This guide will help you identify all the species of warbler that are regularly occurring in Idaho with photo ID and descriptions, audio recordings of their songs, and fun facts, plus more.
Warblers are small migratory songbirds that travel long distances from as far as South America up to breeding grounds as far as Canada. They are active and often bright birds that rush through from breeding to wintering grounds in a flash of yellow and green and with a marvelous variety of songs.
North American warblers are known as wood-warblers as they can be found mainly in woodland and forests. You may also get what is known as warbler neck, which is a painful neck stiffness and tingling from looking up into the trees with your binoculars trying to spot them.
Warblers mainly eat insects, but they will often come to backyard feeders for seeds or mealworms. Find out the other species of birds that regularly visit Idaho and print a free ID chart.
This guide will help you identify the types of warblers spotted in Idaho that are classed as regularly occurring according to avibase and uses data collected from bird watchers on ebird to give real information about when these birds can be spotted.
Warblers in Idaho in summer: Yellow-rumped Warbler, Yellow Warbler, Orange-crowned Warbler, Common Yellowthroat, MacGillivray’s Warbler, Yellow-breasted Chat, Townsend’s Warbler, Nashville Warbler, American Redstart, Black-throated Gray Warbler, Northern Waterthrush, Virginia’s Warbler
Warblers in Idaho during migration: Wilson’s Warbler, Black-and-white Warbler
What Do Warblers Sound Like?
You will often hear warblers before you see them, and if you get to know a few of their songs, then it will be easier to identify the bird you see. Luckily some warblers’ songs sound more distinctive than others.
Warblers’ songs can be described as buzzy, clear, or a trill and they may rise in pitch or fall, and they have several different sounds going on. A buzzy note sounds insect-like, a clear note is like a whistle, and a trill is so fast you can’t hear the individual notes.
For all of the warblers in this guide, you can hear their song, but you can check out this guide to 13 easy to recognize warbler songs to help.
Warblers with Buzzy songs:
- Black-throated Blue Warblers’ song rises and is buzzy
- Prairie Warblers’ songs are also buzzy and rising
- Black-throated Green Warblers’ songs are also buzzy, but with a couple of clear notes in the middle
- Blackpoll warblers’ song are clear and steady but sound like the buzz of an insect
- Prairie Warblers’ song is buzzy and rises in pitch
- Palm Warblers’ song is buzzy
Warblers with songs with clear notes:
- Common Yellowthroats’ song is made up of a series of notes that rise and fall and is then repeated
- Ovenbirds sing a series of notes that rise and fall
- Hooded Warblers also have clear notes
- Chestnut-sided Warblers’ song is a series of clear falling notes that speeds up at the end
- Yellow-rumped Warblers make a series of clear notes that fades out at the end
- Yellow Warblers’ song speeds up
- Northern Parulas have a rising trill that ends with a different note, almost like a period to stop
- Wilson’s Warblers’ song is a series of clear falling notes that speed up
14 Species of Warbler in Idaho:
1. Yellow-rumped Warbler
Yellow-rumped Warblers can be spotted during the breeding season in northern Idaho, but their numbers increase during migration in May and from September to October. They are recorded in 15% of summer checklists and up to 33% of checklists during migration.
Yellow-rumped Warblers are gray with flashes of yellow on the face, sides, and rump and white in the wings. Females may be slightly brown, and winter birds are paler brown with bright yellow rumps and sides turning bright yellow and gray again in spring.
There are two subspecies, the Myrtle Warbler of the eastern US and boreal forests of Canada, which lacks the yellow throat, and Audubon’s Warbler of the west which also has more white in the wings.
- Setophaga coronata
- Length: 4.7-5.5 in (12-14 cm)
- Weight: 0.4-0.5 oz (12-13 g)
- Wingspan: 7.5-9.1 in (19-23 cm)
Yellow-rumped Warblers breed predominantly in Canada and parts of the Rockies and the Appalachian mountains.
During migration, they can be seen in the Midwest before overwintering in southern and southwestern US states and the Pacific Coast and into Mexico and Central America.
You can find Yellow-rumped Warblers in coniferous forests, especially during the breeding season. During winter, they can be found in open areas with fruiting shrubs. In summer, they eat mostly insects and on migration, and in winter, they eat mostly fruit, including bayberry and wax myrtle.
