Warblers of Pennsylvania
(Eastern U.S.)


Photography and contents by Steve Gosser

Below is a list of warbler species that are found in Pennsylvania and the northeast in general.
Included is general information on each species that will help identify and find each bird.
All photos taken in Pennsylvania.

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Ovenbird

Characteristics:
Larger bulky warbler that appears very thrush like. Often found low or in the middle of the canopy. They nest near the ground in nests that appear ovenlike.

Breeding:
Ovenbirds are very widespread breeders across the state and prefer a mix of deciduous and conifer woodlands.

Migration:
During the spring migration these warblers arrive in PA during the first half of May. During the fall migration they can be found throughout September.



Worm-eating Warbler


Characteristics:
These warblers have very bold dark head stripes on a buffy colored head and chest, with an olive brown back. They have a very distinctive song for a warbler with an extremely fast buzzy trill.

Breeding:
This warbler is found mostly in south central and eastern parts of the state but overall are an uncommon breeder. They prefer deciduous woodlands and are almost entirely found on steep hill sides.

Migration:
During the spring migration these warblers arrive in PA during the first half of May. They are very seldomly found in the state during the fall migration.



Louisiana Waterthrush


Characteristics:
Large warbler that appears more like a thrush than a warbler. They are almost entirely found near streams, creeks and rivers with a moving current. Often found low foraging near the water. They almost always are bobbing their tail in a circular motion.

Breeding:
These waterthrushes breed mostly in the southern half of the state and become less common in the north. Prefer dark wooded areas such as hemlock stands along a stream of moving water.

Migration:
Louisiana's appear in PA during the beginning of April and are one of the first warblers to arrive during the spring migration. They are not often seen in the fall migration since PA is the northern limit of their range.



Northern Waterthrush


Characteristics:
Large warbler that appears more like a thrush than a warbler. Like the Louisiana's they desire to be near water but instead prefer stagnant or very slow moving streams. They are nearly constantly bobbing their tail up and down.

Breeding:
These waterthrushes breed in the northern part of the state which is near the southern limit of their breeding range. They prefer more dense habitat than the Louisiana's in woodlands around still bodies of water.

Migration:
Northern's appear in PA during the middle of May during the spring migration and are found throughout September during the fall migration.



Blue-winged Warbler


Characteristics:
A bold yellow warbler with blue grayish wings and a black eye line stripe. Found often in low dense brush and small trees. Very distinctive song with a buzzy "Bee-buzz" sound.

Breeding:
Blue-wings are found primarily in the western and eastern sides of the state. They prefer successional habitats such as scrubby open areas, old pastures & clear cuts in woodlands.

Migration:
During the spring migration these warblers arrive in PA during the first half of May. During the fall migration they can be found throughout September.



Golden-winged Warbler


Characteristics:
Striking warbler with yellow crown, gray mask on the face and brilliant golden stripe on the wings. Unfortunately they are a species that has greatly declined in recent decades making them a rare sight to see.

Breeding:
Golden-wings are found mostly in the southern and central parts of the state during the breeding season. They prefer habitats very similiar to the Blue-winged warbler.

Migration:
During the spring migration these warblers arrive in PA during the first half of May. During the fall migration they can be found throughout September.





Black And White Warbler


Characteristics:
Small warbler with entirely black and white stripes as it's name implies. This warbler is unique in that it has a larger back toe and claw making it a good climber up the sides of trees, very similar to that of nuthatches.

Breeding:
Black and White's breed very widespread across the state and are one of the more abundant breeding warblers in PA. They prefer mostly deciduous woodlands.

Migration:
During the spring migration these warblers arrive in PA during the first half of May. During the fall migration they can be found throughout September.





Prothonotary Warbler


Characteristics:
Brilliant yellow warbler with dark gray wings and a greenish back. This is one of PA rarest breeding warblers making them hard to find.

Breeding:
This warbler breeds in only a few spots in PA with the highest concentration being in the the northwest corner of the state. Prothonotary's prefer woodlands in or around wetlands or swamps where they can find cavities in trees or nest boxes to nest.

Migration:
Not often found in migration since there are so few breeding pairs in the state. This warbler's range is more in the southeastern part of the country.



