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Black-throated Blue Warbler

Setophaga caerulescens

Order:
Passeriformes
Family:
Parulidae
Sections

Multimedia

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Photos from this Account

Adult (Definitive Basic) male Black-throated Blue Warbler.

Male Black-throated Blue Warblers are distinctive and unmistakable. Note dark blue back, black face, throat, and flanks, whitish lower underparts, and large white wing patch.

Adult (Definitive Basic) male Black-throated Blue Warbler.

Lores, supraloral area, auriculars, chin, throat and sides of breast and flanks uniformly deep black, somewhat broken along flanks by white streaking; remainder of underparts including axillars and underwing coverts white.

Adult (Definitive Basic) male Black-throated Blue Warbler.

Upperwing feathers uniformly black edged with blue-gray, the primaries with extensive and distinct white bases forming patch that extends 7-14 mm distal to tip of longest primary covert.

Formative male Black-throated Blue Warbler.

Note greenish fringing on back feathers, and white edgings in black areas indicative of Formative Plumage. Wing patch in immature birds may be smaller/less distinct than in adult.

Formative (below) and adult (Definitive Basic) male Black-throated Blue Warbler.

Notice the blue edging on all three alula feathers and primary coverts on the adult (top), and the green edged outer 2 alula feathers and primary coverts on the first-year bird. In addition, notice the extent of the white wing patch in both of the wings (adults generally have a larger white patch). Although female Black-throated Blue Warblers show the same molt patterns as males, the molt limits are less obvious. Aug 08, 2008; photographer Powdermill, PA.

Adult (Definitive Basic) female Black-throated Blue Warbler.

Female is olive to olive-green, with a small, distinct white wing spot (usually), and a whitish stripe over the eye.

Adult (Definitive Basic) female Black-throated Blue Warbler.

Underparts are buffy yellowish, becoming whiter on throat. Feathers below eye are whitish, forming a broad crescent-shaped mark.

Formative female Black-throated Blue Warbler in flight.

White bases of primaries form a patch that extends 0–6 mm distal to tip of longest primary covert in first-year females. This white patch can often be seen in flight.

Formative female Black-throated Blue Warbler.

White patch at base of primaries is often absent, or extremely limited in first-year females. Formative female appears similar to Definitive Basic female, but duller, and lacking blueish tinge to upperparts.

Hatchling Black-throated Blue Warbler.

Gray tufts of down on capital, spinal, crural, caudal, and alar tracts. Sex of fledglings can be distinguished by the edging to the remiges and rectrices, blue-green in males and olive in females.

Adult (Definitive Basic) male Black-throated Blue Warbler (S. c. caerulescens).

Male with the dorsum deep steel-blue, the crown paler than the mantle.

Adult (Definitive Basic) male Black-throated Blue Warbler (S. c. caerulescens).

Breeds from southeastern Canada, south into the northern United States from Minnesota east to Pennsylvania; winters on the Greater Antilles and adjacent islands.

Adult (Definitive Basic) male Black-throated Blue Warbler (S. c. cairnsi).

Male dark blue crown concolorous with a mantle typically blotched with some black. Note the black streaking on the dorsal feathers.

Adult (Definitive Basic) male Black-throated Blue Warbler (S. c. cairnsi).

Breeds in the Appalachians from southwestern Pennsylvania and West Virginia south to northern Georgia; winters in the Greater Antilles.

Black-throated Blue Warbler breeding habitat, New Hampshire.

High elevation at Hubbard Brook Experimental Forest. Nests are often placed low in the hobblebush (Viburnum lantanoides) (foreground).

Black-throated Blue Warbler breeding habitat, New Hampshire.

A northern hardwood forest at Hubbard Brook, showing the dense heterogeneous shrub layer of sugar maple, beech, and hobblebush.

Black-throated Blue Warbler breeding habitat, North Carolina.

Nests are often placed in Rhododendron thickets.

Black-throated Blue Warbler breeding habitat, North Carolina.
Typical Black-throated Blue Warbler overwintering habitat: a wet limestone forest in Jamaica.

Photo: Alexander Sliwa, near Windsor, Trelawny Parish, Jamaica, 1988.

Black-throated Blue Warbler overwintering habitat: a shade-coffee plantation in Jamaica.
Adult male Black-throated Blue Warbler foraging.

When foraging, both sexes visually search leaf surfaces, branches, and twigs, tree boles, and surrounding air spaces by moving rapidly through dense foliage. Prey are taken primarily from the under-surfaces of leaves.

Adult female Black-throated Blue Warbler with spider.

In the breeding season, Black-throated Blue Warblers are primarily insectivorous, feeding extensively on Lepidoptera larvae and adults, crane flies and other adult Diptera, other arthropods, spiders, and small snails.

Adult male Black-throated Blue Warbler with food items.
Adult female Black-throated Blue Warbler with berry.

During overwintering period, primary foods include some Lepidoptera larvae, leaf hoppers, beetles, flies, and small berries and fruits. Also feeds at flowers, possibly for nectar and/or insects.

Adult male Black-throated Blue Warbler vocalizing.

Singing is almost exclusively by the male, although females have been reported to sing occasionally.

Adult female Black-throated Blue Warbler on ground.

May forage on ground, particularly in Fall.

Adult male Black-throated Blue Warbler.

Trunk-creeping behavior.

Black-throated Blue Warbler nest.

Nest usually located in dense shrub layer of either deciduous or mixed coniferous-deciduous habitat. Typically hidden by foliage, usually with one or more sprays of leaves directly overhead, and placed in a fork of a low shrub or sapling; often incorporating a leaning dead stick or branch, which serves as a tripod-like support for the nest.

Typical nest of the Black-throated Blue Warbler.

Nest constructed of thin strips of bark, often obtained from white or yellow birch, and occasionally pieces of rotten wood, glued together by using silk from spider webs and apparently saliva. Nest collected near S. Sterling, Wayne Co., PA. 16 June 1917. Ruler is 8 cm.; photographer Rene Corado.

Female Black-throated Blue Warbler on nest.

Photo by Alisa Muniz.

Black-throated Blue Warbler clutch.

Stephentown, Rensselaer County, New York, 4 June. Photographer Rene Corado.

Black-throated Blue Warbler nest with eggs.

The inner wall of the nest is composed of shredded bark fibers, and lined with fine black rootlets, pine needles, bits of moss, and strands of mammal hair. Eggs are ivory or creamy white, speckled, blotched or clouded with tones of brown, chestnut, or gray. Markings variable, usually concentrated at the large end.

Black-throated Blue Warbler eggs and hatchlings.

Photo by Patrick Roberts.

Black-throated Blue Warbler hatchlings.
Black-throated Blue Warbler nestlings near fledging.
Adult male Black-throated Blue Warbler with fledgling.

Either one or both adults, usually both, remain in attendance with the fledglings, providing food and giving alarm calls. In many cases, the adults split the brood, one or two young going with each parent.

Cover Image: Adult (Definitive Basic) male Black-throated Blue Warbler.

Recommended Citation

Holmes, R. T., S. A. Kaiser, N. L. Rodenhouse, T. S. Sillett, M. S. Webster, P. Pyle, and M. A. Patten (2017). Black-throated Blue Warbler (Setophaga caerulescens), version 3.0. In The Birds of North America (P. G. Rodewald, Editor). Cornell Lab of Ornithology, Ithaca, NY, USA. https://doi.org/10.2173/bna.btbwar.03