Living Bird Magazine
Golden-winged WarblerVermivora chrysoptera
- ORDER: Passeriformes
- FAMILY: Parulidae
A boldly marked warbler with a color pattern all its own, Golden-winged Warblers are slim, silvery gray birds with golden flashes on the head and wings. They breed in wet, shrubby tangles of the Upper Midwest and Appalachians, and spend winters in open woodlands and shade-coffee plantations. They have suffered severe population declines in the last half-century. They often hybridize with Blue-winged Warblers, producing a range of distinctive forms.More ID Info
Find This Bird
Your best bet for spotting this increasingly rare species is to visit a shrubby, open area where there are known breeding birds. (Minnesota is the stronghold of the remaining Golden-winged Warbler population.) Try to visit during May and June. Males are very vocal and active then; they make long, conspicuous flights, perching near the top of a sapling to sing boldly. Look for males and females hopping about in shrubs in search of food (females forage closer to the ground). Males are fairly responsive to pishing, which may encourage a Golden-winged Warbler to pop just its face out of protective cover. On migration in late April and early May, look for these uncommon migrants at woodlots and other migrant traps that draw in large numbers of other migratory songbirds.
- Reinita Alidorada (Spanish)
- Paruline à ailes dorées (French)
- Cool Facts
- Minnesota has the highest remaining density of Golden-winged Warblers, with about half the global population.
- Recent work with radio-transmitters has expanded our knowledge of Golden-winged Warbler habitat. The birds breed in shrubby, tangled thickets and other “early successional” habitats. But after the chicks fledge, the families move to mature forest habitats to continue raising their young.
- Golden-winged Warblers often hybridize with the closely related Blue-winged Warbler. The Blue-winged Warbler has been expanding its range, and hybridization has been one element in the sharp decline of Golden-winged Warblers.
- Hybrids tend to develop into one of two distinctive plumages, which early naturalists at first thought were separate species: "Brewster's Warbler” (which looks like a Blue-winged Warbler with a white chest), and "Lawrence's Warbler" (which looks like an all-yellow Golden-winged Warbler).
- Hybrids do not sing intermediate songs but sing either normal Blue-winged Warbler or Golden-winged Warbler songs. Some birds sing both. Occasionally pure-looking parental types sing the "wrong" song.
- Golden-winged parents may use trickery to protect their young from predators. Adults feeding nestlings have been observed repeatedly carrying food down other plant stems away from the next, possibly as a decoy, when they detected humans nearby.
- Golden-winged Warblers have suffered one of the steepest population declines of any songbird species in the past 45 years, but the Cornell Lab and partners in the Golden-winged Warbler Working Group have a conservation plan to stop the decline and grow the population 50% by the year 2050.
- The oldest known Golden-winged Warbler was a male, and at least 9 years old when he was recaught and rereleased at a banding station in Ontario.