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Wilson's Warbler

Cardellina pusilla ORDER: PASSERIFORMES FAMILY: PARULIDAE

IUCN Conservation Status: Least Concern

Wilson’s Warblers dance around willow and alder thickets, often near water, to the rapid beat of their chattering song. This bright yellow warbler with a black cap is one of the smallest warblers in the U.S. and among the most recognizable. They rarely slow down, dashing between shrubs, grabbing insects from one leaf after another, and popping up on low perches to sing. Wilson's Warblers breed in mountains and northern forests, but pass through every state in the lower 48 during migration—so be on the lookout when they are on the move in the spring and fall.

Songs

The song of the Wilson’s Warbler is simple with a sweet quality. Their fast, slightly accelerating song is a string of similar notes, dropping downward in pitch toward the end, that ring loud and clear even next to noisy streams. Males sing for about 2 seconds, pause for several seconds and burst into song again, singing around 5 songs per minute. Unlike other warblers, females also occasionally sing. Males start singing just before they leave the wintering grounds and continue to sing throughout migration and on the breeding grounds. Once they start nesting, they sing less frequently.

Calls

  • Song, calls
     
  • Courtesy of Macaulay Library
    © Cornell Lab of Ornithology.

Like other warblers, male and female Wilson’s Warblers give a single chip note to communicate with mates and young and to notify territory intruders. The chip sounds similar to someone giving a loud puckering kiss.

Search the Macaulay Library online archive for more sounds and videos

Backyard Tips

Wilson’s Warblers do not visit feeders, but you can provide habitat for them in your yard by landscaping with native trees and shrubs. Creating a bird-friendly backyard for Wilson’s Warblers even if they are not breeding in your area may help them out during migration. Head on over to Habitat Network to learn about which native species are good matches for your yard and more.

Find This Bird

Wilson’s Warblers breed mainly in the far north, so for many people they're easiest to find during migration. Spring can be the best time, as males often sing during migration. Look for them in shrubby tangles along streams or ponds or even forested edges and take a moment to listen for their rapid song. Unlike most warblers, they tend to forage at lower levels which makes finding them easier; no neck craning needed. The only real challenge is getting them in your binoculars. They don’t tend to stay still for long, so watch carefully and have your binoculars ready.

Get Involved

Read more about landscaping with native plants to give warblers a helping hand.

Learn about creating bird friendly backyards at Habitat Network.

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