Male. Note: bright green back and bright yellow face.
  • Male. Note: bright green back and bright yellow face.
  • Female. Note: white sides with black streaks and yellow across vent.

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Black-throated Green Warbler

Dendroica virens
Members of this diverse group make up more than half of the bird species worldwide. Most are small. However their brains are relatively large and their learning abilities are greater than those of most other birds. Passerine birds are divided into two suborders, the suboscines and the oscines. Oscines are capable of more complex song, and are considered the true songbirds. In Washington, the tyrant flycatchers are the only suboscines; the remaining 27 families are oscines.
This large group of small, brightly colored songbirds is a favorite of many birdwatchers. Wood-warblers, usually called “warblers” for short by Americans, are strictly a New World family. Most of the North American members of this group are migratory, returning in the winter to the tropics where the family originated. Warblers that nest in the understory tend to have pink legs and feet, while those that inhabit the treetops usually have black legs and feet. North American males are typically brightly colored, many with patches of yellow. Most North American warblers do not molt into a drab fall/winter plumage; the challenge posed to those trying to identify warblers in the fall results from looking at mostly juvenile birds. Their songs are generally dry, unmusical, often complex whistles (“warbles”). Warblers that live high in the treetops generally have higher-pitched songs than those that live in the understory. Warblers eat insects gleaned from foliage or captured in the air. Many supplement their insect diet with some seeds and fruit, primarily in fall and winter, and some also eat nectar. Most are monogamous. The female usually builds the nest and incubates four to five eggs for up to two weeks. Both members of the pair feed the young.

    General Description

    In Washington, the Black-throated Green Warbler is likely to be confused only with Townsend’s Warbler, its western counterpart. The most obvious differences are the Black-throated Green’s greener back, less contrasting light-olive facial “mask,” and absence or near-absence of yellow on the breast. It is an accidental visitor in Washington, with just three accepted records in June, July, and November, all from east of the Cascades. It breeds in northeastern British Columbia but is only a casual visitor elsewhere in the province. Idaho’s single record is from May 2001. Oregon has ten accepted records, and Black-throated Green Warbler occurs annually in very low numbers in California. Its breeding range extends across Canada from the eastern base of the Rocky Mountains in northern Alberta and British Columbia to Labrador and the midwestern and eastern United States, south to Alabama and the Carolinas. It winters in Mexico, Central America, the West Indies, and locally in southern Florida and along the Gulf Coast of the United States.

    Revised November 2007

    North American Range Map

    North America map legend

    Federal Endangered Species ListAudubon/American Bird Conservancy Watch ListState Endangered Species ListAudubon Washington Vulnerable Birds List

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