Living Bird Magazine
Blackpoll WarblerSetophaga striata
- ORDER: Passeriformes
- FAMILY: Parulidae
The sharply marked Blackpoll Warbler is nature’s hearing test, with a high-pitched, almost inaudible song that floats through the boreal forests of Canada. This long-distance athlete weighs less than half an ounce yet makes the longest overwater journey of any songbird—nearly 1,800 miles nonstop over the Atlantic Ocean to its wintering grounds. In the fall, this black-and-white warbler molts into yellow-green plumage and loses its black cap. Although still numerous, it has lost an estimated 88% of its population in the last 40 years.More ID Info
Find This Bird
These birds breed so far north that the best times for most people to see them are in spring and fall, as they migrate through North America. Spring is arguably the best time—males' colors and patterns are crisp and sharp, and the birds will be traveling overland and singing as they move north. Despite their affinity for evergreen trees on the breeding grounds they tend to forage in deciduous trees and shrubs during migration. Listen intently for their high-pitched song, as it is sometimes easy to overlook. You can also spot Blackpoll Warblers during fall migration, but they take a different route than in spring and are unlikely to be seen south of North Carolina. They look much different in fall and rarely sing—but they are much more numerous since all the young of the year are on their way south in addition to the adults. Look for them in mixed flocks of migrating warblers.
- Reinita Estriada (Spanish)
- Paruline rayée (French)
Create a bird friendly backyard to provide foraging habitat for migrating Blackpoll Warblers and other birds. Head on over to Habitat Network to learn more about birdscaping your backyard.
- Cool Facts
- The song of the Blackpoll Warbler will put your hearing to the test. Most birds sing at a frequency between 1,000 Hz and 8,000 Hz, but the Blackpoll’s song can reach 10,000 Hz, even higher than the song of a Brown Creeper.
- Blackpoll Warblers are long-distance athletes and they hold the record for the longest overwater flight for a songbird. During the fall, these half-ounce warblers fly nonstop for up to 3 days, covering on average over 1,800 miles over the Atlantic Ocean to reach their wintering grounds in Puerto Rico, the Lesser Antilles, and northern South America. Such a journey requires that they eat enough before they leave to double their body mass.
- Food and endurance is not all it takes for the Blackpoll Warbler to complete its epic journey, they also take advantage of the prevailing winds following cold fronts to give them a boost as they head south.
- Blackpoll Warblers fly incredible distances—especially the ones that nest in western Canada, farthest from the wintering grounds. Those birds tend to have longer wings than those nesting in eastern Canada. Longer wings may mean that they can fly faster or more efficiently to reach their distant wintering grounds.
- Children often learn their surroundings by exploring, and young Blackpoll Warblers may do the same thing. Researchers found that before young Blackpoll Warblers headed south they spent time exploring the neighborhood perhaps to help them find a territory the following summer.
- The oldest recorded Blackpoll Warbler was a male, and at least 8 years, 1 month old, when he was recaptured and rereleased during banding operations in Alaska in 2006. He had been banded in the same state in 1999.