Tennessee Warbler

Leiothlypis peregrina
Range Map

Tennessee Warblers breed in Canada, and spend their winters in southern Mexico, and in Central and northern South America. They are rarely seen west of the Rocky Mountains. Their normal migration route is through the eastern half of the USA. Their breeding habitat is coniferous or mixed woodland, especially spruce, where they can find their preferred prey, the destructive Spruce Budworm. These birds nest on the ground in a cup nest. 

Tennessee Warblers sometimes get confused with Orange-Crowned Warblers. One key identifying field mark is the under-tail coverts. Those on the Tennessee Warbler are white, while the Orange-Crowned’s are yellow. Other birds sometimes confused with them are the Black-Throated Blue Warbler and the Red-Eyed Vireo.

Despite its name, the Tennessee Warbler only appears in the state of Tennessee if it migrates through. My first meeting with this bird came near Grande Cache, Alberta (Canada) in 2005, while driving to Alaska. I didn’t meet this bird again until attending the spring migration of 2020 and 2021 on South Padre Island. There, they were a familiar sight. They became so commonplace, I often overlooked them to pursue other, less common species. My most recent encounters have been during my 2022 return to Canada tour, when I found plenty of them in those northern Boreal Forests.

In 2010, researchers changed this bird’s former genus (Vermivora) to Oreothlypis. Then in 2019, they changed it again to Leiothlypis. It seems like some scientists can’t seem to make up their minds about this bird.

Modern taxonomists do not recognise any subspecies of Tennessee Warbler (i.e. they are monotypic).

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