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Cape May Warbler


IUCN Conservation Status: Least Concern

The Cape May Warbler breeds across the boreal forest of Canada and the northern United States, where the fortunes of its populations are largely tied to the availability of spruce budworms, its preferred food. Striking in appearance but poorly understood, the species spends its winters in the West Indies, collecting nectar with its unique curled, semitubular tongue.

At a GlanceHelp

Both Sexes
4.7–5.1 in
12–13 cm
7.5–8.7 in
19–22 cm
0.3–0.4 oz
9–12 g
Other Names
  • Paruline tigrée (French)
  • Renita tigre (Spanish)

Cool Facts

  • The tongue of the Cape May Warbler is unique among warblers. It is curled and semitubular, and is used to collect nectar during winter.
  • The common name of the species comes from Cape May, New Jersey, where Alexander Wilson first described it. After that first time, Cape May Warblers were not recorded in Cape May for more than 100 years.
  • The average clutch size of the Cape May Warbler (six) is greater than that of other warblers. This large clutch size may allow Cape May Warbler populations to expand rapidly during outbreaks of their preferred prey, spruce budworms.
  • The nest of the Cape May Warbler was not accurately described until the early 20th century.
  • The oldest recorded Cape May Warbler was at least 4 years, 3 months old when it was caught and killed by a cat in 1978 in Quebec. It had been banded in Ohio in 1975.



Breeds in coniferous forest. Winters in various habitats, including settled areas.



Insects, especially spruce budworms, during the breeding season; nectar and insects in winter.


Nesting Facts
Clutch Size
4–9 eggs
Egg Description
White with reddish-brown blotches.
Nest Description

A bulky cup of sphagnum moss, twigs, pine needles, and bark, lined with hair and feathers. Placed near top of spruce tree.

Nest Placement



Foliage Gleaner

Usually picks insects from vegetation while perched, but also hawks insects. Curled tongue aids in collection of nectar.


status via IUCN

Least Concern

Cape May Warbler populations declined by over 2.5% per year between 1966 and 2015, resulting in a cumulative decline of 72%, according to the North American Breeding Bird Survey. Partners in Flight estimates a global breeding population of 7 million with 2% spending some part of the year in the U.S., 1% in Mexico, and 98% breeding in Canada. Cape May Warbler is a U.S.-Canada Stewardship species. It rates a 13 out of 20 on the Continental Concern Score. The 2014 State of the Birds Report listed Cape May Warbler as a Common Bird in Steep Decline, and it is on the 2016 State of North America's Birds' Watch List, which includes bird species that are most at risk of extinction without significant conservation actions to reverse declines and reduce threats. Use of certain combinations of insecticides to control spruce budworms causes steep declines in Cape May Warbler numbers. Other pesticides may have no effect. Logging, especially in the western portion of the species' range, may eventually pose risks to the Cape May Warbler because of reduced availability of the mature forests needed to support spruce budworms.


Range Map Help

Cape May Warbler Range Map
View dynamic map of eBird sightings

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