Warblers (Parulidae)


Welcome to my warbler page! This is an identification-oriented page for Eastern wood warblers, and is hugely improved due to the photos contributed by several other photographers. All photos are by me unless otherwise noted and the codes for others are at the bottom of this section. All are copyrighted, and all photos by others have a colored border. Note: not all of the shots on this page are as good as the others, but might be here to show some feature or another. This will still be a work in progress for some time to come... 
Contributing photographers, and their websites if they have one:
SB Steve Bentsen   http://www.dosvenadas.com/
JB John Boyd  http://www.fiu.edu/~boydj/     
JD Jon Dunn
JF Jim Flynn
LR Larry Gridley
BH Bruce Hallett
EHar Ed Harper
RH Rachel Holzman  http://www.flickr.com/photos/dotbleu1/
EH Earl Horn                           
PH Pierre Howard  
HH Hunter Hebenstreit   
TH Tony Hepburn              
GL Greg Lasley    
CM Charlie Muise  http://www.atlantaaudubon.org/iba/                  
MO Mark Oberle  http://www.puertoricobirds.com/             
DP Dennis Paulson                  
JS Judy Semroc
NS Netta Smith
LT Luke Theodorou
DV  Dan Vickers  http://www.flickr.com/photos/dfvickers/       
BZ Bob Zaremba                   

Photo labeling system:
Top line is line 1, next line 2, etc. 
 Left photo is L, right is R      1L is upper left, etc 

NOTE: The AOU 51st Supplement of July 2010 changed some scientific names and split the old genera Vermivora and Seiurus. This page now reflects the new taxonomy as reflected in that supplement.

FURTHER NOTE: The AOU 52nd Supplement has radically changed the Parulidae, so I have revised this entire page for taxonomic changes.

David Sibley discusses the new taxonomy on this page.


Note: On all warblers, it's probably easiest to start with the head pattern, because most can be identified by that alone. A few terms I will use a lot:
-Eyeline: a line through the eye, also called an intra-ocular stripe or line
-Supercilium: a line above the eye, also called an eyebrow
-Undertail coverts: the puffy group of feathers at the rear of the belly going up to the base of the tail
After the head pattern, the color of the underparts including undertail coverts, pattern on the tail if any including presence or absence of spots, and the presence or absence of wingbars are good items to check next.
I have tried to provide information on aging and sexing where possible, but keep in mind that in many cases adult females cannot be separated from immature males.

Note also that photos of mine have the date the image was taken as part of the file name, so you can tell when the photo was taken (spring vs fall plumage, for example) by pausing your mouse over the photo to get the file name. Someday I will add all the dates for all the photos, but for now it's enough just trying to keep it updated with new photos!


SEIURUS: A single large warbler with long legs and a fairly short tail which exclusively walks..Very curious and very responsive to pishing.

Ovenbird (Seiurus aurocapilla)

All ages and sexes generally similar. Looks like a small thrush, with brownish upperparts and streaked underparts. Streaking somewhat variable, compare 1L and 5L. Black stripes bordering rusty central stripe on crown, but imms may be missing the rusty crown stripe. Very curious, will often come in to pishing, usually with tail cocked as in 2L+3R, often with crown feathers raised. Loud sharp chip note. Always walks.

 

   

HELMITHEROS: Only one member.

Worm-eating Warbler (Helmitheros vermivorum)

Distinctive stripes on crown unmistakable, can look vaguely similar to Swainson's if top of head not seen well. Has brown or peachy-brown (mostly in spring) throat and breast, fading to off-white belly and undertail. Main call note is a very sharp chip, and also has a very distinctive contact call note. Sounds like "zeet-zeet," almost always paired, often given in flight. Dead-leaf specialist, can often be spotted by checking out dead-leaf clusters (3R).

 

PARKESIA: A small genus of two warblers, both typically found near water. Both walk with exaggerated tail-bobbing, and both have sharp metallic chip notes. Until recently considered to belong to Seiurus.

