Living Bird Magazine
Mourning WarblerGeothlypis philadelphia
- ORDER: Passeriformes
- FAMILY: Parulidae
Clad in olive, gray, and yellow, with a jewel-like black chest patch in breeding males, Mourning Warblers are bright but hard-to-see birds of brushy areas. Among the most renowned skulkers of the warbler family, they are common but seldom seen, particularly during migration and winter, when they are quiet. Mourning Warblers breed in dense thickets of northern North America, often in areas created by fires, storms, or logging operations. Males sing a short, burry song.More ID Info
Find This Bird
Go looking for Mourning Warblers in late spring and early summer, when males sing loudly in the early morning. Listen for them in areas with dense, shrubby vegetation and few trees. Even while singing these birds often remain concealed—you may be able to coax one into view by making “pishing” sounds. Look for migrants also in dense habitats; they may sing during spring migration but are often quiet, making them hard to locate. The Mourning Warbler is among the latest of all spring migrants, and some arrive in nesting areas as late as early June.
- Reinita Plañidera (Spanish)
- Paruline triste (French)
- Cool Facts
- Mourning Warbler is sometimes called a “fugitive” species because individuals sometimes have to search out new breeding habitat as its preferred early-successional habitat begins to mature, after about 7–10 years. Other North American species that wander in search of burned or disturbed habitats include American Three-toed and Black-backed Woodpeckers, Western Wood-Pewee, and Western Bluebird.
- Mourning Warbler and the closely related MacGillivray’s Warbler can be difficult to distinguish visually, and the two species often hybridize where their ranges meet. In the zones of hybridization, songs are often intermediate between typical songs for each species.
- Until 2011, Mourning Warbler was placed in the genus Oporornis along with MacGillivray’s, Kentucky, and Connecticut Warblers. However, biochemical research demonstrated that Mourning, MacGillivray’s, and Kentucky are far more closely related to yellowthroats than to Connecticut Warbler, and so scientists moved these three to genus Geothlypis, leaving Connecticut as the world’s sole Oporornis.
- Both male and female Mourning Warblers may pretend to have broken wings to distract predators close to their nest.
- The oldest recorded Mourning Warbler was a male, and at least 7 years, 1 month old when he was recaptured and rereleased during banding operations in Alberta, Canada.