Tennessee Warbler


Characteristics:
One of the "plainer" looking warblers. Adults have a grayish back with no wingbars, a whitish underside and a faint eye line stripe. This species likes to stay at the very tops of the tallest trees making them more challenging to see.

Breeding:
Tennessee's do not breed in PA, but rather go farther north to their nesting grounds.

Migration:
This warbler is usually found in PA at the middle part of May during the spring migration and found during the fall migration throughout September.



Nashville Warbler


Characteristics:
This warbler boasts a bright yellow underside with a gray head and back with no wingbars and a bold eye ring. In spring often found high in the canopy while in the fall can be found very low.

Breeding:
The majority of Nashville's breed further north of PA but some can be found in the upper northern counties. They prefer either wet or dry open woodlands with brushy understories.

Migration:
During the spring migration these warblers arrive in PA during the first half of May. During the fall migration they can be found throughout September.



Connecticut Warbler


Characteristics:
This warbler sports a dark gray hood with an olive back and yellow undersides. Connecticut's are one of the least common warblers that migrate through the eastern US, making them highly sought after by birders. They are most often found very low in thick brush.

Breeding:
Connecticut's do not breed in PA, but rather go farther north to their nesting grounds.

Migration:
These warblers appear in PA during the middle of May during the spring migration and can be found during the fall migration in the last half of September.





Mourning Warbler


Characteristics:
This warbler is similar to the Connecticut but is overall smaller and lacks the bold eye ring.

Breeding:
Mourning Warblers can be found breeding in the north part of the state. They prefer clear cuts in woodlands where there is thick brushy areas, as they nest low to the ground.

Migration:
These warblers appear in PA around the middle of May during the spring migration and can be found during the fall migration throughout September.



Kentucky Warbler


Characteristics:
This warbler has a stunning bright yellow underside with an olive colored back, no wingbars and a black pattern around the head with yellow lores above the eye. One of the warblers that can be found fairly low in brush and small trees in woodlands.

Breeding:
This warber can be found breeding in PA but very spotty in their locations. Their highest concentrations are the southwestern corner and also in the east. They prefer deciduous woodlands with thick understory and nest low to the ground.

Migration:
During the spring migration these warblers arrive in PA during the first half of May. During the fall migration they can be found throughout September.



Common Yellowthroat


Characteristics:
One of the most abundant and widespread warblers of PA. Bright yellow underside with a black mask around the head. They like to stay hidden low in thick brushy areas making them more challenging to see.

Breeding:
This warbler can be found widespread across the state and prefers any open areas or clear cuts in woodlands where there is plenty of thick brush and understory. They generally stay very low since they nest close to the ground.

Migration:
During the spring migration these warblers arrive in PA during the first half of May. During the fall migration they can be found throughout September.



Hooded Warbler


Characteristics:
Another of the common warblers, they sport yellow undersides and a flashy black hood around a yellow face. They typically are found in the middle to upper canopy of woodlands.

Breeding:
This warbler is a very widespread breeder across the state but higher concentrations are found more in the western half. They prefer mostly deciduous woodlands.

Migration:
During the spring migration these warblers arrive in PA during the first half of May. During the fall migration they can be found throughout September.



American Redstart


Characteristics:
Redstarts are mostly a dark colored warbler with brilliant orange colored upper flanks. They have a long distinctive tail that they like to fan to scare insects out from hiding.

Breeding:
One of the most abundant and widespread breeding warblers of PA. Can be found from lowlands to higher elevations and tolerate a variety of woodlands.

Migration:
During the spring migration these warblers arrive in PA during the first half of May. During the fall migration they can be found throughout September.



Cape May Warbler


Characteristics:
Cape May's are a simply stunning warbler with heavy streaks on bright yellow underside with a rosy colored face with bold white wing bars. They are challenging to see since they prefer to stay high up in the canopy.

Breeding:
These warblers do not breed in PA, but rather go farther north to their nesting grounds.

Migration:
During the spring migration these warblers arrive in PA during the first half of May. During the fall migration they can be found throughout September.



Cerulean Warbler


Characteristics:
An aply named warbler for their striking blue coloration. They sport a white underside with a blue stripe across the neck. An extremely tough warbler to get decent looks at since they stay at the tops of the tallest trees.

Breeding:
Ceruleans are not a common breeder in PA and are very spotty in their location but the highest concentation is in the western portion of the state. They prefer deciduous woodlands and nest toward the upper canopy.