Louisiana Waterthrush (Parkesia motacilla)

Likely be confused only with Northern Waterthrush. 1L is a very typical look, but note this species is much more variable than most guides make it sound. Check these points, with the first three the most important, probably in this order:
-underparts white or off-white with buffy patch on flanks. Compare with Northern above.
-usually fewer streaks than Northern, and wider. If not wider, less distinct than on Northern, or less sharply-defined. On Louisianas with few streaks as 2R, this can be tough to tell.
-supercilium typically buffy until eye, becomes wider and whiter behind eye. Note that some examples do not look like this... see 3L+R. On some of these birds, the supercilium does become whiter behind the eye but not necessarily wider.
-usually pink colored legs, or slightly darker
-usually larger bill than Northern
-throat usually unstreaked
-prefers faster water like streams but can be found anywhere in migration

The underpart streaking is really variable... compare 2L+R, 4L+R, and 5L+R/ 6L, the last three all the same bird. That last bird is not only really heavily streaked for a Louisiana, the buffy flank patch is quite large. In 6L the bird looks yellow but that's an artifasct of the image (see the rocks). Note on 6R, which is a lousy shot, the streaking is very Northern-like and the supercilium is not unequivocal, so you have to go by the (fortunately present) buffy flank patch.

1R by EH, 5L+R by LT, 6L by HH

   
   
   
   

Northern Waterthrush (Parkesia noveboracensis)

Can be confused only with Louisiana Waterthrush. Check these points, with the first three the most important, and probably in this order:
-underparts all one color, may be white (1L+R) or yellow (3+4L). Beware brownish flank like in 4R or 6R.
-many thin well-defined streaks below
-supercilium of same width and color, sometimes narrowing behind eye as in 1L+R. But watch for odd examples as in 6L+R, same bird.
-reddish-brown or flesh colored legs, never pink. 3R is as bright as they get.
-usually smaller bill than Louisiana
-throat usually streaked, but not always
-prefers slower water, bogs, etc but can be found anywhere in migration


2L by MO, 5L by BZ

   
   
   

VERMIVORA: Slender warblers with thin sharply pointed bills. Both feed on nectar at some point in the year, especially in winter. Blue- and Golden-winged also feed on dried leaf clusters. Both have a sharp chip note, and often hybridize producing the known hybrids Brewster's and Lawrence's Warblers. This genus also includes the extinct Bachman's Warbler (V. bachmanii).

Golden-winged Warbler (Vermivora chrysoptera)

Pretty unique face pattern and males with yellow on crown and wings are easy to id, even fairly dull females (2+3L) have at least a hint of the face pattern but in gray and color on the crown and wings.

1L EHar, 1R RH, 2L and 2R JF
3L a USFS photo by Javier Mercado-Velez
 

 

Blue-winged Warbler (Vermivora cyanoptera)

Pretty unmistakable in all plumages, with all yellow body including head, black line through the eye, bluish wings with wing bars, and very bright white undertail coverts. Even the dullest female as at 3L has all these features, just less obvious. More typical female at 3R.

1L EHar, 1R BH, 2L+R EH, 3L JD, 3R JS


MNIOTILTA: Only has one member, with creeping foraging behavior

Black-and-white Warbler (Mniotilta varia)

One species, with a specialized long hind toe to forage by walking up and down trees (6R). Always has white and black striped crown and black streaking below. Adult males in spring have jet black cheeks and throats (1L). Some spring males have less black cheeks and/or throats, some of these are first spring males (1R, 2L+R). In fall and winter most adult males lose the black throat (3L+R, 4L+R), and this is also what first spring males look like. Adult females are just about impossible to separate from imm males in fall, and have gray cheeks with a black line on the upper edge. Immature females almost always have some amount of rust in the flanks or undertail (6R, 7R, 10R), and sometimes into sides or cheek. The bird at 10L may be an imm female also, based on the complete lack of streaking, but has no rust and a fairly dark cheek for an imm female, so I don't know. Very responsive to pishing with a loud sharp chip note it gives either singly or in series, like "pop-pop-pop-pop."

