Nashville Warbler

Leiothlypis ruficapilla
Range Map

Nashville warblers breed in open mixed woods and bog habitats in southern Canada and the northeastern and western United States of America. They build their cup-shaped nests on the ground under shrubs. Genetic researchers have convinced the scientific community that the old genus Vermivora was inaccurate and reclassified this bird in the genus Leiothlypis.

There are two recognised subspecies of Nashville Warbler:

  • L. r. ruficapilla, the nominate subspecies, breeds in the east across southern and southeast Canada. Alexander Wilson discovered it near Nashville (Tennessee) in 1811 (hence the name). Most spend winters in eastern Mexico and Central America, but a few stay in south Texas when not breeding.
  • L. r. ridgwayi breeds from southern British Columbia and southwest Alberta, south to central Idaho in the east and mountains of Oregon through northern California. They migrate to wintering grounds mainly in west Mexico, but some stay along the coast of California. In 1868, Robert Ridgway discovered this bird in Nevada, and called it the Calaveras Warbler.

The Nashville Warbler is another species I became familiar with while visiting the upper slopes of Santa Rosa Mountain in southern Riverside County (California). In 2016, while driving on the forestry roads over the Siskiyou Mountains of southern Oregon, I met these birds on their breeding grounds. My most recent encounters came while I attended the spring migration spectacle on South Padre Island in 2021.

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