Yellow-rumped Warbler Song:
Nests of Yellow-rumped Warblers are made by females in conifer trees from twigs, pine needles, and grass and lined with soft grass, moss, and hair. They lay up to six eggs which take around two weeks to hatch and a further two weeks to leave the nest.
Attract Yellow-rumped Warblers to your backyard with sunflower seeds, suet, raisins, and peanut butter.
Fun Fact: Yellow-rumped Warblers form flocks numbering thousands in the winter, and they can be aggressive to any other species getting too close.
2. Yellow Warbler
Yellow Warblers are the most frequently spotted yellow birds in Idaho during the breeding season. They are mainly spotted from mid-April to September and occur in up to 30% of summer checklists.
Yellow Warblers are small bright yellow birds with a yellow-green back, and the males have chestnut streaks on the breast. Females and juveniles are not as bright as males and lack the streaks.
- Setophaga petechia
- Length: 4.7-5.1 in (12-13 cm)
- Weight: 0.3-0.4 oz (9-11 g)
- Wingspan: 6.3-7.9 in (16-20 cm)
Yellow Warblers migrate a long distance to breed in Canada and the US, except for southeastern states, before heading back into Central and South America for winter. However, they can be seen during migration in southeastern US states.
You can find Yellow Warblers along streams and wetlands in thickets and along the edges of fields foraging for insects, including caterpillars, midges, beetles, bugs, and wasps.
Yellow Warbler Song:
Nests of Yellow Warblers are in small trees or shrubs and made from bark, grass, and plant material woven together and secured with spiders webs to form a cup. It is then lined with softer material such as hair, feathers, and plant down.
They lay up to seven eggs which take around twelve days to hatch and a further ten days for the young to leave the nest.
Attract Yellow Warblers to your backyard with suet, oranges, peanut butter, and plants with berries. Also, plant native plants that attract insects without pesticides or being too tidy! Also, try birdbaths with fountains near secluded planting to provide protection.
Fun Fact: Cowbirds often lay their eggs in Yellow Warblers’ nests, and if detected, then the Yellow Warblers build a new nest on top of the old nest and eggs and start again – up to six times!
3. Orange-crowned Warbler
Orange-crowned Warblers spend the breeding season in Idaho, but their numbers increase during the migration in May and September. They are recorded in 4% of summer checklists and up to 9% of checklists during migration.
Orange-crowned Warblers are not as brightly colored as other warblers with their yellow-olive coloring, which is more yellow on the Pacific Coast. Their orange crown is rarely seen. Males and females look the same but juveniles are grayer.
- Leiothlypis celata
- Length: 4.3-5.5 in (11-14 cm)
- Weight: 0.3-0.4 oz (7-11 g)
- Wingspan: 7.5 in (19 cm)
Orange-crowned Warblers breed in Canada and western US states before migrating to the Pacific, East and Gulf Coasts, and Mexico. They can also be seen during migration in all US states, except the northeastern.
You can find Orange-crowned Warblers in shrubs and low vegetation, but they breed in open woodland. Their diet consists mainly of spiders and insects such as caterpillars and flies. They will also eat fruit, berries, and seeds and regularly visit backyard feeders.
Orange-crowned Warbler Song:
Nests of Orange-crowned Warblers are near to or on the ground and made from dead leaves, twigs, and stems and then lined with soft grass and animal hair. They lay up to six eggs.
Attract Orange-crowned Warblers to your yard with suet and peanut butter or hummingbird feeders filled with sugar water nectar.
Fun Fact: Orange-crowned Warblers will drink from the sapwells of sapsuckers and woodpeckers.
4. Common Yellowthroat
Common Yellowthroats are mainly seen in Idaho during the breeding season and are mainly spotted from May to September. They appear in 6% of summer checklists.
Common Yellowthroats are small songbirds that are brownish on the back and bright yellow underneath, with long tails. The males have a black mask across their faces. The brightness of the yellow can vary geographically, and they may be more olive in parts underneath.