3L by JF

 
 

PROTONOTARIA: Only one member, a large cavity-nesting warbler.

Prothonotary Warbler (Protonotaria citrea)

Male (top 4) is glowing yellow and gray with very white lower belly, undertail coverts and underside of tail. Female (bottom 4) is not as bright with greenish top of head. Long thick bill is black in spring males, brown in fall males and females.

4R by DP

   
 

LIMNOTHLYPIS: Only one member, a very skulky warbler.

Swainson's Warbler (Limnothlypis swainsonii)

Large drab warbler with brownish cap. Frequently seen on or near the ground, feeds by turning leaves over with thick bill. Very difficult to find away from breeding areas.

3L by DV

   
   
 

OREOTHLYPIS: Slender warblers with mostly thin pointed bills like Vermivora, and until recently they were considered in the same genus. Most feed on nectar, at least part of the year. Includes two species very similar and often difficult to separate in the field (first two).

Tennessee Warbler (Oreothlypis peregrina)

Easy to id in spring (1L, 7L) with gray crown, thin bill, white supercilium, and greenish back without wingbars but can be confused with Red-eyed Vireo. Note the vireo would have a larger blunt bill, a black border to the gray crown, and would be larger. 1R is in Panama in Jan, and 8R is Cuba in Feb. In fall, TN is HIGHLY variable, from almost spring-like with gray and green with clean white underparts (7R), off-white underparts (6L),  to very yellow or green below, and can be very similar to Orange-crowned (OC) then. Uncommonly can be brownish above (3L). Usually a black line through the eye. Head can be grayish, usually just the cheek (2L), but never all gray head like some OC. Most are greenish or greenish gray, but some can be fairly yellow, especially in the face (8L, 9L). Almost always has clean white undertail coverts, and they are long on a short tail (2R, 3R). Can be obscured by color in the lower flank. Even when the underparts are more buffy, the weakest color is the undertail coverts, which is opposite from OC. Can be slightly streaked in fall (5L). Note very long and sharply pointed primaries (2L, 4L) as opposed to OC shorter and rounded primaries. Keep in mind that OC arrives quite late in the fall in the Southeast, no earlier than very late September, and is usually solitary or found in ones or twos, while TN is usually found in small groups, flying from tree to tree, frequently giving their thin sort of whiny flight call while in OC all you usually get is a sharp chip now and then.

All color-bordered photos by BZ except 1L by DP and 5R by JF

 
   
   
   

Orange-crowned Warbler (Oreothlypis celata)

A pretty dull warbler, with a grayish head, no wingbars, usually some streaking below, and yellowish undertail coverts. The biggest id problem is fall Tennessee Warbler (TN). Note that OC has shorter and more rounded primaries (2 and 6L), compared to long and sharply pointed on TN. Note also the color of the undertail coverts, on OC they are yellowish, and the strongest color is usually there (4R). On TN they are usually white, but even when a little buffy the color will be stronger toward the breast, the reverse of OC. Both species have thin sharp bills, but OC is usually slightly curved. Note long tail with short undertail coverts (1R, 2L, 4R) versus short tail with long undertail coverts in TN. Might have a split eyering in fall, unlike TN. Note that "celata" means "hidden crown," very appropriate for this species since you almost never see the orange "crown." Hints of the crown visible in 4L+5L.

All color-bordered photos by EH

 
   
   
   
   
   

Nashville Warbler (Oreothlypis ruficapella)

Always a small warbler with a gray or grayish head, white eyering, and yellow throat (except very dull fall females). Yellow continues down into belly but always have a white area near vent before yellow undertail coverts. Always has a thin pointed bill. Note in 3R the yellowish rump, visible in all but the dullest imm females. Resembles Connecticut Warbler but much smaller and flits around in trees vice walks around on ground in scrub. 4R is spring female, possibly first spring.

3L+R, 4L by BZ, 2R by SB

 

OPORORNIS: One large yellow species, very skulky and difficult to see.

