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Blackburnian Warbler

Setophaga fusca

Length: 5 inches Wingspan: 8 inches Seasonality: Migrant
ID Keys: Bright orange on face and throat (yellowish on female), strong dark facial markings, white underparts with streaks on sides.

Blackburnian Warbler - Setophaga fuscaBlackburnian Warblers are a long-distance migrant, summering around the U.S./Canada border, and wintering near the forests of the Andes in South America.  The brilliantly colored males often spend much of their time high in the treetops, especially during breeding season when singing their song. While the plumage pattern may somewhat resemble other warbler species, the fiery orange color distinguishes it from most other warblers. They are the only North American warbler species with an orange throat. The females are more plainly marked, but still may have hints of the orangish tones of the male. In South Dakota, Blackburnian Warblers are relatively uncommon migrants, with decreasing frequency as you move from east to west in the state.


Prefers spruce and hemlock forests on its summer breeding grounds.  Can be found in nearly any kind of forest, woodland, or shrubland during migration through the state.


Primarily insects, with a strong preference for caterpillars.  Will occasionally eat berries, especially during the winter.


Feeding is typically done by climbing on the tips of branches and foliage, usually quite high in the forest canopy.  They will also hover and glean insects from the canopy, or occasionally fly out from a perch to catch passing insects in mid-air.


Non-breeder in South Dakota. The nest of a Blackburnian Warbler is a cup built of twigs, lined with mosses, lichens, and hair. It is typically placed in a evergreen, usually quite a bit higher from than ground than other warbler species. The female lays 3 to 5 eggs, and she alone incubates them. The young hatch after about 12 days, and fledge from the nest about 10 days after hatching.

Interactive eBird Map:

Click to access an interactive eBird map of Blackburnian Wabler sightings


The song of a Blackburnian Warbler is a series of tzeep notes, followed by 2 or 3 higher-pitched whistles. The call is a primarily a short, crisp tsip.

1Click here to hear the song of a Blackburnian Warbler

2Click here to hear the call of a Blackburnian Warbler


Summers in southern Canada, the Great Lakes region, and the Appalachians.  Winters in Central and South America.

Similar Species:

Male Blackburnian Warblers, with that brilliant orange color and strong plumage pattern, are unlikely to be confused with other species if seen well. Female and immature Blackburnian Warblers have a more subtle plumage and might possibly be confused with several species. Here are the species most likely to be confused with Blackburnian Warbler.

Conservation Status:

Blackburnian Warblers are considered vulnerable to habitat loss on wintering grounds in the tropical Americas, and there were declines in populations in the 20th century. However, they are some indications of increasing populations in the last 20 years, they are found across a broad geographic area, and they are relatively common in parts of their range. The IUCN considers the Blackburnian Warbler to be a species of "Least Concern".

Further Information:

1) BirdWeb - Blackburnian Warbler

2) WhatBird - Blackburnian Warbler

3) Audubon Guide - Blackburnian Warbler

Image Information:

May 16th, 2020 - Beaver Creek Nature Area, South Dakota - Terry Sohl

Audio File Credits:

1Paul Marvin. Recorded in Nicolet National Forest of Wisconsin on May 24th, 2011. Original recording and information from xeno-canto.

2Andrew Spencer. Recorded in Napo, Ecuador on January 12th, 2008. Original recording and information from xeno-canto.


Click on the map below for a higher-resolution view
Blackburnian Warbler - Range Map
South Dakota Status: Uncommon migrant in the eastern part of the state.

Additional Blackburnian Warbler Images
Click for a higher-resolution version of these images
 Blackburnian Warbler 1 - Setophaga fuscaBlackburnian Warbler 2 - Setophaga fuscaBlackburnian Warbler 3 - Setophaga fuscaBlackburnian Warbler 4 - Setophaga fuscaBlackburnian Warbler 5 - Setophaga fuscaBlackburnian Warbler 6 - Setophaga fuscaBlackburnian Warbler 7 - Setophaga fuscaBlackburnian Warbler 8 - Setophaga fuscaBlackburnian Warbler 9 -  Setophaga fuscaBlackburnian Warbler 10 - Setophaga fusca