- Geothlypis trichas
- Length: 4.3-5.1 in (11-13 cm)
- Weight: 0.3-0.3 oz (9-10 g)
- Wingspan: 5.9-7.5 in (15-19 cm)
Common Yellowthroats spend the summer breeding over most of North America, except Alaska and northern Canada. Some remain all year along the Gulf Coast and Pacific Southwest. Then, they migrate south for winter.
You can find Common Yellowthroats often in marshy or wetland areas and brushy fields living in thick, tangled vegetation.
Common Yellowthroat Song:
Nests of Common Yellowthroats are built by females near the ground in marshy areas and supported by reeds. The nest is made from grass and sedges supported on a platform of leaves and grass. They lay up to six eggs which take around twelve days to hatch and the same for the young to leave the nest.
Attract Common Yellowthroats to large backyards with dense vegetation and native plants to attract insects.
Fun Fact: The black mask of Common Yellowthroats is a sign to courting males that that bird is male, and they attack when fake birds are used, but they do not attack when the bird has no mask.
5. MacGillivray’s Warbler
MacGillivray’s Warblers spend summer in Idaho and are usually spotted from April to October. They occur in 5% of checklists at this time.
MacGillivray’s Warblers are small but chunky birds. Males have slate gray heads, black bands across the eyes, and grayish spots that darken to black from under the bill to the throat. Females have a light-gray head and throat, with no black markings. They both have olive-gray backs, yellow bellies, and white, crescent-shaped partial eyerings.
- Geothlypis tolmiei
- Length:5.25 inches (13 cm)
- Weight: 0.4 oz (11 g)
- Wingspan: 8.25 inches (21 cm)
MacGillivray’s Warblers breed mainly in northwestern US states and western Canada before migrating to Mexico and Central America.
You can find MacGillivray’s Warblers in areas with dense shrubbery or vegetation. They also abound in shady thickets near streams, in logged forests with fallen trees, or in burned areas with dead trees.
MacGillivray’s Warblers spend their time foraging on the ground, either hopping or flying low, in search of insects, like beetles and caterpillars.
MacGillivray’s Warblers’ song:
Nests of MacGillivray’s Warblers are concealed in thick shrubs, around one to five feet above the ground. They are placed in upright forks of scrub oaks or fir saplings. There are also some nests that are placed on the ground within tall weeds and ferns.
They are usually constructed out of weed stems, barks, and dry grass. The female lays three to six eggs which she alone incubates for about eleven days.
Fun Fact: MacGillivray’s Warblers were named after Dr. W. MacGillivray who was a friend of John James Audubon. However, John Kirk Townsend had already given the species a name, “Tolmie’s Warbler”, in honor of Dr. W. T. Tolmie. Thus, the scientific name “tolmiei” was the compromise.
6. Yellow-breasted Chat
Yellow-breasted Chats spend the breeding season in Idaho and occur in 6% of summer checklists. They are mainly spotted from mid-April to September.
Yellow-breasted Chats have bright yellow breasts and long tails. They are olive-gray on the back and have gray heads with white eye and chin markings. Their lower bellies are white.
- Icteria virens
- Length: 7.1 in (18 cm)
- Weight: 0.8-1.1 oz (23-31 g)
- Wingspan: 9.8 in (25 cm)
Yellow-breasted Chats breed over most US states and just into southern Canada. They spend the winter in Central America and coastal Mexico.
You can spot Yellow-breasted Chats in blackberry bushes, fields, and forest edges feeding on spiders, insects, and berries.
Yellow-breasted Chat song:
Nests of Yellow-breasted Chats are hidden in shrubs and made from grass, leaves, and plant material woven into a cup. Brown-headed Cowbirds often lay their eggs in their nests to raise their chicks.
They lay up to six eggs which take about eleven days to hatch, and up to ten days for the young to leave the nest.
Fun Fact: Male Yellow-breasted Chats fight by grappling with their feet, and they also make a dramatic flight display while singing and dropping towards the ground, finishing with a thump of their wings.
7. Wilson’s Warbler
Wilson’s Warblers are spotted in Idaho during spring and fall migration, but some also spend the breeding season in the north of the state.
Wilson’s Warblers are tiny round yellow warblers with a large black cap in the males and a smaller black cap in females.
