Conservation status Still common and widespread.
Family Wood Warblers
Habitat Tall conifers, cool fir forests; in winter, also oaks, madrones, laurels. Breeds in tall, dense coniferous forest of the Pacific Northwest, both in the humid coastal belt and in the mountains. In winter in the tropics, found mostly in mountain forests of pine, oak, and alder. Along California coast, winters in oak woods and in conifers. Migrants occur in mountain conifer forests and in streamside trees in lowlands.
The coniferous forest of the Pacific Northwest is the summer home of Townsend's Warbler. There the sharply marked males sing from high in the spruces and hemlocks; their buzzy songs are quite variable, and some are similar to those of the Black-throated Green Warbler, an eastern relative. Most Townsend's go to Mexico or Central America for the winter, but small numbers remain along the coast north to Oregon, Washington, and even Vancouver Island.

Feeding Behavior

Forages mostly in higher parts of trees. Searches actively among twigs for insects, often hovering briefly to take items from foliage. Sometimes flies out to catch flying insects in the air. Except in nesting season, often feeds in mixed flocks with other warblers and other small birds.


At least 3, commonly 4-5. White with brown marks. Details of incubation not well known; may be incubated by both sexes, estimated at about 12 days. Young: Nestlings are fed by female and possibly by male. Young leave the nest about 8-10 days after hatching.


Nestlings are fed by female and possibly by male. Young leave the nest about 8-10 days after hatching.


Mostly insects. While nesting, eats mainly insects, such as caterpillars, true bugs, beetles, leafhoppers, and many others; also a few spiders, seeds, and plant galls. On tropical wintering grounds, also feeds on some berries and nectar.


Males arrive on breeding grounds in late May, and establish territories by singing. The first eggs are laid by late June. Nest: Placed directly on top of branch, usually towards the ends of horizontal conifer branches, 7'-60' above the ground. Nest (probably built by both sexes) is a large shallow cup of grass stems, mosses, cedar bark, and fir twigs; lined with moss, feathers, and hair.

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

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Migration is spread over a long period in both spring and fall. In the Southwest, migrants occur at all elevations, but most common in the mountains.

  • 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

A rising series of notes, usually with 2 phrases, the first repeated 3 or 4 times, the second once or twice: weazy weazy weazy weazy twea or dee dee dee-de de. Call is a soft chip.
Audio © Lang Elliott, Bob McGuire, Kevin Colver, Martyn Stewart and others.
Learn more about this sound collection.