Connecticut Warbler (Oporornis agilis)

This is the only warbler besides Ovenbird and the waterthrushes that habitually walks instead of hopping. Very skulky and hard to see, migrates through central GA in spring and offshore or rarely along coast in fall. Very rare inland in fall. Large bulky warbler, gray head with bold complete eyering and all-yellow underparts. Long wings and long undertail coverts almost reach end of tail. Females (3L+R) have gray or brown hood but still have complete eyering. Latest arriving warbler in spring, doesn't even reach south FL until the beginning of May.

1L+2L by JB
1R by DV
2R by RH
3L+R by CM, courtesy of GA IBA program

   

GEOTHLYPIS: Four mostly yellow species, the first three used to be in Oporornis.

MacGillivray's Warbler (Geothlypis tolmiei)

Western Oporornis, has been found several times in GA now. 1L+R was found in Gwinnett County and was accepted by the GCRC. Adult male from out west for comparison (2L+R).

1L+R, 3L by EH, 2L by DV

 

Mourning Warbler (Geothlypis philadelphia)

Smaller and more slender than Conn, with shorter wings and shorter undertail coverts. Yellow of underparts brighter than Conn. Females may have narrow broken eyering (2R). Imm male in spring (3R) may be lacking black in throat. Imm in 2+3L. Also late in spring, just before Conn. More common in GA in fall, mostly Sep.

2R by JD
2L+3L by LG

   

Kentucky Warbler (Geothlypis formosus)

The only one in this group which breeds in GA. All yellow body with moderate to faded black pattern on face bordered by yellow supercilium above and throat below. Grayish crown in males. Unmarked upperparts, no wingbars, and only yellow below. Shy and hard to find in migration.

1L by EH
1R by RH

 
   
   
   

Common Yellowthroat (Geothlypis trichas)

Umistakable as adult male, with olive upperparts, yellow throat, and black mask bordered by gray (1L+R, 2L, 9R). Aging and sexing other than adult male can be troublesome. Imm male usually has a faded outline of adult male pattern as in 2R and 3L+R. Unknown what 4L's age or sex is, might be adult female, might be imm male. Females and imm females can be highly variable, but all have olive upperparts and white bellies. Throat can range from bright yellow (5L, 6L, 7L) to pretty dull yellowish (5R, 6R). All ages and sexes have yellow or yellowish undertail coverts. Can usually be separated with ease from all Oporornis by yellow throat and undertail with some amount of white in belly, usually quite a bit as in 6R, 7L). However, note in 7R and 9L this species can appear to have an all-yellow belly from some angles, like these. 7R appears very long legged like an Oporornis and could easily be called a Mourning by an optimistic birder. A really troublesome individual is 8L, which actually had a nearly all yellow belly.


1L by PH
1R, 2R, 3L by BH
2R by BZ
8R by EH
 

   

SETOPHAGA: Now includes all of the former genus Dendroica and Hooded.

Hooded Warbler (Setophaga citrina)

A bright yellow warbler underneath, with variable amounts of black on the head. Males (1L+R, 5L) have full black throat and top of head. Females highly variable amount of black from almost as much as males to just a hint along the edge of the crown (2L+R, 3L), not related to age. In all ages and sexes has dark lores, unlike Wilson's. Lots of white in tail in both sexes, which is constantly flicked open and closed (1R). Believe it or not, this white is often the first thing noticed on a Hooded deep in the brush. Imm females have no black at all on head (4L+R, 5R), but still have dusky lores. Loud flat chip is distinctive and given often. 

2R, 3L by BH
4L+R by EH

   
   
   

American Redstart (Setophaga ruticilla)

A very active warbler, constantly chasing flying insects. Males unmistakable, top row and 2L. Females and imm males usually impossible to separate except in spring when most first spring males have black lores and sometimes scattered black feathers in throat or chest also, and often the uppertail (2R, 3L+R, 4L). 4R is an adult female in spring. Those with orange patches instead of yellow may be males or older females. Note in 7L that from underneath the tail pattern resembles Magnolia with dark tip and pale base, but always colored and the tail is frequently fanned.

