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Help develop a Bird ID tool!

Pine Warbler

Setophaga pinus ORDER: PASSERIFORMES FAMILY: PARULIDAE

IUCN Conservation Status: Least Concern

A bird true to its name, the Pine Warbler is common in many eastern pine forests and is rarely seen away from pines. These yellowish warblers are hard to spot as they move along high branches to prod clumps of needles with their sturdy bills. If you don’t see them, listen for their steady, musical trill, which sounds very like a Chipping Sparrow or Dark-eyed Junco, which are also common piney-woods sounds through much of the year.

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Keys to identification Help

Warblers
Warblers
Typical Voice
  • Size & Shape

    Pine Warblers are hefty, long-tailed warblers with stout bills. The tip of the tail usually appears to have a central notch.

  • Color Pattern

    Pine Warblers are yellowish birds with olive backs, whitish bellies, and two prominent white wingbars on gray wings. Adult males are the brightest; females and immatures are more subdued and can even appear gray-brown. Overall, Pine Warblers don’t show the strong patterns of other warblers, but the face can look weakly “spectacled,” with a pale eyering connected to a pale stripe in front of the eye.

  • Behavior

    Pine Warblers are often difficult to see as they usually stay high up in pines. Insects make up most of their diet, but they also eat fruits and seeds. They occasionally forage on the ground or come to feeders. Males sing even, rich trills from the tops of pines.

  • Habitat

    Pine Warblers are well named—they spend most of their time in pine trees. This can be in pine forests or in deciduous woods with pine mixed in. They are found in similar habitats in winter, but also visit backyards and come to bird feeders to eat seeds and suet.

Range Map Help

Pine Warbler Range Map
View dynamic map of eBird sightings

Field MarksHelp

  • Male

    Pine Warbler

    Male
    • Stocky, long-tailed warbler
    • Males show bright yellow face and breast, olive-green upperparts
    • Two white wing-bars
    • Stout bill
    • © Dawn Vornholt, Georgia, December 2009
  • Female/juvenile

    Pine Warbler

    Female/juvenile
    • Stocky warbler with thick bill
    • Long tail
    • Females/juveniles dull gray-olive overall, brighter on throat and breast
    • Two white wing-bars
    • © Dawn Vornholt, Atlanta, Georgia, December 2010
  • Male

    Pine Warbler

    Male
    • Stocky warbler with thick bill
    • Males show bright yellow on throat and breast, duller olive on head and back
    • Two white wing-bars
    • © John Rowe, New Hampshire, April 2011
  • Female/juvenile

    Pine Warbler

    Female/juvenile
    • Stocky, long-tailed warbler
    • Thick bill
    • Females/juveniles range from dull gray-brown to brighter yellow/olive overall
    • Sometimes visits suet feeders in winter
    • © Christopher L. Wood, New York, February 2007
  • Male

    Pine Warbler

    Male
    • Stocky for a warbler and long-tailed
    • Thick bill
    • Mostly yellow-olive, brightest on throat and breast
    • Gray wings and tail with two white wing-bars
    • © Debbie Mckenzie, Alabama, September 2008

Similar Species

Similar Species

Yellow-throated Vireos have a much thicker bill than Pine Warblers, and a bolder “spectacled” pattern created by the yellow eyering and stripe in front of the eye. In fall, many warbler species lose their bold markings and can be confused with Pine Warblers—it helps to notice the Pine Warbler’s bill shape, which is thicker than most other warblers’ bills. Pine Warbler is also the dullest and plainest warbler of the lot. Fall Blackpoll Warblers usually show dusky streaks on the back and flanks. Bay-breasted Warblers usually show a buff or chestnut wash on the flanks and have shorter tails than Pine Warblers. Immature Cape May Warblers can look like immature Pine Warblers, but are more streaked on the breast, with less prominent wingbars and a much thinner bill. The Yellow Warbler is a very common species in the Pine Warbler’s range. It is a brighter, much more uniform yellow and does not show wingbars or white on the belly. Yellow Warblers don’t tend to perch high in pine trees, as Pine Warblers do.

Backyard Tips

The only warbler that regularly eats seeds, the Pine Warbler will eat millet, cracked corn, sunflower seed, peanuts, and suet from elevated feeders in winter. It may also eat fruits from bushes and vines, like bayberry, flowering dogwood, grape, sumac, persimmon, and Virginia creeper. Find out more about what this bird likes to eat and what feeder is best by using the Project FeederWatch Common Feeder Birds bird list.

Find This Bird

The best way to find Pine Warblers is to narrow them down by habitat and voice. Head for a pine forest in the eastern United States (check a range map for specifics), and then listen for a clear, steady, trilling song. Chipping Sparrows and Dark-eyed Juncos sound very similar and can occur in the same habitats, so be aware you might find these birds instead. Pine Warblers tend to stay high in pines and can be obscured by tufts of needles, but a bit of patience is likely to be rewarded.

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