Wilson’s Warbler

Cardellina pusilla
Range Map

The Wilson’s Warbler breeds across Canada and Alaska, from the Pacific to the Atlantic coasts and south through western Montana and northern Idaho, and the Pacific Northwest of the United States. They spend winters from central Mexico south through much of Central America. A few of these smallest of North America warblers may winter near the Texas and Louisiana gulf coasts.

These birds like to breed in open woods with dense understory. Sometimes they forage high in the canopy, but more often they look for insect prey in the lower parts of the trees and in shrubs nearer the ground.

Current taxonomists classify three subspecies of Wilson’s Warbler, but recent genetic studies may soon change this view to include perhaps six subspecies. The three subspecies presently in the books are:

  • C. p. pileolata breeds in Alaska, Yukon Territory (Canada), the Rocky Mountains, northeastern California, Nevada, Utah and northern New Mexico. They spend winters primarily from southwestern and central Mexico south to western Panama.
  • C. p. pusilla breeds in central and eastern Canada. They spend winters chiefly on the Atlantic slope of Central America, from central Tamaulipas south to northern Costa Rica. In mild winters, we may find some north to the southeastern United States.
  • C. p. chryseola breeds on the lowlands of the Pacific coast of southern British Columbia (Canada), south to southern California, and in the Sierra Nevada Mountains. They spend winters primarily in western Mexico, Baja California and Sonora, and south to Panama.

These birds are always a joy to see. I’ve met them in Alaska, the Yukon, northern and southern California, and even in my southern California yard. When I visited south Texas in the spring of 2021, I met birds migrating through the region on their long journey to Canada.

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