5L, 7L by BZ

   

Kirtland's Warbler (Setophaga kirtlandii)

Large grayish warbler with yellow underparts except white u/t covs, weak flank streaking and white eye arcs. Breeds only in central MI and winters in Bahamas, rarely seen during migration. 1R is imm female in Bahamas. Almost all individuals are wearing leg bands.

1L by EHar, 1R by TH

   
   
   
   

Cape May Warbler (Setophaga tigrina)

Adults are pretty easy in both seasons, with a yellow face, throat, and breast sometimes going into belly. In adults, always some amount of thin black streaking in flanks and maybe chest. Adult males have chestnut cheeks in spring, sometimes in fall, and large white upper wingbar. Adult females in spring have brownish streaking not black (3R). All ages and sexes have some amount of yellow or green in uppertail (6R, 7R) and a thin short, slightly downcurved bill (looks more like a Vermivora bill). In pale or dull example, the face has an indistinct border going into the throat (7L, 8L). Dull Pine Warblers always have a clean line separating dark cheek from pale throat (and a much larger bill). The underpart streaks can become gray and in some cases almost disappear in imm fall females. Note in all ages the primaries have green edges, this can be a useful mark in one of the really dull ones. Note typical white tail spots (8R). All birds with a date of 02-28 or 03-01 are from the Dominican Republic and are starting to molt into spring (alternate) plumage. Note 11L image shows bird feeding on bottlebrush (Cuba), a feature it also shares with Vermivora species.

1L by EH
All other bordered images by BZ
 

 
   
   
   

Cerulean Warbler (Setophaga cerulea)

Males in spring easy with cerulean blue upperparts, streaking and necklace, clean white underparts (1L+R, 2L+R, 3L). Females in spring greenish-blue, but roughly same pattern as males without much streaking (4L+R). In fall, non-adult males can be greenish or greenish-blue with white, whitish or yellowish underparts. All ages and sexes have long undertail coverts on a short tail (5L, 7R), no streaking on the back (5R) except adult males (7L), and the pale color of the throat and face is always broken by the darker color of the cheek patch connecting to the back (4L+R, 5R). Compare with Blackburnian. 5R is an excellent example of a typical fall imm female.

1R by EH
3L by DP
5R by JF
 

   

Northern Parula (Setophaga americana)

Always a small, inquisitive warbler with yellow throat, green area on back (2L+R), two white wingbars and short tail. Split white eye ring (crescents). Adult male is a deeper blue (1L+R). Imm male in spring is lighter blue, less red in throat, and fainter eye crescents (2L+R). 3R is probably adult female. 4L+R is fall adult male. 5L+R are fall females.

1L by JF, 6L by EH

 

Magnolia Warbler (Setophaga magnolia)

Bright yellow with black streaks and black facial markings in spring (1-2L+R), can be very dull in fall. Very difficult to sex in spring, males usually have thick black streaking, black face mask, gray crown, and black upper back. Females and imm spring males very similar (3,4,5L). 5R is spring adult female, but almost unstreaked. All ages, all plumages, have white areas at base of tail with black at tip when viewed from below (1+7L). Can sometimes be seen from above. Unique among warblers but beware American Redstart tail pattern. Even the dullest fall birds have a gray head with a complete white eyering, yellow breast and belly, adults usually have some streaking (6R, 7L) but may have little or none (8L+R), white wingbars, and often have a gray necklace (8R). This is another species with a yellow or yellowish rump, very yellow in adults (3+4R). A couple winter plumaged birds from Cuba at 9L+R.

6R by BZ
7R by JF

   

Bay-breasted Warbler (Setophaga castanea)

Males easy to identify in spring (top 5), but very difficult in fall when similar to Blackpoll. Note flank pattern in spring (3R), approximates flank pattern in fall for many individuals (compare 5R). Adult females can be very dull in spring (next 6 images).

