Warblers in Kentucky – Picture and ID Guide

Yellow Breasted Chat

Warblers are mostly spotted in Kentucky during the migration or in summer here. Only the Yellow-rumped Warbler is commonly spotted in winter in Kentucky.

Kentucky is a great place to spot warblers as 36 out of 54 found in the United States are listed here, according to the Kentucky Ornithological Society.

Many warblers are spotted here during the breeding season. I have listed which warblers are most commonly spotted according to ebird checklists submitted for the state in spring and summer (May and June) and winter (January and December).

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If you like bird watching in Kentucky, you should check out the most common backyard birds in Kentucky.

I have researched the 25 most common warblers in Kentucky for you to get spotting, so don’t delay take a look.

Most Common Warblers in Kentucky in Spring/Summer

  1. Common Yellowthroat 22%
  2. Northern Parula 17%
  3. Yellow-breasted Chat 14%
  4. Prairie Warbler 9%
  5. Yellow-throated Warbler 8%
  6. Yellow Warbler 9%
  7. Prothonotary Warbler 8%
  8. American Redstart 7%
  9. Kentucky Warbler 7%
  10. Black-and-white Warbler 7%

Most Common Warblers in Kentucky in Winter

  1. Yellow-rumped Warbler 9%
  2. Pine Warbler 1%
  3. Palm Warbler 1%

1. Common Yellowthroat

common yellowthroat

Common Yellowthroats are common warblers in Kentucky between March and November. Some will also spend the winter here.

These warblers are common in summer and not just during migration as they breed in most states. The distinctive black mask really pops against the bright yellow chest.

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 the face.  The brightness of the yellow can vary geographically and they may be more olive in parts underneath.

  • 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.

They can be found in the spring and summer, often in marshy or wetland areas and brushy fields living in thick, tangled vegetation. 

They eat primarily insects and will be found in large backyards that have dense vegetation.

2. Northern Parula

Northern Parula

Northern Parula are common warblers in Kentucky between late March and mid-October. However, they are more common here during the spring and fall migration.

Northern Parula are warblers that breed over a wide area in eastern US states, so you have more opportunities to spot this distinctive bird. The gorgeous bluish-gray back against the bright yellow throat and chest really set them apart.

With a colorful contrast of gray and yellow, the Northern Parula is a cheery warbler found in woodlands.

They are bluish-gray on the back with a yellow patch on the back and with two white wingbars. Males have a chestnut band that separates the yellow throat and chest that adorns both males and females. Females are paler than males.

  • Length: 4.3-4.7 in (11-12 cm)
  • Weight: 0.2-0.4 oz (5-11 g)
  • Wingspan: 6.3-7.1 in (16-18 cm)

Northern Parulas breed in the Eastern States and southeastern Canada before heading to Central America and the Caribbean for winter. They may remain for winter in southern Florida.

They feed on insects high up in deciduous forests and build nests in long clumps of lichen and moss that drape from the branches. The best way to spot them is by looking up at large clumps of hanging moss in the summer.

3. Yellow-breasted Chat

Yellow Breasted Chat

Yellow-breasted Chat can be spotted in Kentucky between April and mid-October.

Yellow-breasted Chats have bright yellow breasts and long tails. They are gray on the back and heads and have white eye and chin markings.

  • Length: 7.1 in (18 cm)
  • Weight: 0.8-1.1 oz (23-31 g)
  • Wingspan: 9.8 in (25 cm)

Yellow-breasted Chat breed over most US states and just into southern Canada. They spend the winter in Central America and coastal Mexico.

They can be spotted in blackberry bushes, fields and forest edges feeding on spiders and insects and berries.

Brown-headed Cowbirds often lay their eggs in their nests to raise their chicks.

4. Prairie Warbler

Prairie Warbler (Dendroica discolor)

Prairie Warblers breed in Kentucky from April until October before heading south for the winter. However, some have been spotted here as late as December.

These small songbirds are olive green on the back and yellow on the throat and belly. They have black streaks on the sides and a dark semicircle under the eye. Female Prairie Warblers are duller in color.

  • Length: 4.3 in (11 cm)
  • Weight: 0.2-0.3 oz (6.4-8.8 g)

Prairie Warblers breed over the eastern and southeastern states and spend the winter in Florida, the Caribbean, and some coastal areas in Central America.

Those in Florida that remain all year are considered to be separate subspecies and are slightly larger.

Although called prairie warblers, they actually live in fields and forests.

5. Yellow-throated Warbler

Yellow throated Warbler

Yellow-throated Warblers can be spotted in Kentucky from March until November. Their number also swells during the spring and fall migration.

Similar in appearance to the Common Yellowthroat, the Yellow-throated Warbler has a gray and white body with black stripes rather than a brown body.

  • Length: 5.1-5.5 in (13-14 cm)
  • Weight: 0.3-0.4 oz (9-11 g)
  • Wingspan: 8.3 in (21 cm)

Yellow-throated Warblers breed across the southeastern states and spend winter in Florida, the Caribbean and along the Gulf Coast into Central America. 

They spend their time at the top of pine trees but may forage lower down during migration.

6. Yellow Warbler

yellow warbler

Yellow Warblers breed in Kentucky between April and mid-October before migrating south.

Yellow Warblers are small bright yellow birds with a yellow-green back, and the males have chestnut streaks on the breast, which are a common sight in summer.

  • 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 over much of North America before heading into Central and northern South America for winter.

