Pine Warbler Life History

Habitat

Habitat ForestsPine Warblers live in pine or mixed pine-deciduous forest, and you’ll rarely see them out of a pine tree. They’re not particularly specific about which species of pines they’ll use, and the list includes jack, pitch, red, white, Virginia, loblolly, shortleaf, slash, sand, and pond pines. Their wintering habitat is similar to their breeding habitat. Migrating Pine Warblers sometimes use shrubs and deciduous trees.Back to top

Food

Food InsectsPine Warblers eat mostly caterpillars and other arthropods (including beetles, grasshoppers, bugs, ants, bees, flies, cockroach eggs, and spiders), but they also eat fruits and seeds (notably, pine seeds) especially during the colder months. They mostly forage by hopping along branches in the middles and tops of pines—moving more slowly than most warblers—while picking food from bark and needles. They sometimes feed from deciduous trees during migration. Pine Warblers may also feed on the ground and catch insects in the air.Back to top

Nesting

Nest Placement

Nest TreePine Warblers nearly always build their nests in pine trees, usually in pine or mixed pine-deciduous forest. Nests tend to be high in the tree and concealed among needles and cones.

Nest Description

The nest is a cup with an interior space about 1.5 inches across and equally deep. The female gathers most of the nest material, including grass, plant stems and fibers, bark strips, pine needles, twigs, and fine roots, binding them together with spider or caterpillar silk and lining the nest with feathers, hair, and plant down. In good weather she can finish the nest and begin laying eggs in 14 days. The male often escorts the female as she gathers materials, and occasionally helps build.

Nesting Facts
Clutch Size:3-5 eggs
Number of Broods:1-2 broods
Egg Length:0.6-0.8 in (1.6-2 cm)
Egg Width:0.5-0.6 in (1.2-1.5 cm)
Incubation Period:10-13 days
Nestling Period:10 days
Egg Description:White, grayish, or greenish white with brown speckles.
Condition at Hatching:Undeveloped and downy.
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Behavior

Behavior Bark ForagerPine Warblers typically forage and sing high in pine trees. Males are aggressive in the early breeding season, in fall, and in winter. They chase other birds and indicate aggression by gliding or flying with stiff wingbeats toward and then away from their opponent, in a circle. Birds sometimes fight by flying toward each other and locking bills in the air. In winter Pine Warblers forage in mixed-species flocks, keeping a few feet of space between each other. Males establish breeding territories in late winter or spring, singing persistently and chasing intruders. Both parents will perform broken-wing displays to lure predators away from the nest. After the young fledge the warblers move around in family groups.Back to top

Conservation

Conservation Low ConcernPine Warbler populations saw a steady increase between 1966 and 2014, according to the North American Breeding Bird Survey. Partners in Flight estimates a global breeding population of 13 million with 93% spending some part of the year in the U.S., and 3% breeding in Canada. This is a U.S.-Canada Stewardship species and rates a 7 out of 20 on the Continental Concern Score. Pine Warbler is not on the 2014 State of the Birds Watch List. Across much of their range, these warblers' native pine forests have been altered or destroyed—by logging, development, and fire suppression, however over the last few decades they have been able to move into areas where pines have been introduced into deciduous forests. In the 1950s, DDT that was sprayed to contain Dutch elm disease killed some Pine Warblers.Back to top

Backyard Tips

The only warbler that regularly eats seeds, the Pine Warbler will eat millet, cracked corn, sunflower seed, peanuts, and suet from elevated feeders in winter. It may also eat fruits from bushes and vines, like bayberry, flowering dogwood, grape, sumac, persimmon, and Virginia creeper. Find out more about what this bird likes to eat and what feeder is best by using the Project FeederWatch Common Feeder Birds bird list.

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Credits

Lutmerding, J. A. and A. S. Love. Longevity records of North American birds. Version 2015.2. Patuxent Wildlife Research Center, Bird Banding Laboratory 2015.

North American Bird Conservation Initiative. 2014. The State of the Birds 2014 Report. US Department of Interior, Washington, DC, USA.

Partners in Flight. 2017. Avian Conservation Assessment Database. 2017.

Rodewald, Paul G., James H. Withgott and Kimberly G. Smith. 2013. Pine Warbler (Setophaga pinus), version 2.0. In The Birds of North America (P. G. Rodewald, editor). Cornell Lab of Ornithology, Ithaca, New York, USA.

Sauer, J. R., J. E. Hines, J. E. Fallon, K. L. Pardieck, Jr. Ziolkowski, D. J. and W. A. Link. The North American Breeding Bird Survey, results and analysis 1966-2013 (Version 1.30.15). USGS Patuxtent Wildlife Research Center 2014b. Available from http://www.mbr-pwrc.usgs.gov/bbs/.

Sibley, David Allen. 2014. The Sibley guide to birds, second edition. Alfred A Knopf, New York.

Stephenson, Tom and Scott Whittle. 2013. The Warbler Guide: Princeton University Press.

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