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Blackpoll Warbler Life History


Habitat ForestsBlackpoll Warblers breed in black spruce and tamarack forests in Canada's boreal forests. In western Canada, they also use thickets of spruce, alder, and willow. In northern New England they breed in wet areas with evergreen trees. During migration they stop over in scrubby thickets and mature evergreen and deciduous forests. On their wintering grounds east of the Andes in South America, they occur in forest edges and second-growth forests below 10,000 feet. Back to top


Food InsectsBlackpoll Warblers eat mainly spiders and insects such as caterpillars, gnats, lice, ants, beetles, mosquitoes, and flies. They tend to forage at eye level and above, picking insects off the branches of evergreen and deciduous trees and shrubs. During fall migration they also eat fruit including honeysuckle, pokeberry, and yew. Back to top


Nest Placement

Nest TreeThe female moves among spruce and fir trees looking for a place to nest. She tries out different spots as if she were building a nest, but without adding any nesting material. The spot she chooses is usually near the trunk of a spruce or fir tree. Nest height ranges from 0.5–30 feet above the ground.

Nest Description

The female builds a cup-shaped nest out of twigs and lichen. She shapes the inner cup with her body, twisting from side to side until the finer grasses and hair used to line the nest are in place. It takes her about 3–4 days to complete a nest. The outside of the nest is about 4 inches across and 2.5 inches tall. The inner cup is about 2 inches across and 1 inch deep.

Nesting Facts

Clutch Size:3-5 eggs
Number of Broods:1-2 broods
Egg Length:0.7-0.8 in (1.7-2 cm)
Egg Width:0.5-0.6 in (1.2-1.5 cm)
Incubation Period:11-12 days
Nestling Period:8-10 days
Egg Description:Whitish to pale green with brown and purplish blotches around the larger end.
Condition at Hatching:Naked and helpless with closed eyes.
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Behavior Foliage GleanerBlackpoll Warblers move slowly along branches in evergreen trees looking for insects. They tend to forage primarily from eye level up to the canopy in the interior branches of evergreen trees, especially during the summer in their northern range. Males start singing during spring migration and continue to sing from high perches at all hours of the day on the breeding grounds. In the spring, males arrive north before females and almost immediately start setting up their territories. Females arrive 2–3 days later, forming a pair with a male soon after. Males follow females closely while they are building the nest and laying eggs. Males and females maintain their bond typically only during the breeding season, but some return to breed with the same mates in the following year. Although mostly monogamous some males breed with more than one female. During the breeding season they are generally solitary, but join mixed-species flocks during the nonbreeding season. Back to top


Conservation Common Bird in Steep DeclineBlackpoll Warblers are numerous throughout their range, but their numbers have declined severely in recent decades. Much of their far-northern breeding range lies outside of the area covered by the North American Breeding Bird Survey, making it hard to estimate population trends precisely. Nevertheless, the NABBS records suggest an extreme decline of nearly 5% per year from 1966–2015, resulting in a cumulative decline of 92% during that time period. Partners in Flight estimates a global breeding population of 60 million with 76% breeding in Canada, and 24% in the U.S. The species rates an 11 out of 20 on the Continental Concern Score. Blackpoll Warbler are not on the 2016 State of North America's Birds' Watch List, but the 2014 State of the Birds Report lists the species as a Common Bird in Steep Decline, indicating that populations have declined by more than 50% in the last 40 years. Partners in Flight estimates that if current trends continue, an additional 50% of the Blackpoll Warbler population will be lost in as little as 16 years. Although the remote boreal forest regions where Blackpoll Warblers breed are still relatively intact, logging and extractive industries are rapidly expanding and threatened warbler habitat. More than 180 million acres of the boreal forest has been impacted by extractive industries. In the long-term the boreal forest is also vulnerable to climate change. The epic transoceanic journey to the wintering grounds is risky due to bad weather that can make passage difficult, urban lights that confuse migrating birds, and lighted towers. In one day in Florida 586 Blackpolls died after striking a tower. On the wintering grounds these birds are vulnerable to habitat loss. Back to top

Backyard Tips

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.

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Curson, J., D. Quinn, and D. Beadle (1994) Warblers of the Americas: an Identification Guide. Houghton Mifflin Company, New York, NY, USA.

DeLuca, William, Rebecca Holberton, Pamela D. Hunt and Bonita C. Eliason. (2013). Blackpoll Warbler (Setophaga striata), version 2.0. In The Birds of North America (P. G. Rodewald, editor). Cornell Lab of Ornithology, Ithaca, New York, USA.

Dunne, P. (2006). Pete Dunne's essential field guide companion. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, New York, USA.

Lutmerding, J. A. and A. S. Love. (2020). Longevity records of North American birds. Version 2020. Patuxent Wildlife Research Center, Bird Banding Laboratory 2020.

North American Bird Conservation Initiative. (2014). The State of the Birds 2014 Report. US Department of Interior, Washington, DC, USA.

Partners in Flight (2017). Avian Conservation Assessment Database. 2017.

Sauer, J. R., D. K. Niven, J. E. Hines, D. J. Ziolkowski Jr., K. L. Pardieck, J. E. Fallon, and W. A. Link (2017). The North American Breeding Bird Survey, Results and Analysis 1966–2015. Version 2.07.2017. USGS Patuxent Wildlife Research Center, Laurel, MD, USA.

Sibley, D. A. (2014). The Sibley Guide to Birds, second edition. Alfred A. Knopf, New York, NY, USA.

Stephenson, T. and S. Whittle (2013). The Warbler Guide. Princeton University Press, New Jersey, USA.

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