Red-faced Warbler

Cardellina rubrifrons

  • Version: 2.0 — Published January 1, 1995
  • Thomas E. Martin and Patricia M. Barber

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Figure 1. Distribution of the Red-faced Warbler.
Adult male Red-faced Warbler

The Red-faced Warbler breeds in the highlands of Arizona, New Mexico, and Mexico. The only representative of its genus and one of the least studied North American warblers, many aspects of its life history are either unknown or reported inaccurately. Nevertheless, this species is common in most high-elevation mixed deciduous/coniferous forests of its range.

This is one of the most strikingly plumaged birds in North America, especially compared to other co-occuring species. Its bright red face and breast are unusual for birds of this region, and they are offset by a dramatic black, gray, and white pattern. This warbler molts only once a year, at the end of summer, and it retains its colorful plumage all year. Males are generally brighter than females.

The Red-faced Warbler nests in a small hole or hollow on the ground, often with an overhang that helps to conceal and protect the nest. Although this species appears to be typically monogamous (a single pair maintains and defends a territory), it engages in high rates of extra-pair activity. In fact, almost three-quarters of the nests contain a young fathered by a male other than the territory owner.

Populations of this species may be declining in the U.S., although data are lacking for many regions. In Mexico, this species is virtually unstudied.

Recommended Citation

Martin, T. E. and P. M. Barber (1995). Red-faced Warbler (Cardellina rubrifrons), version 2.0. In The Birds of North America (A. F. Poole and F. B. Gill, Editors). Cornell Lab of Ornithology, Ithaca, NY, USA.