Blackburnian Warbler

Setophaga fusca

During my spring 2021 vigil on South Padre Island, there were certain birds that would show up that held a “celebrity status” among the more experienced birders. The Blackburnian Warbler was one such bird. Once I saw a bright male for myself, I understood why. The brilliant orange color on its head and chest was as breathtaking as any oriole. No other warbler passing through south Texas was like it.

Blackburnian Warblers enjoy similar summer habitats and diets as Cape May, Bay-Breasted, and Blackpoll Warblers. One strategy employed by these birds is how they locate their nests to minimize conflicts. Blackpoll Warblers nest very low (about 5 feet) in the tree, and Bay-Breasted higher (about 16 feet), while Cape May and Blackburnian Warblers nest at 40 to 80 feet.

Summers find these warblers in Canada’s lower elevation forests from eastern Saskatchewan to the Maritime Provinces and northern New England (USA) and the Appalachian Range. In winter they retreat to northern South America and the Andes south to Peru.

Modern science does not recognise any subspecies of Blackburnian Warblers (i.e. they are monotypic).

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