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BIRDS » GRASSLAND AND SHRUB BIRDS
Blue-winged Warbler

Blue-winged Warbler
Vermivora cyanoptera

The territorial song of the Blue-winged Warbler is not musical like most warbler songs. It is a raspy bee-buzzz with the first part sounding like an inhale and the second part like an exhale. The Blue-winged Warbler occupies shrubby early to mid-successional habitat and is more easily heard than seen. The breeding range has expanded throughout the 20th century and now extends from the central Midwest to the east coast. In winter it migrates to Mexico and Central America. The Blue-winged Warbler is a common to uncommon migrant across the state, but nests primarily in Middle Tennessee. The species is declining due to reforestation of its early-successional breeding habitat, and habitat loss due to development in the breeding and wintering range.

In summer 2010, the American Ornithologists' Union changed the scientific name for the Blue-winged Warbler from Vermivora pinus to Vermivora cyanoptera.

Description: The head and underparts of the male are yellow with a black line through the eye. The wings are blue-gray with two white wing-bars, and the back is olive-green. The female is similar to the male but is duller in coloration, the wing-bars are not as pronounced, the eye-line is grayer, and the top of the head is more olive.
Length: 4.75"
Wingspan: 7.5"
Weight: 0.3 oz

Voice: The song is a raspy bee-buzzz, with the first part sounding like an inhale and the second part like an exhale.

Similar Species:

  • Blue-winged and Golden-winged Warblers are able to hybridize and their offspring have plumages that resemble the parental types. In the "Brewster's Warbler," the male has a face pattern similar to a Blue-winged Warbler but with a white belly and yellow wing-bars like a Golden-winged Warbler. A male "Lawrence's Warbler" has a face pattern like a Golden-winged Warbler but is yellow below like a Blue-winged Warbler.

Habitat: The Blue-winged Warbler breeds in shrubby, second growth habitat with scattered trees, such as abandoned farmland and forest clearings.

Diet: Primarily insects.

Nesting and reproduction: In Tennessee, nest building begins as early as late April. Where their ranges overlap, Blue-wings will sometimes hybridize with Golden-winged Warblers.

Clutch Size: Usually 4 to 5 eggs, with a range or 2 to 7.

Incubation: The female incubates the eggs for 10 to 11 days.

Fledging: Both parents feed the young, which fledge in about 8 to10 days.

Nest: The open cup-nest is built mostly by the female, and is made of grasses, bark, and dead leaves. It is usually well hidden and placed on or near the ground.

Status in Tennessee: The Blue-winged Warbler is a fairly common migrant and summer resident in Middle Tennessee and an uncommon migrant and rare breeder in East and West Tennessee. It arrives in early April and migrants depart by mid-May. Fall migrants arrive in early September and all birds depart by late September. Overall, populations in Tennessee appear to be stable, but may be locally increasing in East Tennessee.

Dynamic map of Blue-winged Warbler eBird observations in Tennessee

Fun Facts:

  • Golden-winged Warblers will often breed with Blue-winged Warblers when they occur in the same habitat. The fertile offspring have distinct plumages and are called "Brewster's" and "Lawrence's" warblers. Brewster's looks like a Blue-winged Warbler with a white chest, and Lawrence's looks like an all-yellow Golden-winged Warbler. When these hybrids backcross with a pure parental types, intermediate-appearing birds may result.
  • In recent decades, the Blue-winged Warbler range has been expanding into the range of the Golden-winged Warbler. This may be partly responsible for the decline in Golden-winged Warblers in some areas.

Obsolete English Names: blue-winged yellow warbler, blue-winged yellow swamp warbler

Best places to see in Tennessee: Yanahli WMA, Maury Co.,

For more information:

Sources:

Gill, F. B., R. A. Canterbury and J. L. Confer. 2001. Blue-winged Warbler (Vermivora pinus), The Birds of North America (A. Poole and F. Gill, eds.). The Academy of Natural Sciences, Philadelphia, PA, and The American Ornithologists' Union, Washington, D.C.

Nicholson, C. P. 1997. Atlas of Breeding Birds of Tennessee. Univ. Tennessee Press, Knoxville.

Robinson J. C. 1990. An Annotated Checklist of the Birds of Tennessee. Univ. Tennessee Press, Knoxville.

Sibley, D. A. 2000. The Sibley Guide to Birds. A. A. Knopf, New York, NY.


Consider using the online bird checklist program at eBird to help us understand bird populations and distributions in Tennessee. Click here to see how.