 Features to check in fall:
-a large slow-moving warbler with a large bill
-pale face without eyeline
-usually no streaking
-usually some trace of bay or buff on flanks
-dark legs and feet

For the fall birds, starting with new numbers: Note in 1R and 2L+R (all the same bird) and 3R the pattern of buff going into the undertail coverts. In 2L+R the flanks are very pale but still a wash of buff, and dark feet to eliminate Blackpoll. This is a tough one though if you didn't get a good look. Note that 2L and 2R are the same bird, so beware one quick look that appears to have streaking.
Note in 4L some fall birds can have fairly yellow faces.

Fall 3L by BZ
Fall 4L by EHar
 

Fall birds below:
   
   
   

Blackburnian Warbler (Setophaga fusca)

Adult male is stunning with glowing orange throat, face, and crown, black pattern across cheek, large white upper wing bar, and white underparts (1+2L+R). Imm males have less black streaking. Adult female is similar but black replaced by brown and orange may be duller (4L+R, 5L, 6L+R). Immatures are duller, usually somewhat orange in male, yellow to faded yellow in female. See discussion under very similar imm female Cerulean, but note that all Blackburnians have black streaks on the back and the dark cheek patch is usually separated from the dark back by at least a small amount of the throat and supercilium color wrapping around the cheek. If the cheek and back connected, usually only by a point..

4L by EHar
5R by BZ

   

Yellow Warbler (Setophaga petechia)

Almost always a completely yellow warbler with a large dark eye in an unmarked face. Males are top four, plus first spring male at 3L. Spring male has red breast and side streaks (1L,2L) and these streaks can sometimes be seen in fall but much faded. Note that the amount of streaking is variable.  Smaller or almost no streaks in adult female (3R, 4L). 4R is fall adult female. 5R is first spring female, 6L+R is fall immature female. Can be very pale and grayish in some very dull fall immature females (7L+R). 8L is Golden type from Cuba, imm female... very very dull. Note all yellow tail with no white (5L), and only warbler with yellow tail spots from below. More Goldens from Cuba rows 10 and 11, and two from Antigua row 9.

3R by DV
4L by JF
7L+R by EH
 

 

Chestnut-sided Warbler (Setophaga pensylvanica)

Male in spring unmistakable with yellow crown, gleaming white underparts except for chestnut along flanks, and black pattern on face (1L+R, 2L+R). Note amount of chestnut streaking is very variable. Females in spring similar but crown is yellowish-green, and usually less chestnut but can't sex just based on amount of chestnut (4R, 5L+R, 6L). Both sexes change completely for fall into greenish-gold upperparts, white underparts, and white eyering (6R+7L). Frequently cocks tail. Can be mistaken for Ruby-crowned Kinglets in fall.

6R by JF

 
   
   

Blackpoll Warbler (Setophaga striata)

Top 5 birds all spring, male 1L+R, 2L.
2R and 3L female.

In fall, all other images, very similar to Bay-breasted. Check these features then:
-pale face with fairly obvious eyeline
-some streaks on breast
-white undertail coverts
-yellow-olive upperparts
-pale feet and often pale legs also
-smaller bill than Bay-breasted

You really need to try to get all these field marks to separate them in fall, so try not to rely on just one or two marks. Note in 5L and 5R the eye line is variable in size and darkness.

3L by BH

   

Black-throated Blue Warbler (Setophaga caerulescens)

Male easy to identify with blue upperparts (may have some black on back), black throat and flanks, and very white underparts including under the tail (upper 2 images). Note that first spring males like 1R may have much less black in the flanks. All the rest of these are females, which are mostly green above, and yellow-green below into undertail area, with typically a thin supercilium separating the green crown from the green cheek, going into the pale throat. Note that some of the examples shown here are lacking some of these features, so look for all of them and not just one or two. The adult female in 2L+R is unusually blue. Fall females may be very dull or very yellow underneath... (check dates on photos). Almost all ages and sexes except some imm fall females have a small white patch at base of primaries. Without that white patch (usually first fall female only) these females may be confused with Orange-crowned Warbler, but the face pattern will separate all examples of each through a combination of marks. Call note is a dry "tik" very similar to Dark-eyed Junco.


