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Help develop a Bird ID tool!

Orange-crowned Warbler

Oreothlypis celata ORDER: PASSERIFORMES FAMILY: PARULIDAE

IUCN Conservation Status: Least Concern

Orange-crowned Warblers aren’t the most dazzling birds in their family, but they’re a useful one to learn. These grayish to olive-green birds vary in color geographically and have few bold markings. There’s rarely any sign of an orange crown. They might have you scratching your head until you recognize their slim shape, sharply pointed bill, and warmer yellow under the tail. These busy birds forage low in shrubs, and are one of the few warblers that's more common in the West than the East.

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Keys to identification Help

Warblers
Warblers
Typical Voice
  • Size & Shape

    Orange-crowned Warblers are small songbirds. Compared with other warblers, they have noticeably thin, sharply pointed bills. They have short wings and short, square tails.

  • Color Pattern

    Orange-crowned Warblers are fairly plain yellowish or olive—they are more yellow on the Pacific coast and grayer, particularly on the head, farther east. They have a thin white or yellow stripe over the eye, a blackish line through the eye, and a pale partial eyering. The namesake orange crown patch is rarely seen. The undertail coverts are bright yellow and are often the brightest part of the plumage.

  • Behavior

    Orange-crowned Warblers forage in dense shrubbery and low trees. They tend to be quiet and unobtrusive, although their low foraging habits can help you spot them. They often give a high, faint contact call while foraging.

  • Habitat

    Orange-crowned Warblers breed in dense areas of deciduous shrubs, usually within or adjacent to forest. They can occur from low-elevation oak scrub to stunted forest near timberline. During migration you may find them in nearly any habitat, though they still show a preference for dense, low vegetation.

Range Map Help

Orange-crowned Warbler Range Map
View dynamic map of eBird sightings

Field MarksHelp

  •  

    Orange-crowned Warbler

     
    • Small warbler with sharply-pointed bill and relatively long tail
    • Yellow undertail coverts
    • Short, dark eye-line
    • © Bob Gunderson, Union City, California, October 2010
  •  

    Orange-crowned Warbler

     
    • Plumage is variable between gray, olive and yellow but always shows thin, sharply-pointed bill
    • Broken eye-ring
    • © Bill Thompson, Anchorage, Alaska, August 2010
  •  

    Orange-crowned Warbler

     
    • Short, dark eye-line
    • Yellow undertail coverts
    • Sharply pointed bill
    • © Kenneth Schneider, Miramar, Florida, December 2012
  •  

    Orange-crowned Warbler

     
    • Broken eye-ring
    • Yellow undertail coverts
    • Thin, pointed bill
    • © Bill Thompson, Anchorage, Alaska, October 2010

Similar Species

Similar Species

Immature Tennessee Warblers are easy to mistake for Orange-crowned Warblers but have undertail coverts that are white or pale yellow and always paler and duller than the chest. They also lack the white or yellow eye arcs (incomplete eyering) of Orange-crowned. Yellow Warblers are usually brighter yellow and have a thick, blunt bill and a blank face without an obviously contrasting superciliary or eyeline. Immature Common Yellowthroats lack the Orange-crowned Warbler’s black eyeline and have a longer, thicker, blunter bill. Virginia’s Warbler has an obvious white eyering, grayer plumage, and a longer tail than Orange-crowned Warbler. In Nashville Warblers the breast is unstreaked and it is at least as bright as the undertail coverts; they also show an obvious white eyering. Vireos move more methodically and have a bulkier shape than Orange-crowned Warblers, especially their larger heads and thicker, blunter bills. Hutton’s Vireo shows wing bars; Philadelphia Vireo tends to have unstreaked, brighter yellow underparts.

Regional Differences

Orange-crowned Warblers of the Pacific slope are quite bright, even yellowish, and can be readily confused with Yellow Warblers (see Similar Species). The stripe over the eye (superciliary) is always yellow, as are their underparts, and the blurry olive streaks contrast more strongly than in other forms of the species. In the Interior West, Orange-crowned Warblers usually have gray heads. Though some may have yellow-green heads, they still usually contrast fairly obviously with a brighter olive back. These birds may have white or yellow superciliaries. The largest subspecies, sordida, occurs only on the Channel Islands of California.

Backyard Tips

Orange-crowned Warblers sometimes visit feeders for suet, peanut butter, or sugar water.

Find This Bird

In the East, Orange-crowned Warblers are somewhat scarce, although you may find them by watching for them in late spring and late fall (primarily October) or throughout the winter in the southeastern US in low, dense habitats. Listen carefully for the high and sharp call note that the species gives frequently. In the West the species is common, often among the most abundant three warbler species on migration. On the breeding grounds listen for their rapidly trilled song. It’s similar to a Chipping Sparrow, but it descends in pitch at the end. Western birds migrate earlier than eastern birds in both spring and fall and use nearly any vegetated habitats.