Black-and-White Warbler

Mniotilta varia
Range Map

Superficially similar to Blackpoll and Black-Throated Gray Warblers, the Black-and-White Warbler’s foraging behavior is more like that of a nuthatch. While we see most warblers foraging among the leaves and flowers in the tree canopies, this bird makes its living looking for invertebrate prey hidden in the folds of tree bark.

Rare to uncommon in the western USA, this bird’s expected range is in eastern USA and Canada. Unlike most of its warbler cousins, the Black-and-White Warbler’s genus (Mniotilta) survived the sweeping reclassifications of 2011.

Until I traveled to Texas, both of my meetings with this species were in my Southern California yard. These birds are a rarity on the West Coast, and had it not been for the pictures I took, I might have been accused by local birding experts of mis-identifying this warbler (I’ve had that unpleasant experience on more than a few occasions). 

In Texas, the meetings I enjoyed were many; they were almost commonplace in the early spring migration. South Texas and its Gulf Coast zone hosts Black-and-White Warblers through winter, and I found them to be common in many of the places I birded when I returned there early in 2021.

Today, science regards the Black-and-White Warbler as monotypic (i.e. no subspecies).

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