Tennessee Warbler

Leiothlypis peregrina
Range Map

The Tennessee Warbler breeds in Canada and spends winter in central and northern South America. Rarely seen west of the Rocky Mountains, its 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. During winter, these birds retreat to southern Mexico, Central and northern South America.

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.

This bird sometimes gets 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 are yellow. Other birds sometimes confused with the Tennessee Warbler 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. 

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

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