Beak of the Week – Swainson’s Warbler

Swainson’s Warbler (Limnothlypis swainsonii)

Family: Parulidae

By Ryan McGinty, Conservation Technician, Houston Audubon

What one might think of as a boring, brown warbler, the Swainson’s Warbler is a unique bird with many interesting behaviors. Ranging from olive to chestnut, these birds have a dark back, cap, and eyeline to contrast their lighter underside and supercilium. They have pink legs and a pink bill, which is large for a warbler.

These birds breed in the southern United States and prefer woodlands with a heavy canopy, dense understory, and plentiful leaf litter. What could be confused with a small mammal, the Swainson’s Warbler sticks to the ground, flipping over leaves in search of a meal. Their diet consists mostly of insects and other invertebrates.

These birds are mostly monogamous, and the males hold large territories of up to 45 acres. The female builds the nest off the ground in vines, cane, or other understory plants. While she is incubating, the male will often bring her food. Once the chicks have hatched, both parents work together to feed their young.

Recently, a few Swainson’s Warblers were spotted at Houston Audubon’s High Island sanctuaries! Come down to see them as well as other migrating birds this spring.

Greg Lavaty
Greg Lavaty
 Visit our Bird Gallery to read about other Texas birds! 

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