostly a summer resident in our area, but at least some remain through winter. Becomes common in mountain forests by March, and can still be found in numbers into October.

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

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Songs and Calls

Song a whistled, titmouse-like series of phrases: peter-peter-peter. Call a down-slurred kew.
Audio © Lang Elliott, Bob McGuire, Kevin Colver, Martyn Stewart and others.
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