Kentucky Warbler

Geothlypis formosa

Order:
Passeriformes
Family:
Parulidae
Sections
  • Version: 2.0 — Published October 25, 2013
  • Mary Victoria McDonald
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Kentucky Warbler, Abundance map
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Data provided by eBird

Kentucky Warbler

Geothlypis formosa

Abundance

This map depicts the seasonally-averaged estimated relative abundance, defined as the expected count on a one-hour, one kilometer eBird Traveling Count conducted at the ideal time of day for detection of that species in a region.  Learn more

Relative abundance
birds per km/hr
Breeding season
May 31 - Aug 3
0.16
0.68
2.44
Non-breeding season
Oct 19 - Mar 22
0.16
0.68
2.44
Pre-breeding migratory season
Mar 29 - May 24
0.16
0.68
2.44
Post-breeding migratory season
Aug 10 - Oct 5
0.16
0.68
2.44
Note: Seasonal ranges overlap and are stacked in the order above; view full range in season maps.
Seasons timeline
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Adult male Kentucky Warbler, Marblehead, MA, 11 May.

Kentucky Warbler is distinctive in all plumages, and there is relatively little age/sex variation. Field marks include the bright yellow underparts and plain olive-brown upperparts, the yellow supercilium that curves behind and below the eye, and the black sides of the face and crown. Adult females have duller black face sides and crown, and immature females can lack black altogether, though all ages/sexes show the same general face pattern. The following is a link to this photographer's website: http://www.flickr.com/photos/ryser915/.

The song of the Kentucky Warbler is a familiar sound of rich, moist, deciduous forests in the southeastern United States. A skulking, ground-nesting bird, this warbler is heard more often than seen. In early spring, the male sings incessantly, sometimes partly concealed and almost motionless except for his vibrating throat, in bouts from the same perch for 5–15 minutes, typically at heights of 5–15 meters. Although his song may be confused with that of the Carolina Wren (Thryothorus ludovicianus), or even the Ovenbird (Seiurus aurocapilla), a flash of yellow and black when he changes perches confirms the Kentucky Warbler.

Numbers of this species appear to be declining, more in some regions than in others. Tropical deforestation may be one factor affecting this species. Data from several key studies (e.g., in Virginia and Arkansas) have provided a fairly good overview of the mating, territorial, and nesting behavior of this species, as well as annual survival of marked birds and early arrival and late departure dates from a long-term study in Virginia (MVM). Breeding-season distributional data, especially from Breeding Bird Atlas projects, notes published in state journals, and unpublished information are also fairly comprehensive.

As with most species, however, little is known about the postbreeding dispersal of juveniles and fall migration. Many studies of Neotropical migrants in Mexico and Central America include migrant or wintering Kentucky Warblers in their data sets, and at least 1 attempt (Mabey 1991) has been made to study a small banded population through 2 seasons in Panama. Much more research is needed on the migration and wintering ecology of the Kentucky Warbler.

Recommended Citation

McDonald, M. V. (2013). Kentucky Warbler (Geothlypis formosa), version 2.0. In The Birds of North America (A. F. Poole, Editor). Cornell Lab of Ornithology, Ithaca, NY, USA. https://doi.org/10.2173/bna.324