- Cardellina pusilla
- Length: 3.9-4.7 in (10-12 cm)
- Weight: 0.2-0.3 oz (5-10 g)
- Wingspan: 5.5-6.7 in (14-17 cm)
Wilson’s Warblers breed in Canada, Alaska, and northwestern US states but can also be seen across all US states during migration. They winter in Mexico and Central America.
You can find Wilson’s Warblers along streams in thickets and near forest edges foraging for insects and their larvae and spiders.
Wilson’s Warblers song:
Nests of Wilson’s Warblers are well hidden on the ground near trees or shrubs and made from leaves and sedges for the base. Grass, bark, moss, and plant material are woven into a cup shape and lined with soft grass and animal hair. They lay around five eggs which take about eleven days to hatch and an additional ten days for the young to leave the nest.
Attract Wilson’s Warblers to your backyard with native trees and shrubs, but they do not visit feeders.
Fun Fact: Wilson’s Warblers distract potential nest predators by pretending to have a broken wing and drawing the predator away before flying off.
8. Townsend’s Warbler
Townsend’s Warblers are usually seen in Idaho from May to October and occur in 3% of checklists at this time.
Townsend’s Warblers are small black and yellow birds. Males are striking with their black crowns, cheeks, and throats. They also have yellow eyebrows, a yellow crescent under the eye, and yellow bellies. They have black spots on their yellow upper backs. They have black wings with two white wingbars. Their bellies are white.
Female Townsend’s Warblers are lighter in color but with almost the same patterns. However, females don’t have the distinctive black throat that males do. Juveniles are even lighter in color. Their backs, crowns, and cheeks are olive-green. They also do not have the black throat of the males but they do have the streaks on the chest, just light-colored.
- Setophaga townsendi
- Length: 4.75 – 5 inches (12 – 13 cm)
- Weight: 0.3 oz (9 g)
- Wingspan: 7.5 – 8 inches (19 – 20 cm)
Townsend’s Warblers breed in western Canada, northwestern US states and Alaska before migrating to the Pacific Coast, Mexico and Central America.
You can find Townsend’s Warblers in tall and dense coniferous forests in the coastal belt and in the mountains. They prefer areas with pine, oak, alder, madrones, and laurels.
Townsend’s Warblers, with their partiality to high and tall trees, naturally forage in them, too. They search among twigs and branches for insects like caterpillars, bugs, beetles, and leafhoppers. They will also hover among foliage just to get their food.
In winter, Townsend’s Warblers are known to feed on the sugary excretions of scale insects. They will actually set up and defend their territory around these insects.
Townsend’s Warblers’ song:
Nests of Townsend’s Warblers are also located high up in the trees, usually placed on top of a branch. They are made of grass stems, mosses, and barks and lined with feathers and animal hair.
Attract Townsend’s Warblers to your backyard in the winter by preparing mealworms, peanut butter, and suet. They usually drop by backyard feeders when temperatures get too cold.
Fun Fact: The Townsend’s Warbler got its name from American ornithologist John Kirk Townsend.
9. Nashville Warbler
Nashville Warblers can be spotted in Idaho during summer from April until September and occur in 2% of checklists at this time.
Nashville Warblers are mostly yellow with a green back and gray head with a white eyering. Females and juveniles are not as bright as males. They have distinctive white bellies between yellow breasts and under their tails.
- Leiothlypis ruficapilla
- Length: 4.3-5.1 in (11-13 cm)
- Weight: 0.2-0.5 oz (6.7-13.9 g)
- Wingspan: 6.7-7.9 in (17-20 cm)
Nashville Warblers breed in northeastern US states and Canada and a smaller population in northwestern US states and into British Columbia. They can also be seen during migration in most states.
You can find Nashville Warbler in scrubby habitats and low deciduous forests, hunting for insects.
Nashville Warbler song:
Nests of Nashville Warblers are close to the ground and made from bark, moss, and grass woven into a cup and lined with pine needles, soft grass, and animal hair. They lay around five eggs which take twelve days to hatch and an additional ten days for the young to leave the nest.
Attract Nashville Warblers to your backyard in winter to southern US states with suet.
Fun Fact: The first time Nashville Warblers migrate, they go along the Atlantic Coast, but after that, they always go inland.
