Swainson's Warbler Life History


Habitat Forests

  • Breeds in southern forests with thick undergrowth, especially canebrakes and floodplain forests in lowlands and rhododendron-mountain laurel in Appalachians.
  • Winters in tropical scrub, evergreen, and gallery forests.
Back to top


Food InsectsInsects and spiders.Back to top


Nest Placement

Nest Shrub

Nest Description

Nest a cup of dried leaves, sticks and vines placed low in shrub or vines. Lined with pine needles, hair, grass, Spanish moss, or fern stems.

Nesting Facts
Clutch Size:2-5 eggs
Egg Description:White, usually unmarked, but may have faint reddish brown spotting.
Condition at Hatching:Helpless and naked.
Back to top


Behavior Ground ForagerForages on ground, probing under leaves and flipping leaves. Frequently sticks its bill into a curled leaf and opens its bill to spread the leaf apart.Back to top


Conservation Low ConcernSwainson's Warbler populations appeared stable, with a possible increase between 1966 and 2014, according to the North American Breeding Bird Survey. Partners in Flight estimates a global breeding population of 90,000 with 100% spending part of the year in the U.S., and 30% in Mexico. The species rates a 13 out of 20 on the Continental Concern Score. Swainson's Warbler is a U.S.-Canada Stewardship species and is not on the 2014 State of the Birds Watch List. Extreme habitat specificity puts this species at risk from habitat loss, both on breeding and wintering grounds.Back to top


Anich, Nicholas M., Thomas J. Benson, Jeremy D. Brown, Carolina Roa, James C. Bednarz, Raymond E. Brown and J. G. Dickson. 2010. Swainson's Warbler (Limnothlypis swainsonii), version 2.0. In The Birds of North America (P. G. Rodewald, editor). Cornell Lab of Ornithology, Ithaca, New York, USA.

Graves, G. R. 2002. Habitat characteristics in the core breeding range of the Swainson's Warbler. Wilson Bulletin no. 114 (2):210-220.

Lutmerding, J. A. and A. S. Love. Longevity records of North American birds. Version 2015.2. Patuxent Wildlife Research Center, Bird Banding Laboratory 2015.

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., J. E. Hines, J. E. Fallon, K. L. Pardieck, Jr. Ziolkowski, D. J. and W. A. Link. The North American Breeding Bird Survey, results and analysis 1966-2013 (Version 1.30.15). USGS Patuxtent Wildlife Research Center 2014b. Available from

Sibley, D. A. (2014). The Sibley guide to birds, second edition. Alfred A. Knopf, New York, USA.

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

Strong, A. M. and T. W. Sherry. 2001. Body condition of Swainson's Warblers wintering in jamaica and the conservation value of Caribbean dry forests. Wilson Bulletin no. 113 (4):410-418.

Back to top

Looking for ID Help?

Get Instant ID help for 650+ North American birds.

Try Merlin Bird ID