Photo: Greg W. Lasley/Vireo

Red-faced Warbler

Cardellina rubrifrons

In New Mexico and Arizona, the brisk song of the Red-faced Warbler is heard in summer, in leafy groves surrounded by conifer forest, high in the mountains. This bird and the Painted Redstart, both Mexican border specialties, are our only warblers that wear bright red. In both, unlike many warblers, the females are nearly or quite as brightly colored as the males. Despite their conspicuous colors, both make the seemingly risky move of placing their nests on the ground.
Conservation status Has expanded its nesting range northward slightly in Arizona during recent decades. Could be vulnerable to loss of mountain forest habitat in Mexico.
Family Wood Warblers
Habitat Open pine-oak forests in high mountains. In our area, breeds mostly in forests of Douglas-fir, Engelmann spruce, ponderosa pine, and southwestern white pine, at elevations between 6,400' and 9,000', mainly where small groves of deciduous trees such as oak, maple, or aspen grow among the conifers. In winter in the tropics, found in forests of pine, oak, alder, and other trees, at upper elevations in mountains.
In New Mexico and Arizona, the brisk song of the Red-faced Warbler is heard in summer, in leafy groves surrounded by conifer forest, high in the mountains. This bird and the Painted Redstart, both Mexican border specialties, are our only warblers that wear bright red. In both, unlike many warblers, the females are nearly or quite as brightly colored as the males. Despite their conspicuous colors, both make the seemingly risky move of placing their nests on the ground.
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Feeding Behavior

Prefers to forage in trees with dense foliage. Searches actively on outer parts of branches and twigs, and hovers to take insects from foliage. At times, does much of its foraging by flying out to take insects in mid-air. In summer, males tend to feed higher than females, pausing to sing as they forage. When not nesting, typically forages in mixed flocks with other birds.


Eggs

Usually 3-4. Pinkish-white, flecked with brown. Incubated by female only, 13-15 days, sometimes 12-17. Young: Fed by both parents. Leave the nest 11-13 days after hatching. Parents may split the fledglings, each adult attending half the brood for up to 4-5 weeks. All fledglings leave nesting territories by early August in Arizona, even though the adults are still on territory. Probably 1 brood per year.


Young

Fed by both parents. Leave the nest 11-13 days after hatching. Parents may split the fledglings, each adult attending half the brood for up to 4-5 weeks. All fledglings leave nesting territories by early August in Arizona, even though the adults are still on territory. Probably 1 brood per year.

Diet

Probably mostly insects. Diet is not known in detail, but undoubtedly feeds mostly on insects. Caterpillars may be important in diet; nestlings are fed many small green caterpillars. Also eats small flies, leafhoppers, and other insects.


Nesting

In most areas, males defend nesting territories by singing. In a few places, males are reported not to defend territories very strongly, regularly crossing near each other's nest sites, and even congregating in loose singing groups to attract females. Nest: On the ground, well hidden at base of shrub, rock, grass tuft, tree trunk, or under log. Usually placed in leaf litter on slope or steep bank. Open cup, built by female, on mass of dry leaves and conifer needles; constructed of grasses, weeds, and bark, lined with plant fibers and hair.

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

Migration

In our area, migrants arrive in April, and most depart before mid-September. Migrants are very rarely seen in the lowlands.

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Migration

In our area, migrants arrive in April, and most depart before mid-September. Migrants are very rarely seen in the lowlands.

  • All Seasons - Common
  • All Seasons - Uncommon
  • Breeding - Common
  • Breeding - Uncommon
  • Winter - Common
  • Winter - Uncommon
  • Migration - Common
  • Migration - Uncommon
Songs and Calls
Song is a series of rich notes: sweet-sweet-sweet-weeta-see-see-see, similar to that of the Yellow Warbler. Call is a loud chup.
Audio © Lang Elliott, Bob McGuire, Kevin Colver, Martyn Stewart and others.
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How Climate Change Will Reshape the Range of the Red-faced 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 Red-faced 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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