10. American Redstart
American Redstarts are spotted in Idaho during the breeding season from May to September, mostly in the north of the state.
American Redstarts are mostly black with bright orange patches and a white belly. Females are olive-gray instead of black and have yellow patches.
- Setophaga ruticilla
- Length: 4.3-5.1 in (11-13 cm)
- Weight: 0.2-0.3 oz (6-9 g)
- Wingspan: 6.3-7.5 in (16-19 cm)
American Redstarts breed in eastern US states and Canada and into northwestern US states. They may also be seen during migration in central and western US states.
You can find American Redstarts in deciduous woodlands eating insects and also in backyards and thickets eating berries such as serviceberry and magnolia.
American Redstart song: Their song drops in pitch at the end.
Nests of American Redstarts are close to the trunk in trees or large shrubs and are made from bark, grass, and other plant material. They lay up to five eggs which take just under two weeks to hatch and a week or two for the young to leave the nest.
Attract American Redstarts to your backyard with berry plants such as magnolia and serviceberry.
Fun Fact: American Redstart parents only feed certain chicks each rather than feeding them all.
11. Black-throated Gray Warbler
Black-throated Gray Warblers spend summer in Idaho and are mainly spotted from May to September in the south of the state.
Black-throated Gray Warblers are black-and-white streaked warblers with a gray back and yellow spot in front of the eyes. Males have more black on their throats than females.
- Setophaga nigrescens
- Length: 4.3-5.1 in (11-13 cm)
- Weight: 0.3-0.3 oz (7-10 g)
- Wingspan: 7.5-7.8 in (19-19.7 cm)
Black-throated Gray Warblers breed in western and south-central US states and the coast of British Columbia before migrating to Mexico for winter.
You can find Black-throated Gray Warblers searching for insects on trees in woodlands and on shrubs.
Black-throated Gray Warblers song:
Nests of Black-throated Gray Warblers are in trees and made by the female from bark, grass, and moss. They lay up to five eggs.
Fun Fact: Although Black-throated Gray Warblers are easy to observe, can be found at lower levels in trees, and are not shy birds, very little is known about them.
12. Northern Waterthrush
Northern Waterthrushes are not very common in Idaho, but they can be spotted mainly in the north of the state during summer.
Northern Waterthrushes are large, thrush-like birds whose males and females bear similar traits. They both have brown heads with thick, white eyebrows, dark brown backs, and white bellies with dark, heavy streaking from their throats all the way to their rumps.
- Parkesia noveboracensis
- Length: 5.75 inches (15 cm)
- Weight: 0.8 oz (23 g)
- Wingspan: 8.75 inches (22 cm)
Northern Waterthrushes breed in Canada, Alaska and northeastern US states before migrating to Mexico, Cental and South America and the Caribbean. Some may remain all year in Cental and South America.
You can find Northern Waterthrushes in dark, woody swamps, thickets, and bogs. If there is any still or sluggish water in the forests, you’ll probably find a Northern Waterthrush around it. In winter, in the tropics, you will usually find them among mangroves.
The Northern Waterthrushes are aquatic and terrestrial foragers. With their long legs, they are able to walk on shallow water in search of water beetles, mosquitoes, slugs, crustaceans, snails, and sometimes, small fish. They also eat caterpillars, moths, and ants, which they find under leaves.
Northern Waterthrushes’ song:
Nests of Northern Waterthrushes are usually located in hollows or crevices near water. They can be in a moss-covered stump or under a jutting bank, but the nests are usually hidden among ferns. Females build them from moss, twigs, pine needles, bark strips, and roots, where she lays three to six eggs. She alone incubates the eggs for about two weeks.
Fun Fact: Northern Waterthrushes usually walk on the ground rather than hop. When walking, they bob their tails, making them appear out of balance.
13. Virginia’s Warbler
Although not very common here, Virginia’s Warblers can be found in Idaho during summer, mainly in the southeast of the state.
Virginia’s Warblers are very small and easily overlooked birds, but they have really striking colors. Males and females are pretty similar in coloring. They both have gray heads, backs, and bellies. Their heads have a reddish patch on the crown.