Migration:
These warblers are found during the spring migration at the beginning of May. They are not commonly seen in the fall but can be found in early September.



Northern Parula


Characteristics:
Parula's are a striking blue color on the back with a bold yellow on the throat and upper chest. They have a crescent shaped white eye ring. They sing a rising buzzy trill that typically ends on a down note.

Breeding:
These warblers are spotty in their breeding territories but are fairly widespread across the state. They prefer to be near water and often found near lakes or rivers. They tolerate a mix of deciduous and conifer woodlands.

Migration:
Parula's are one of the earlier arriving warblers to the state and can be found during the spring migration in mid April. They are not as commonly found in the fall migration but can occur throughout September.



Magnolia Warbler


Characteristics:
Magnolia's are a truly stunning warbler with a bright yellow undersides with heavy black streaks, bold white wing bars and white stripe above the eye with a grayish back. These warblers like the middle to upper canopy of woodlands.

Breeding:
These warblers are found breeding in the northern counties or higher elevation areas of the state. Most often found breeding in or near conifer trees.

Migration:
During the spring migration these warblers arrive in PA during the first half of May. During the fall migration they can be found throughout September.



Bay-breasted Warbler


Characteristics:
These warblers sport a reddish brown color on the flanks, throat and top of the head, with a dark face and back with bold white wing bars. In PA they are more common in fall than spring and typically found from the middle to upper canopy in woodlands.

Breeding:
These warblers do not breed in PA, but rather go farther north to their nesting grounds.

Migration:
During the spring migration these warblers arrive in PA during the middle of May. During the fall migration they can be found throughout September.



Blackburnian Warbler


Characteristics:
Blackburnians are extremely striking with their flame orange colored throat, white under belly and light streaking on the flanks. These warblers love the tree tops, very seldom coming down low, making good views of them extremely hard. In fall they along with many warbler species are more often found lower.

Breeding:
These warblers can be found breeding in the northern counties or in higher elevation areas of PA. They almost strickly nest in large woodland conifer stands of hemlocks, spruces & pines.

Migration:
During the spring migration these warblers arrive in PA during the first half of May. During the fall migration they can be found throughout September.



Yellow Warbler


Characteristics:
Yellow Warblers are one of the most yellow bird species there are. Mostly yellow from top to bottom with the males having brown streaking on their undersides. They are one of the most common and more easily seen warblers since they prefer lower trees and brush.

Breeding:
They breed extremely widespread across the state and can be found in a host of open habitat with small trees and brushy areas and like being close to lakes and ponds.

Migration:
During the spring migration these warblers arrive in PA during the first half of May. During the fall migration they tend to leave earlier than most warblers and not often seen.



Chestnut-sided Warbler


Characteristics:
These warblers have a chestnut brown flanks on a white underside, with a yellow crown and gray and black back. They tend to stay in small trees in the middle to lower heights.

Breeding:
This warbler breeds more in the northern part of the state or in higher elevations. Their breeding habitat is similar to the Yellow Warbler but prefer areas on the edge of woodlands or in clear cuts.

Migration:
During the spring migration these warblers arrive in PA during the first half of May. During the fall migration they can be found throughout September.



Blackpoll Warbler


Characteristics:
Blackpolls are black, white and gray. They are another of the warblers that prefer to stay in the highest tree tops, giving birders the dreadful "warbler neck."In fall are often found lower.

Breeding:
These warblers do not breed in PA but rather go farther north to their nesting grounds into the boreal forests of Canada.

Migration:
During the spring migration these warblers arrive in PA during the last half of May. During the fall migration they can be found throughout September.



Black-throated Blue Warbler


Characteristics:
A very handsome warbler with a dark blue back, a black throat that extends down through the flanks and a white underside with a small dot of white on the wing edge. They are mostly found in the middle of the canopy in woodlands.

Breeding:
This warbler breeds in the northern part of the state or in higher elevation areas. They prefer more deciduous woodlands.

Migration:
During the spring migration these warblers arrive in PA during the first half of May. During the fall migration they can be found throughout September.



Palm Warbler


Characteristics:
Palm's have a rusty red cap, faint eye line, with a brownish back and no wing bars. They have a yellow underside that is streaked but Western Palms only have a very faint yellow underside.

