GCBO's Bird of the Month: April
Blackburnian Warbler
Geography/Habitat :
Blackburnian Warbler ( Setophaga fusca ) is an uncommon to locally common spring migrant in the eastern half of Texas from late March to mid-May. On the eastern Edwards Plateau and Rolling Plains, they are rare spring migrants and become very rare the farther west. During the fall, they are casual to rare migrants from late September through October throughout Texas and are predominantly present in the eastern third of the state. Their migration covers the eastern half of the U.S. and they breed in the Appalachian Mountains, the Northeastern U.S., and in Southeast and South Central Canada. They are occasionally found in the Western U.S., most often along the California Coast or in Southern California. In the bulk of their range they breed in mature coniferous and mixed coniferous-deciduous forests but switch to pure deciduous forests in the more southerly breeding locations. Blackburnian Warblers eat large quantities of caterpillars, including those of the abundant spruce budworm. They also east spiders, larval and adult flies, mayflies, beetles, leaf-rollers, ant, aphids, scale insects, and lacewings. Most of their prey is captured by gleaning or hover-gleaning, but they also probe needle clusters or clumps of dead leaves. Occasionally, they will also take fruit.


Blackburnian Warbler is a member of the Parulidae Family (Wood-Warblers) that is comprised of 54 species. Blackburnian Warbler is identified by its boldly colored black, white, and orange body. It is the only North American warbler with an orange throat. The male has dark auriculars, a white wing-panel, and a flaming orange throat. The belly is a pale orange and the vent is white. The outer tail feathers also contain white. The female has pale auriculars and two wing bars instead of the white wing-panel. Their typical weight is 0.34 oz. or 9.8 grams. Their song is a series of whistled, high-pitched “swee” notes. The call is a single or double “chip” note.

Interesting Facts:

  • Blackburnian Warbler is the only North American warbler with an orange throat.
  • The Blackburnian Warbler is named after Anna Blackburne, an English botanist.  
  • Although the Blackburnian Warbler does not associate with other birds while it is nesting, it may bring its fledged young to forage with 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.
  • A group of warblers has many collective nouns, including a “bouquet”, “confusion”, “fall”, and “wrench” of warblers.
  • 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.

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