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Help develop a Bird ID tool!

Magnolia Warbler

Setophaga magnolia ORDER: PASSERIFORMES FAMILY: PARULIDAE

IUCN Conservation Status: Least Concern

The Magnolia Warbler is a handsome and familiar warbler of the northern forests. Though it often forages conspicuously and close to the ground, we have relatively scant information on its nesting behavior.

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Appearance

Warblers
Warblers
Typical Voice

Adult Description

  • Small songbird.
  • Yellow chest and throat.
  • Black necklace and black stripes down sides.
  • White wingbars or large white patch on wings.
  • Gray crown.
  • Yellow rump.
  • Large white patch in black-tipped tail.

Male Description

Breeding (Alternate) Plumage: Black mask, white eyebrow stripe. Conspicuous black band across the upper breast, with heavy black streaks on the sides, wide white wing-panels, and a black back. Rump yellow.
Nonbreeding (Basic) Plumage: Duller with reduced streaking, two white wingbars, and greenish back. Lacks black face mask; face gray with white eyering.

Female Description

Breeding (Alternate) Plumage: Gray face, white eyebrow stripe, modest black streaks on the sides, and thin white wingbars.
Nonbreeding (Basic) Plumage: similar to nonbreeding male, with an olive-tinged crown and less streaking.

Immature Description

Similar to nonbreeding adult, but without black streaking on chest. Olive-gray crown and upperparts. Throat, breast and belly yellow, with pale gray band across upper chest. Narrow white wingbars.

Range Map Help

Magnolia Warbler Range Map
View dynamic map of eBird sightings

Field MarksHelp

  • Breeding male

    Magnolia Warbler

    Breeding male
    • Stocky, long-tailed warbler
    • Male distinctive with black "necklace" on chest
    • Black "mask" around eye contrasts with white eyebrow and gray crown
    • Distinctive white patch under tail with black tip
    • © Bill Thompson, Stetsontown, Maine, May 2011
  • Female/juvenile

    Magnolia Warbler

    Female/juvenile
    • Gray face with white eye-ring
    • Faint black streaks on flanks
    • Two white-wing bars
    • © Cameron Rognan, Ithaca, New York, August 2008
  • Breeding male

    Magnolia Warbler

    Breeding male
    • Compact, boldly patterned warbler
    • Black "necklace" extends down flanks
    • Black patch on face with white eyebrow above and pale gray crown
    • Bold white patch on wing contrasts with black back
    • © Cody Conway, Sabine Pass, Texas, April 2011
  • Female/juvenile

    Magnolia Warbler

    Female/juvenile
    • Pale gray above with white eye-ring
    • Bright yellow below with faint, dark streaks on flanks
    • Two white wing-bars
    • © Ken Phenicle Jr., Fremont, California, October 2012

Similar Species

  • Female/juvenile

    American Redstart

    Female/juvenile
    • Superficially similar to Magnolia Warbler but with no yellow on breast or belly
    • No streaking on flanks
    • Orange or yellow patch under tail instead of white
    • © Kelly Colgan Azar, Cape May, New Jersey, September 2010
  • Male

    Canada Warbler

    Male
    • Larger and more elongated than Magnolia Warbler
    • Bold yellow "spectacles"
    • Dense black streaks on breast with none extending down to flanks
    • Solid gray back with no wing-bars
    • © Christopher Wood, Aitkin County, Minnesota, June 2010
  •  

    Nashville Warbler

     
    • Similar to juvenile Magnolia Warbler, but lacks wing-bars
    • No streaking on flanks
    • Thin, sharply-pointed bill
    • © G.S. Vijimeena, California, December 2009
  • Nonbreeding adult/first-winter

    Cape May Warbler

    Nonbreeding adult/first-winter
    • Thinner and more extensive streaks on breast and flanks
    • Dull yellow nape and rump
    • Thinner, more sharply-pointed bill
    • © Jeremiah Trimble, Maine, September 2012

Similar Species

  • Tail pattern is distinctive. Only American Redstart has a similar "T"- shaped pattern, and it has yellow or orange, not white, in the tail, and lacks yellow chest or streaks.
  • Cape May Warbler has thinner streaks on chest, reddish, not black, in the face, and a duller yellow rump.
  • Prairie Warbler has green back and lacks black face mask.
  • Canada Warbler has short black streaks on chest only, is all gray on back, and lacks wingbars.
  • Nashville Warbler similar to immature, but lacks wingbars and tail pattern.