3R, 6L by BZ

 
   
   

Palm Warbler (Setophaga palmarum) Western on left, Eastern on right.

A very common fall mirgant and fairly common winter resident. Fairly bright in spring with chestnut cap, yellow supercilium, yellow throat and undertail coverts, some streaking, and tail-bobbing behavior as they feed on or close to the ground. Can be seen in trees also! In fall, all are easy to identify by faded crown, some streaking, yellow undertail coverts, and behavior. Two subspecies: S.p.palmarum, or "Western" Palm, more common in GA especially closer to coast, at most has yellow highlights in chest in spring (1L) and always duller than S.p.hypochrysea, called "Yellow" or "Eastern" Palm, which even in winter has yellow throughout chest and in spring has bright reddish streaks. Yellow Palm occurs here in lower numbers, and usually well inland. They arrive later in fall than Western and leave earlier in spring. Note in 4R, 6L and 6R Palms have dull greenish or yellowish rumps also. 7L and 8L are pretty unmarked examples of an imm. 8L is well into spring, and it's surprising it's fairly well chestnut in the cap without much in the way of streaking. Can resemble a dull Cape May female but note strong supercilium and yellow u/t coverts. In flight, you usually see either large white corners to the tail feathers or large areas of white the length of the tail (10L).


1L by DV
3R, 6L, 8R by EH
 

   

Pine Warbler (Setophaga pinus)

A very common large bulky warbler. Adult male (1L, 2L+R, 3L) has very yellow throat and breast, usually a yellow supercilium and yellow eye crescents. See comments on Yellow-throated Vireo at 1R below. Variable amounts of side of throat/chest streaking. White wingbars, and white undertail coverts. All Pine Warblers have a fairly large bill, at least faded white wingbars, and undertail coverts the same color as the belly, usually white or off-white. Even on birds with pale throats (some females and immatures), whether pale yellow or pale white, the dark cheek patch typically has a clean straight border with the cheek (unlike really pale Cape May, which can be similar). However, in fall, the cheek patch can be suffused with gray and the throat border may be less clean (3L, 4L). Beware some female spring Pines like 7R and 8L+R, which may look more like weird vireos than Pines.

NOTE: The bird at 1R is a Yellow-throated Vireo, which is probably the bird most often mis-identified as a Pine Warbler (or vice-versa). Note the vireo-like bill, bright white underparts, yellow in throat not as far down as in Pine, and very distinct and obvious spectacles.

 

3R by JF

 

Yellow-rumped Warbler (Setophaga coronata)

Myrtle subspecies S.c.coronata

Easy in spring plumage with black cheek, black streaking and gray upperparts (1L+R). All of the rest of the shots here are of winter  plumage, which is mostly brown, usually with some streaking below. Always has a yellow rump and almost always yellow spots on the side of the breast at the front of the wing. Can have white eyering or eye arcs, but always has a pale supercilium, although the supercilium can be very pale and indistinct as in several of these shots. White spots on underside of tail. Note the variation in these shots, with some birds showing little yellow at the sides of the breast (see 6R, 7R, 9R), and rarely almost without streaking (9L, probably first fall female).

1L, 2L, 4R by JF
 


Yellow-rumped Warbler (Setophaga coronata)

Audubon's subspecies S.c.auduboni

Top 6 and 4L are spring males. 4R and 5L+R are females. The remaining three (6L+R and 7L) are winter plumaged. Note in all plumages and sexes lack of supercilium and yellow throat patch of different shape from Myrtle. All of these shots are from CA, but this species strays east occasionally in winter.

 
   

Yellow-throated Warbler (Setophaga dominica)

In the east, unlike any other warbler with yellow throat, jet black facial markings and black streaking on white underparts. Grace's Warbler out west similar. Separating two subspecies very difficult. Eastern/southeastern S.d.dominica typically has yellow lores and a longer bill, but may have white lores like northern/central S.d.albilora (4R, 5R). In most cases individuals with white lores have just a touch of yellow with a close look, but you can't always get a close look (4L, 5L).  Most albilora the yellow does not go all the way up to the chin.


