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Hooded Warbler Life History



Hooded Warblers breed in mature deciduous forest with a dense understory of mountain laurel, rhododendron, viburnum, and spicebush up to 3,600 feet. They spend the winter in lowland tropical forest, scrub, and brushy fields.

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Hooded Warblers capture insects and spiders by picking them off leaves or the ground and by flying up to grab them, a foraging technique called hawking.

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Nest Placement


Hooded Warblers nest in shrubs often near the edges of forests or near shrubby clearings. They generally nest in areas with a dense and shrubby understory, choosing shrubs or saplings such as blackberry, beech, holly, switchcane, black cherry, viburnum, and hawthorn. They usually place the nest in a shrub or sapling 1–4.5 feet above the ground.

Nest Description

Females weave together bark, fine grasses, and plant down into a cup. Females often wrap dead leaves around the bottom of the nest cup as well, making the nest look like a clump of dead leaves. Females can build a nest in as little as 2 days, but it often takes them 5–6 days to complete a nest.

Nesting Facts

Clutch Size:2-5 eggs
Number of Broods:1 brood
Egg Length:0.6-0.8 in (1.5-2 cm)
Egg Width:0.4-0.6 in (1.1-1.4 cm)
Incubation Period:12 days
Nestling Period:8-9 days
Egg Description:

Cream-colored with scattered brown spots.

Condition at Hatching:

Naked with sparse down, eyes closed.

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Foliage Gleaner

Hooded Warblers spend most of their time in the forest understory, hopping on the ground and between branches while fanning and flicking their tail to expose white outer tail feathers. Generally, males maintain a territory with one female, but males often seek extrapair matings with nearby females. Brown-headed Cowbirds frequently lay eggs in the nests of Hooded Warblers, a behavior known as nest parasitism. Hooded Warblers raise young cowbirds instead of their own young, which frequently perish in the parasitized nests. Males and females defend territories on the breeding and wintering grounds. On the breeding grounds, males threaten intruding males with visual displays. They hold their wings out and pull their head in, giving the bird a hunched look, and turn their head side to side. Intruders that are not swayed by visual displays may be chased or attacked. On the wintering grounds, males and females defend separate territories, chipping at intruders: females in younger, scrubby forests and males in more mature forests. They are generally solitary on the breeding and wintering grounds, but they may join mixed-species flocks that pass through areas on the wintering grounds.

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Low Concern

Hooded Warblers are common, and their populations increased by approximately 1% per year between 1966 and 2019, according to the North American Breeding Bird Survey. Partners in Flight estimates a global breeding population of 5.2 million and rates them 9 out of 20 on the Continental Concern Score, indicating a species of low conservation concern.

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Chiver, Ioana, L. J. Ogden and B. J. Stutchbury. (2011). Hooded Warbler (Setophaga citrina), version 2.0. In The Birds of North America (P. G. Rodewald, editor). Cornell Lab of Ornithology, Ithaca, New York, USA.

Dunne, P. (2006). Pete Dunne's essential field guide companion. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, New York, USA.

Lutmerding, J. A. and A. S. Love. Longevity records of North American birds. Version 2021.1. Patuxent Wildlife Research Center, Bird Banding Laboratory 2021.

Mumme, R. L. (2002). White tail spots and tail-flicking behavior enhance foraging performance in the Hooded Warbler. Auk 131:141–149.

Partners in Flight. (2020). Avian Conservation Assessment Database, version 2020.

Pieplow, N. (2017). Peterson Field Guide to Bird Sounds of Eastern North America. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company, NY, USA.

Sauer, J. R., D. K. Niven, J. E. Hines, D. J. Ziolkowski Jr., K. L. Pardieck, J. E. Fallon, and W. A. Link (2019). The North American Breeding Bird Survey, Results and Analysis 1966–2019. Version 2.07.2019. USGS Patuxent Wildlife Research Center, Laurel, MD, USA.

Sibley, D. A. (2014). The Sibley Guide to Birds, second edition. Alfred A. Knopf, New York, NY, USA.

Stephenson, T. and S. Whittle (2013). The Warbler Guide. Princeton University Press, New Jersey, USA.

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