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Canada Warbler
Cardellina canadensis

The Canada Warbler is an easy warbler to identify with its bold black "necklace" on a breast of bright yellow. It is an uncommon migrant across the state, but a common breeder in the highest mountains of East Tennessee. The breeding range of the Canada Warbler stretches across boreal Canada to the northeastern United States, and south along the Appalachian Mountains to Tennessee and north Georgia. It travels further to its wintering grounds than most wood-warblers, migrating to northern South America.

Description: Both the male and female have a bright yellow throat, chest, and belly, with a solid dark gray back, wings and tail. They have an obvious white eye-ring connected to the bill by a small line of yellow, giving the look of a pair of spectacles. The male sports a bold "necklace" of dark streaks across the chest; on the female this necklace is faint.
Length: 5.25"
Wingspan: 8"
Weight: 0.36 oz

Voice: The song starts with a chip, followed by a series of clear, short, liquid, warbling notes. Canada Warblers often sing late into the nesting cycle and sometimes during fall migration.

Similar Species:

  • The unique necklace pattern combined with the plain gray upperparts, yellow underparts, and eye-ring distinguishes this species from all other warblers.

Habitat: Large tracks of deciduous and coniferous forest with a dense shrubby understory.

Diet: Insects and spiders.

Nesting and reproduction: The breeding biology of the Canada Warbler has not been well studied.

Clutch Size: 3 to 5 eggs, with 4 most frequent.

Incubation: unknown

Fledging: unknown

Nest: The nest is a cup made from bark strips, grass and weed stems, lined with fine rootlets and hair, and placed on or near the ground. Overhanging grasses or ferns usually conceal the nest.

Status in Tennessee: The Canada Warbler is an uncommon migrant across the state and a locally common summer resident only in East Tennessee. During spring migration, birds are present in the state from late April to late May; in the fall, it is among the earliest migrants arriving in late August and departing in late September. Canada Warblers nest in high elevation forests, usually above 3,300 feet in the Appalachians, and above 2,700 feet in the Cumberland Mountains. Rangewide, this species is declining. It is included on the Audubon Watchlist, and is classified as Threatened in Canada.

Dynamic map of Canada Warbler eBird observations in Tennessee

Fun Facts:

  • The Canada Warbler spends a relatively short amount of time on the breeding grounds. It is one of the latest warblers to arrive and one of the first to depart.
  • John James Audubon (1785-1851) titled his painting of a female Canada Warbler, "Bonaparte's Flycatching-Warbler." He named it for the naturalist Charles Lucien Bonaparte, Prince of Musignano.

Obsolete English Names: necklaced warbler, Canadian flycatcher, Canadian flycatching warbler, Bonaparte's warbler, Bonaparte's Flycatching-Warbler

Best places to see in Tennessee: Canada Warblers might be encountered in any forest with understory shrubs during migration. They breed at high elevations on Roan Mountain, Great Smoky Mountains NP, and Frozen Head State Natural Area.

For more information:

National Audubon Society Watchlist


Conway, C. J. 1999. Canada Warbler (Wilsonia canadensis). The Birds of North America, No. 421 (A. Poole and F. Gill, eds.). The Birds of North America, Inc., Philadelphia, PA.

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

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

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