Breeding:
These warblers do not breed in PA, but rather go farther north to their nesting grounds.

Migration:
During the spring migration these warblers arrive in PA during the first half of May. During the fall migration they can be found in late September and early October. Sometime associates with Yellow-rumped Warblers.




Pine Warbler


Characteristics:
Pine warblers have a bright yellow underside with a darker olive tinged back and face, with gray wings. They are nearly exclusively found in pines both on their breeding grounds and in migration.

Breeding:
These warblers breeding range is very spotty throughout the state, but always are found in conifer stands, mostly pines.

Migration:
During the spring migration these are one of the first warblers to arrive in PA during the first half of April. During the fall migration they can be found throughout September.



Yellow-rumped Warbler


Characteristics:
A mostly gray, black and white warbler with flashy yellow flanks and a yellow rump, as they are also know as butter butts. When these warblers migrate through the state they can be everywhere!

Breeding:
Most Yellow-rumps go further north but some can be found nesting in the far northern counties of the state. They mostly prefer conifer woodlands for nesting.

Migration:
These warblers are the only species in PA that can be found throughout the winter months since they specialize in eating fruit. However the biggest push of these happens in mid April for the spring migration. Their peak time for the fall migration is in October.



Yellow-throated Warbler

Characteristics:
These warblers sport a brilliant yellow throat with a white underbelly, a bluish gray back with a black facial pattern and black streaking on the flanks.

Breeding:
This warbler is not a common breeder in PA but the highest concentration of them is in the southwest corner of the state. These warblers are nearly exlusively found nesting in or around large sycamore trees. They are mostly found in lowlands near water which is where most sycamores grow.

Migration:
During the spring migration these warblers arrive in PA during the middle of April. They are not often found in the fall migration since PA is at the northern most part of their range.



Prairie Warbler


Characteristics:
A very overall yellowish warbler with black streaks and pattern on the face. They have an olive back with a small rusty colored spot in the center of the back. They have a very distinctive song with buzzy ascending notes.

Breeding:
Prairies breeding range in the state is very spotty but are widespread. They prefer more open areas such as old pastures and overgrown meadows with lots of scrubby brush and small trees. Often found eye level.

Migration:
During the spring migration these warblers arrive in PA during the first half of May. During the fall migration they can be found throughout September.



Black-throated Green Warbler


Characteristics:
These warblers have a bright yellow head, olive green on the back with a black throat and white belly and wing bars. One of the more common warblers in state especially when migrating through.

Breeding:
This warbler breeds in the northern part of the state or in the higher elevation areas. They mostly prefer nesting in conifer stands but sometimes can be found in mixed woodlands. Look for them at the middle to upper canopy.

Migration:
During the spring migration these warblers arrive in PA during the first half of May. During the fall migration they can be found throughout September.



Canada Warbler


Characteristics:
This warbler boasts a bright yellow underside, a black "necklace" around the throat with a grayish back.

Breeding:
This warbler breeds in the northern part of the state or in the higher elevation areas. They prefer a mix woodlands with heavy understory, such as rhododendron thickets. They nest near the ground and are often found in the lower canopy.

Migration:
During the spring migration these warblers arrive in PA during the last half of May. They begin their fall migration a little earlier than most warblers and can be found in August / early September.



Wilson's Warbler


Characteristics:
One of the smaller warblers with an entirely yellow underside, olive back and a distinct black cap on the head. One of the lesser common warblers that move through PA.

Breeding:
Wilson's do not breed in PA, but rather go farther north to their nesting grounds.

Migration:
During the spring migration these warblers arrive in PA during the first half of May. During the fall migration they can be found throughout September.



Yellow-breasted Chat


Characteristics:
A larger species with a bright yellow throat and upper chest, white belly and an olive upperside. Many ornithologists believe Chats should not be classified as a warbler, but in another genus altogether, with their large size and robust bill. Often found lower but is a very sulky warbler that likes to keep hidden.

Breeding:
Chats are mostly found in the southern part of the state but can be spotty throughout. They prefer habitats very similar to those of the Prairie Warbler with open overgrown scrubby meadows with small trees.

Migration:
During the spring migration these birds arrive in PA throughout May. This species in not often seen in the fall migration since PA is the northern limit of their range.


All photos copyrighted by Steve Gosser



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