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Blue-winged Warbler

Vermivora cyanoptera

Length: 4.75 inches Wingspan: 7 inches Seasonality: Migrant / Summer
ID Keys: Bright yellow head and underparts, black line through eye, grayish wings with two white wing-bars, short tail.

Blue-winged Warbler - Vermivora cyanopteraThe Blue-winged Warbler is a close relative of the Golden-winged Warbler.   The Blue-winged Warbler has slowly expanded its range to the north in recent decades, encroaching on the breeding grounds of the Golden-winged Warbler.  Where the two species coexist, they may interbreed, producing the intermediate hybrids sometimes called "Lawrence's Warbler" or "Brewster's Warbler".  It appears that the Blue-winged Warbler is outcompeting the Golden-winged Warbler and is causing a decline in the latter species.

South Dakota is is on the far northwestern edge of their breeding range. In general they're considered "casual" summer breeding residents, but they can almost always be found at one favored breeding location in Newton Hills State Park.


During the summer breeding season, they are found in brushy fields, fencerows, open forest with a shrubby undergrowth, and woodland edges.  Usually found in similar habitat during migration and in winter.


Feeds on insects and spiders.


Climbs and flies through foliage, gleaning insects from foliage and tree branches, and probing with its bill in crevices and leaves. They will often hang upside down from a perch while probing for insects, similar to the foraging behavior of a chickadee.


May and June. The nest is typically built on the ground at the base of a protective piece of vegetation, such as a small shrub, clump of grass, or other herbaceous cover. The female constructs the nest of grasses, leaves, mosses, and other vegetative material. She lays 2 to 6 eggs, which hatch in about 10 days. The young fledge about 10 days after hatching.


 A dry beee-buzzzzzz song that sounds a bit like an insect, and a sharp tisk call note.  They also have alternative songs that riff off the same buzzy notes.


Summers the the eastern United States from southern Wisconsin down through northern Arkansas, and eastward to the Atlantic coast.  Migrates to the tropics for the winter. In South Dakota, they are generally considered rare migrants, but there is a breeding population in the summer in Newton Hills State Park.

Interactive eBird Map:

Click to access an interactive eBird map of Blue-winged Warbler sightings

Similar Species:

Blue-winged Warblers could potentially be confused with multiple other small, yellow songbird species:

Yellow Warbler 11 - Setophaga petechia Prothonotary Warbler - Protonotaria citrea Golden-winged Warbler - Vermivora chrysoptera Wilson's Warbler 4 - Cardellina pusilla 
Yellow Warbler Prothonotary Warbler Golden-winged Warbler Wilson's Warbler (Female)

South Dakota "Hotspot":

The area along Sergeant Creek, in Newton Hills State Park in Lincoln County, has hosted breeding Blue-winged Warblers nearly every summer in recent years. They can be found by parking in the "Horse Camp" area and following the streamside trail towards the picnic area.

Conservation Status:

Blue-winged Warblers don't have as big a range as many songbirds in the US, but they're still found across a breeding area that covers much of the Midwest, Appalachia, and northeastern US. They are relatively common within parts of that range. Systematic surveys in recent decades indicate a relatively small decline in overall numbers, but overall population numbers are strong. The IUCN considers the Blue-winged Warbler to be a species of "Least Concern".

Further Information:

Photo Information:

Newton Hills State Park - May 16th, 2011 - Terry L. Sohl

Audio File Credits:

Click on the map below for a higher-resolution view
Blue-winged Warbler - Range Map
South Dakota Status: Rare migrant in the eastern part of the state.  Casual summer breeding resident in the southeast, but note nearly constant breeding presence in Newton Hills State Park.

Additional Blue-winged Warbler Photos
Click for a higher-resolution version of these photos
 Blue-winged Warbler 1 - Vermivora cyanopteraBlue-winged Warbler 2 - Vermivora cyanopteraBlue-winged Warbler 3 - Vermivora cyanopteraBlue-winged Warbler 4 - Vermivora cyanopteraBlue-winged Warbler 5 - Vermivora cyanopteraBlue-winged Warbler 6 - Vermivora cyanopteraBlue-winged Warbler 7 - Vermivora cyanopteraBlue-winged Warbler 8 - Vermivora cyanopteraBlue-winged Warbler 9 - Vermivora cyanopteraBlue-winged Warbler 10- Vermivora cyanopteraBlue-winged Warbler 11 - Vermivora cyanopteraBlue-winged Warbler 12 - Vermivora cyanopteraBlue-winged Warbler 13 - Vermivora cyanopteraBlue-winged Warbler 14 - Vermivora cyanoptera