4R by BH, 5R by NS, both S.d.albilora

 
   
   

Prairie Warbler (Setophaga discolor)

All individuals show variations on this common theme: Olive upperparts, greenish wings without real wingbars, yellow underparts with black or faded streaking, and a facial pattern that includes a semicircle of dark color under the eye. In adult males, the streaks are very black, as is the face pattern (1L). There is usually a yellow supercilium also in all ages. In immature birds of both sexes, there are white eye arcs around the eye (4L+R). In really dull imms, there can be virtually no streaks below, and the face pattern is very subdued (5R), but there is always this gray semicircle of color under the eye to separate them from dull Magnolias (along with wingbars and tail pattern on Mag). This example is unusually dull. Dully marked females may have little side streaking or facial pattern, but they also show this semicircle under the eye (2L is an adult female). Imms with black in the cheek or along the sides are probably imm males (5L)

1L by GL


Black-throated Green Warbler (Setophaga virens)

Always has a yellow face with green outlined cheek patch (may be less obvious in imm), green back, and white underparts with some amount of black streaking and a small yellow area at the vent. Some are hard to age or sex, but in general adult males have full dark throats (1+2L+R). Can be incomplete up in the chin area (2L) but is always black across the whole throat somewhere and black flanks variable (this one likely imm male). As white tips over the black wear off the whole throat becomes gray (4L+R). Adult females generally have black spots at the side of the throat (3R, 7L), but some may have black across the throat and cannot be told with certainty from imm males. Imm females are the least marked in the throat, and may have only a few weak streaks along the side and little color in the throat (7R, 8L+R). A few have no black or streaks at all. Has a distinct chip note, moderately sharp, which it gives often while feeding.

8L by JF
8R by BZ

   

CARDELLINA: Two former members of Wilsonia move to this mostly tropical genus.


Canada Warbler (Cardellina canadensis)

Males on left and females on right. Male has yellow underparts with black necklace, side of throat and forehead, yellow lores into yellow spectacles. Extent of black necklace highly variable, 6L is probably first spring male. Has white undertail coverts but no white in tail. Female similar pattern to male but less of everything, and black replaced by gray. 1R probably adult female, 4R is first spring female. Also a skulker.

1R by RH, 5R by JF

 

Wilson's Warbler (Cardellina pusilla)

Smaller and much more slender than Hooded, otherwise similar overall except no white in tail, not usually flicked, and yellow lores. Smaller bill than Hooded also. Full black cap is mostly adult male (1L+R. 2L+R), females with normally partial cap (3L+R), imm females with no black in cap (3R).

1L by PH
1R by DV
3L by EHar, 3R by DP


ICTERIA: Only one member, a huge and un-warblerlike species. Doesn't really belong in Parulidae, but until a better home is found it's still here.

Yellow-breasted Chat (Icteria virens)

Large and loud in spring, skulky and very hard to find in fall. Gray cheek with black lores, white supercilium and lower border to cheek. No wingbars. Song is a cacophony of unrelated noises, may be given during display flight.

1L by EH, 1R by BZ, 2L by RH

 
   

   
   
   

Recommended books for more info:

Warblers by Dunn and Garrett, simply the oracle on everything "warbler"
any Sibley guide for excellent depictions including in flight
Warblers of the Americas by Curson et al. Also very good, lots of info

Giff's Home Page Birds Dragonflies Nature

This site will always be upgrading to better photos when I can get them...

Last updated 19 Apr 2012... update with about 4 new images of Worm-eating.

Hit CounterHits since 11 Sept 2003

Please email me with any comments or questions: giffbeaton@mindspring.com

All photographs copyright 2012 by Giff Beaton unless otherwise noted. Their
presence on this page in no way implies consent to use them for any purpose
without contacting me or the respective photographer for permission.