• Skip to Content
  • Skip to Main Navigation
  • Skip to Local Navigation
  • Skip to Search
  • Skip to Sitemap
  • Skip to Footer

Blackpoll Warbler

Setophaga striata ORDER: PASSERIFORMES FAMILY: PARULIDAE

IUCN Conservation Status: Least Concern

The sharply marked Blackpoll Warbler is nature’s hearing test, with a high-pitched, almost inaudible song that floats through the boreal forests of Canada. This long-distance athlete weighs less than half an ounce yet makes the longest overwater journey of any songbird—nearly 1,800 miles nonstop over the Atlantic Ocean to its wintering grounds. In the fall, this black-and-white warbler molts into yellow-green plumage and loses its black cap. Although still numerous, it has lost an estimated 88% of its population in the last 40 years.

Keys to identification Help

Warblers
Warblers
Typical Voice
  • Size & Shape

    Blackpoll Warblers are small songbirds with a short tail and a small thin bill. Compared to other warblers they have longer wings.

  • Color Pattern

    Breeding male Blackpoll Warblers are black-and-white with a distinctive black cap and white cheeks bordered by a black mustache stripe. Breeding females are streaky black, white, and gray, without the male’s black cap or white cheek. Both sexes have two white wingbars and orange-yellow legs. In late summer they molt into a very different plumage: greenish-yellow above with dark streaking down the back and faint streaking on white underparts. The face is pale yellow with a dark eyeline.

  • Behavior

    Blackpoll Warblers pick insects off foliage, but they also tend to forage near the trunks of evergreen trees, especially on the breeding grounds. During spring migration, they sing while searching for food, often hiding among leaves and branches in deciduous trees and shrubs.

  • Habitat

    Blackpoll Warblers breed mainly in spruce and tamarack forests in Canada's boreal forests, but they also use young stands of evergreens and alder or willow thickets. During migration they stop over in evergreen and deciduous forests.

Range Map Help

Blackpoll Warbler Range Map
View dynamic map of eBird sightings

Field MarksHelp

  • Breeding male

    Blackpoll Warbler

    Breeding male
    • Stocky warbler with black cap, contrasting with white cheeks
    • Black streaks along sides of throat and flanks, and on back
    • Two white wing-bars
    • Bright yellow feet/legs
    • © Guy Lichter, Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada, May 2011
  • Breeding female

    Blackpoll Warbler

    Breeding female
    • Stocky warbler with long bill
    • Gray back and wings with thin black streaking on crown, nape and flanks
    • Bright yellow-orange feet/legs
    • Two white wing-bars
    • © Danny Bales, May 2008
  • Female/immature male

    Blackpoll Warbler

    Female/immature male
    • Stocky warbler with long bill
    • Dull olive upper-parts with paler yellow-green on face and breast
    • Thin black streaks on back
    • Two white wing-bars
    • © Jeremiah Trimble, Cambridge, Massachusetts, October 2013
  • Breeding male

    Blackpoll Warbler

    Breeding male
    • Stocky warbler with long bill
    • Bold black cap contrasts with white cheeks
    • Black streaks on sides of throat, flanks, and back
    • Two white wing-bars
    • © Ashley Northcotte, Point Pelee, Ontario, Canada, May 2013
  • Female/immature male

    Blackpoll Warbler

    Female/immature male
    • Long bill
    • Olive above, paler yellow on face and throat
    • Thin black streaks on back
    • Two thin white wing-bars
    • © Corey Hayes, London, Ontario, Canada, September 2013

Similar Species

Similar Species

Breeding male warblers are distinctive, but females and warblers in the fall can be challenging to identify and often require relying on more than one field mark. Black-and-white Warblers have black and white stripes on the head, lacking the Blackpoll’s black cap and bold white cheek. Black-and-White Warblers also have black spotting on the undertail coverts, which Blackpolls lack. Fall Bay-breasted Warblers can be very difficult to distinguish from Blackpoll, but they usually have a faint chestnut wash on their sides unlike Blackpolls. The double white wingbars are wider and stand out more on Bay-breasted Warblers than on Blackpools because of the dark patch between the wingbars. Bay-breasted's also have dark legs and feet while Blackpolls have yellow-orange legs and feet (although Blackpoll leg color sometimes fades, their feet remain yellow). Fall Pine Warblers have larger bills and don’t have any streaking on the breast or back like Blackpolls. Cape May Warblers in the fall have unstreaked backs and fainter wingbars than Blackpolls. Fall Blackburnian Warblers have a dark triangular ear patch that is surrounded by yellow, whereas Blackpoll has a yellow-olive face with a faint eyeline.

Backyard Tips

Create a bird friendly backyard to provide foraging habitat for migrating Blackpoll Warblers and other birds. Head on over to Habitat Network to learn more about birdscaping your backyard.

Find This Bird

These birds breed so far north that the best times for most people to see them are in spring and fall, as they migrate through North America. Spring is arguably the best time—males' colors and patterns are crisp and sharp, and the birds will be traveling overland and singing as they move north. Despite their affinity for evergreen trees on the breeding grounds they tend to forage in deciduous trees and shrubs during migration. Listen intently for their high-pitched song, as it is sometimes easy to overlook. You can also spot Blackpoll Warblers during fall migration, but they take a different route than in spring and are unlikely to be seen south of North Carolina. They look much different in fall and rarely sing—but they are much more numerous since all the young of the year are on their way south in addition to the adults. Look for them in mixed flocks of migrating warblers.

×

Search

Or Browse Bird Guide by Family, Name or Shape
×
bird image Blue-winged Warbler by Brian Sullivan

The Cornell Lab will send you updates about birds, birding, and opportunities to help bird conservation. You can unsubscribe at any time. We will never sell or give your email address to others.

×

The Cornell Lab will send you updates about birds, birding, and opportunities to help bird conservation. You can unsubscribe at any time. We will never sell or give your email address to others.