Living Bird Magazine
Townsend's WarblerSetophaga townsendi
- ORDER: Passeriformes
- FAMILY: Parulidae
The ethereal, buzzy songs of Townsend’s Warblers wafting through old-growth conifer forests provide a dreamlike soundtrack to an enchanting environment. Here, high in the treetops, they seem like tiny colorful ornaments as they forage high in dense foliage, hunting small insects and larvae. Migrants seem to appear in almost any habitat with vegetation. These warblers spend the winter not just in Mexico and Central America, but all along the U.S. Pacific Coast as well, where they often show up in backyards.More ID Info
Find This Bird
Townsend’s Warblers breed in mature coniferous and mixed forests, but they nest and forage high in the trees, making them a challenge to see well. A steep trail or a road cut that offers an eye-level view of the canopy usually provides the best views of this species. They can be easier to see well on migration and in winter, when they use almost any well-vegetated habitat and may forage in shorter trees and shrubs. In all seasons, locations with coniferous trees are most likely to hold Townsend’s Warblers.
- Reinita de Townsend (Spanish)
- Paruline de Townsend (French)
On the Pacific coast in winter, Townsend’s Warblers often investigate backyard feeders, most regularly when temperatures drop below freezing, to eat energy-rich foods such as mealworms, peanut butter, and suet.
- Cool Facts
- On the wintering ground in Mexico, the Townsend's Warbler feeds extensively on the sugary excretions (known as “honeydew”) of scale insects. It’s such a good food resource that Townsend’s Warblers set up and defend territories around trees infested with the insects.
- Townsend’s Warbler was first noted to science by John Kirk Townsend, an American naturalist who collected a male specimen near the mouth of the Columbia River in what is now Oregon, on April 16, 1835. His discovery followed a long cross-continental trek. Townsend was accompanied on this expedition by English botanist Thomas Nuttall. Dozens of western plants and animals bear the names of these early naturalists.
- The Townsend's Warbler hybridizes with the similar-looking Hermit Warbler where their ranges overlap in Oregon and Washington. The hybrid zones are rather narrow and appear to be slowly moving, with the more aggressive Townsend's Warbler displacing the Hermit Warbler.
- Sometimes a female Townsend's Warbler will partially construct a nest in one tree, then move all the materials to another tree and finish the nest there.
- The oldest recorded Townsend's Warbler was a male and at least 10 years, 8 months old, when he was recaptured and rereleased during banding operations in California.