Living Bird Magazine
Instant ID help for 650+ North American birds.Try Merlin Bird ID
Among the dazzling cohort of spring warblers, the first Cape May Warbler to arrive is a balm: its mossy green back, tiger-striped breast, and chestnut cheek patch make it unlike any other warbler. During the breeding season, the species lives remote from most human observers, in northern spruce-fir forests, where its nesting success is tied to its chief food, the spruce budworm caterpillar. These unusual warblers have specially shaped tongues that allow them to sip nectar from tropical flowers in winter—and sometimes from hummingbird feeders.More ID Info
On breeding grounds, Cape May Warblers are locally common in spruce-fir forests, where they spend most of the day foraging high in the trees. Listen for males singing their high-pitched songs (be aware it’s quite similar to Bay-breasted Warbler’s song). During migration, the species is relatively common in the East, in many wooded habitats (and especially around planted spruces, in keeping with their summer habitat). It’s rare west of the Mississippi River. Most Cape May Warblers winter in the Caribbean, in lush habitats with plenty of insects and flowers.