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Blackpoll Warbler
Setophaga striata

The breeding range of the Blackpoll Warbler stretches across the northern coniferous forests of Alaska and Canada where it is a very common breeding bird. Given the remoteness of this area, however, many details of its breeding biology are still not known. The Blackpoll Warbler is primarily found in Tennessee only during spring migration. The fall migration route takes them out over the Atlantic Ocean from the northeastern United States to the wintering grounds in northern South America! This route averages 1,864 miles over water, and requires a nonstop flight of up to 88 hours. In Tennessee the Blackpoll Warbler is most likely to be found from late April to late May, and rarely in the fall.

Description: The breeding male of this small songbird is boldly patterned black-and-white with a black cap, white cheek, black mustache stripe, white throat, and a white chest with thin black stripes on the sides. The adult females resemble the male in non-breeding plumage and have a grayish-green back and head with blackish streaks, a faint face pattern similar to the male's but with a pale whitish eye-stripe. Non-breeding adults are greenish above and the face and breast are washed with yellow. Juveniles are similar to non-breeding adults, but are duller and have less streaking. Two white wing bars are present in all plumages, as are white spots on the outer corners of the tail. Another important field character is that the legs and especially the feet are bright yellow. Non-breeding males, females, and juveniles closely resemble Bay-breasted Warblers.

Length: 5.5"
Wingspan: 9"
Weight: 0.44 oz

Voice: The song is a very high, rapid series of short tsi notes.

Similar Species:

  • Black-and-white Warbler has a striped crown and a black-and-white striped back; male has a dark throat and black cheeks. Also this species creeps on bark and branches like a nuthatch.
  • In fall, very similar to Bay-breasted Warbler, which has some buff or chestnut along its sides, is brighter green on the back, mostly lacks streaking on under-parts, has buff-colored under-tail, a less defined eye-stripe, and dark legs and feet.
  • Pine Warbler is unstreaked on back.

Habitat: In migration it can be found in a variety of forest, woodland, scrub and brushy habitats.

Diet: Insects and spiders, fruit during migration.

Nesting and reproduction: The Blackpoll Warbler has not been documented nesting in Tennessee.

Status in Tennessee: Fairly common during spring migration from late April to late May; it is very rare in fall from mid-September to mid-October.

Dynamic map of Blackpoll Warbler eBird observations in Tennessee

Fun Facts:

  • Blackpoll Warblers undertake the longest migration of any warbler, with some individuals traveling over 8,000 km (5,000 mi) from Alaska to Brazil. Most individuals fly directly from the northeastern United States, over the Atlantic Ocean, to Puerto Rico, the Lesser Antilles, or northern South America, a distance of about 3,000 km (1,864 mi) over water! To accomplish this 88-hour flight, Blackpoll Warblers nearly double their body weight and take advantage of upper elevation wind patterns.
  • The song of the male Blackpoll Warbler is one of the highest-pitched of all birds.

Best places to see in Tennessee: In mixed-species foraging flocks in woodland habitats across the state during spring.

For more information:


Hunt, P. D., and B. C. Eliason. 1999. Blackpoll Warbler (Dendroica striata). The Birds of North America, No. 431 (A. Poole and F. Gill, eds.). The Academy of Natural Sciences, Philadelphia, PA, and The American Ornithologists' Union, Washington, D.C.

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

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