They seem to look like they’re always surprised because of their dark eyes with white eyering. Their throats are white, their chests and rumps are yellow, and their bellies are gray. Their wings and tail are black.
Females may have less brilliant crowns compared to males. Juveniles are paler in color, and they don’t have the reddish crown common to adults.
- Leiothlypis virginiae
- Length: 4.5 – 4.75 inches (11 – 12 cm)
- Weight: 0.3 oz (9 g)
- Wingspan: 7.25 – 7.75 inches (18 – 20 cm)
Virginia’s Warblers are found in southwestern US states and are not found in Virginia as their name comes from the person who discovered them – Virginia Anderson.
You can find Virginia’s Warblers in pinyon-juniper brushlands, pine and oak woodlands, and woodlands near streams. In winter, they live among dry scrub.
These Virginia Warblers are so small that it’s difficult to observe them, so not much is known about their diet. They have been observed to hop from branch to branch among the trees at mid-level, and they’re presumed to eat insects like other warblers.
Virginia Warblers’ song:
Nests are located on the ground and are pretty hard to find. They’re well-concealed among dead leaves at the bottom of a shrub or tree. The female probably built it from coarse grass, bark strips, roots, and moss. The female lays around three to five eggs and most likely incubates them on her own.
Fun Fact: Because of their size, Virginia’s Warblers are hard to see, but you just might catch them because they frequently wag their tail up and down while they’re on branches of pine and oak trees.
14. Black-and-white Warbler
Black-and-white Warblers are not often seen in Idaho, but you might spot some during migration.
Black-and-white Warblers are quite distinctive and so more easy to identify with their stiped appearance. Males have a large black patch across the eye and cheek and are a darker black than females.
- Mniotilta varia
- Length: 4.3-5.1 in (11-13 cm)
- Weight: 0.3-0.5 oz (8-15 g)
- Wingspan: 7.1-8.7 in (18-22 cm)
Black-and-white Warblers breed in the eastern United States and Canada. They spend the winter in Florida, along the Gulf Coast, and down through Mexico, Baja California, the Caribbean, and northern South America. They can be seen during migration in central US states.
You can spot Black-and-white Warblers hopping up and down on tree trunks and branches in forests, looking for insects.
Black-and-white Warbler song:
Nests of Black-and-white Warblers are hidden close to or on the ground, often under a log or shrub. The nest is made from bark, grass, and pine needles woven into a cup. They lay around five eggs which take about eleven days to hatch and an additional ten days for the young to leave the nest.
How Frequently Warblers Are Spotted In Idaho In Summer And Winter
Checklists are a great resource to find out which birds are commonly spotted in your state. These lists show which warblers are most frequently recorded on checklists on ebird in summer and winter in Idaho.
Warblers in Idaho in summer:
Yellow Warbler 30.0%
Yellow-rumped Warbler 15.8%
Common Yellowthroat 6.4%
Yellow-breasted Chat 6.2%
MacGillivray’s Warbler 5.6%
Orange-crowned Warbler 4.8%
Townsend’s Warbler 3.3%
Wilson’s Warbler 3.0%
Nashville Warbler 2.8%
American Redstart 0.7%
Black-throated Gray Warbler 0.6%
Northern Waterthrush 0.6%
Virginia’s Warbler 0.3%
Black-and-white Warbler <0.1%
Warblers in Idaho in winter:
Yellow-rumped Warbler 5.7%
Orange-crowned Warbler 0.4%
Common Yellowthroat <0.1%
Yellow-breasted Chat <0.1%
Wilson’s Warbler <0.1%
Nashville Warbler <0.1%
MacGillivray’s Warbler <0.1%
Black-and-white Warbler <0.1%
Townsend’s Warbler <0.1%
How To Attract Warblers To Your Backyard
Warblers are not as common as other songbirds to backyard feeders, but there are ways you can attract these melodious songbirds to your yard:
- Provide trees if your yard is big enough
- Leave brush piles and don’t be too tidy to ensure an insect friend habitat
- Don’t use pesticides or herbicides to ensure insects are available and birds do not consume any
- Provide a clean water source
- Offer mealworms, preferably live ones but dried if not
- Provide bird feeders with sunflower seeds, peanut hearts, and suet