Living Bird Magazine
Blackburnian WarblerSetophaga fusca
- ORDER: Passeriformes
- FAMILY: Parulidae
No birder can forget that first breeding male Blackburnian Warbler: the intricate black-and-white plumage set off by flame-orange face and throat, the impossibly high-pitched flourish at the end of the song, the cool of north-woods habitat in the morning. These forest-canopy specialists are seldom seen at eye level except during migration, when they may be found among dozens of other warbler species at sites that concentrate migrants in spring and fall. They spend winters in South America in open forests including shade-coffee plantations.More ID Info
Find This Bird
Look for Blackburnian Warblers high in the canopy of mixed deciduous-coniferous forest during summer. With so many leaves between you and the bird, they’ll be hard to see at first—so it’s helpful to listen for the male’s buzzy song with its very high final note. Follow this sound patiently and a breathtaking warbler with a glowing orange throat should eventually appear. ing the song patiently will eventually produce views of a breathtaking warbler.
- Reinita Gorjinaranja (Spanish)
- Paruline à gorge orangée (French)
If your backyard has plenty of trees, you might attract Blackburnian Warblers on migration or in summer. They may remain hard to find in the tree canopy, but they may come down into view if you offer a bird bath or water dripper. See more ideas for creating water features in your yard. Warblers don’t come to seed feeders, although they may stop by if you offer mealworms.
- Cool Facts
- No other North American warbler has an orange throat.
- Although the Blackburnian Warbler does not associate with other birds while it is nesting, it may bring its fledged young to forage in flocks of chickadees, kinglets, and nuthatches. The begging of the warbler chicks can even attract chickadees.
- In springtime, rival male Blackburnian Warblers perform remarkable territorial conflicts that recall an aerial ballet. They chase one another through and around the treetops, flying in loops, plummeting downward through the branches in a whirling pattern, gliding with tail raised and spread, or slowly flapping in exaggerated “moth flight,” as researchers call it. Once territories are established, the aerobatics die down.
- Blackburnian Warblers nest near many closely related species in the genus Setophaga, including Magnolia, Black-throated Green, and Yellow-rumped Warblers. During the breeding season, interspecies conflicts sometimes occur. Blackburnian Warblers are typically subordinate to these other species, although they are dominant to the much smaller Northern Parula.
- Tiny Blackburnian Warblers are strong fliers that travel between North and South America twice each year, so perhaps it isn’t surprising that they’re occasionally found very far off course. At times, “vagrants” have been recorded in Greenland, Iceland, Scotland, and the Azores off western Africa.
- The oldest recorded Blackburnian Warbler was a male, and at least 8 years, 2 months old, when it was recaptured and rereleased during banding operations in Minnesota.