Beak of the Week – Blackburnian Warbler

Blackburnian Warbler (Setophaga fusca)

Family: Parulidae

The Blackburnian Warbler is a small songbird with a bright orange throat and face with a black crown, broad white wingbars, and a triangular ear patch. Females and juveniles are paler and yellower overall. They have a thin call that increases in speed that sounds like sleet-sleet-sleet-sleetee-sleeeee.  They live in woodland areas, specifically conifers in the summer and humid mountain forests in the winter.  

They eat mostly insects and especially enjoy caterpillars.  During summer they will eat many caterpillars and sometimes beetles, ants, flies, and spiders.  During winter they will branch out and feed on some berries as well.  Blackburnian Warblers feed mostly in treetops, looking for insects along small branches. They will also search in dead leaf clumps or hover to take insects from the underside of leaves. Males tend to forage higher in the trees than females.

Blackburnian Warblers will court the female by singing and performing displays fluttering his wings and tail. The nests are placed high in dense vegetation near the ends of branches.  It is a cup-shapes nest built from twigs, bark, conifer needles, and moss. Their nesting behavior is difficult to observe due to the height of nests. The female will usually have a clutch size of four greenish white eggs with blotches of brown. Both the parents care for the nestlings. Blackburnian Warblers spend the winter in South America and migrate across the Gulf of Mexico north.

Greg Lavaty
Greg Lavaty
Anthony Rathbun

Our Beak of the Week is one of 12 birds featured in Confluence, a public art installation along the Bayou Greenway trail at the confluence of White Oak and Buffalo Bayous. The 223-foot mural, created by artist Jane Kim, founder of Ink Dwell Studio, showcases the birds that call Houston’s bayous home. Confluence is commissioned by Houston Parks Board and hosted in collaboration with Buffalo Bayou Partnership. Houston Audubon is pleased to provide ornithological expertise and collaborate on programming and promotion of the mural. Learn more about Confluence here. 

 Visit our Bird Gallery to read about other Texas birds! 

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