They can be seen during migration in the far south.

Yellow Warblers can be found along streams and wetlands in thickets and along the edges of fields foraging for insects, including caterpillars, midges, beetles, bugs, and wasps.

Warblers are hard to attract to your backyard as they are shy and eat mainly insects,  but you can try suet, oranges, and peanut butter. 

7. Prothonotary Warbler

Prothonotary Warbler

Prothonotary Warblers can be spotted in Kentucky between April and mid-October for breeding.

A warbler that breeds in eastern US states, so you have more chances to spot them. The males are bright yellow and blue-winged, which makes a bright contrast to watch out for. Streams and wet woodlands are the best places to spot them.

Prothonotary Warblers are bright yellow with blue-gray wings and tails. Females are less bright than males.

Unusual for warblers, Prothonotary Warblers breed in eastern and southeastern states before migrating to Central and South America.

They breed in wet wooded areas that are flooded, near streams, or in swamps. 

Prothonotary Warblers eat spiders, insects and snails. In winter, they will also eat fruit and seeds.

8. American Redstart

American redstart
Female American redstart

American Redstarts breed in Kentucky and they can be spotted from April until November, but they are most common during the spring and fall migration.

American Redstarts are mostly black with bright orange patches and a white belly. Females are olive-gray instead of black and have yellow patches.

  • 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)

They have a vast breeding range across eastern US states and Canada and across to northwestern US states and Canada. They may also be seen during migration in central states.

They can be found in deciduous woodlands eating insects and backyards and thickets, eating berries such as serviceberry and magnolia.

9. Kentucky Warbler

Kentucky Warbler

Credit: Andrew Weitzel

Kentucky Warblers arrive in Kentucky for breeding in April and leave by October.

Kentucky Warblers are bright yellow below and olive-green above with black crowns and black inverted triangles below their eyes. Females have grayer caps rather than black.

  • Length: 5.1 in (13 cm)
  • Weight: 0.5-0.5 oz (13-14 g)
  • Wingspan: 7.9-8.7 in (20-22 cm)

Kentucky Warblers breed in eastern US states and can be seen during migration in Florida and along the Gulf Coast. They spend the winter in Mexico and Central America.

Kentucky Warblers feed on or near the ground and even nest on the ground, which is unusual for warblers.

10. Black-and-white Warbler

Black and white warbler

Black-and-white Warblers arrive in Kentucky from mid-March and for breeding and they migrate south in September and October. A few birds have occasionally been spotted here as late as December.

Black-and-white Warblers are quite distinctive and so more easy to identify with their stiped appearance.

Males have a larger black patch across the eye and cheek and are a darker black than females.

  • 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 spend the winter in Florida, along the Gulf Coast and Down through Mexico, Baja California, the Caribbean and into South America.

In spring, they head north across the southwestern United States and Canada’s border from east to west.

They are easy to spot, hopping up and down on tree trunks and branches, looking for insects.

11. Yellow-rumped Warbler

yellow rumped warbler

Yellow-rumped Warblers are common warblers in the winter in Kentucky. They arrive in September and October and stay until April or May.

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.

After breeding predominantly in Canada, they migrate in large numbers south across most of the southern and central states and the Pacific Coast and throughout Mexico and Central America. 

  • 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 can be found in coniferous forests, especially during the breeding season. During winter, they can be found in open areas with fruiting shrubs. In summer, they eat insects primarily and on migration and in winter, they mostly fruit, including bayberry and wax myrtle. 

You can attract Yellow-rumped Warblers to your backyard with sunflower seeds, suet, raisins, and peanut butter.

12. Ovenbird

Ovenbird

Ovenbirds breed in Kentucky and arrive in April and leave quite late in October and November.

Ovenbirds look drab compared to other warblers with their olive-green backs and black-and-white spotted underside.

  • Length: 4.3-5.5 in (11-14 cm)
  • Weight: 0.6-1.0 oz (16-28 g)
  • Wingspan: 7.5-10.2 in (19-26 cm)

They breed in northeastern US states and Canada, the Midwest and up into northwest Canada. They can be seen during migration in eastern US states.

Ovenbirds get their name from the unusually shaped nest they build, which resembles the shape of a dutch oven.

13. Hooded Warbler

Hooded warbler

Hooded Warblers breed in Kentucky and can be spotted here between April and mid-October.

Male Hooded Warblers are black and yellow birds. Females lack the black face markings that the males have. 

  • Length: 7.1-7.9 in (18-20 cm)
  • Weight: 0.8 oz (24 g)
  • Wingspan: 9.1-11.0 in (23-28 cm)

They breed in the southwestern US states, making hanging nests on the undersides of palm fronds.

They will come to nectar feeders or use fruit to attract orioles.

14. Tennessee Warbler

Tennessee Warbler

Credit: Jerry Oldenettel

Tennessee Warblers can be spotted in Kentucky during the migrations from April and May and from late August until mid-November.

Tennessee Warblers males have gray heads, green backs and are pale whitish underneath. Females are greener with yellow underneath and with green heads. Males have a white eyestripe and females have a yellow eyestripe. In addition, they have white under their tails.

  • Length: 3.9-5.1 in (10-13 cm)
  • Weight: 0.3-0.3 oz (8-10 g)
  • Wingspan: 7.5-7.9 in (19-20 cm)

Tennessee Warblers fly a long way from Central America up to Canada. They can be seen during migration in early May and September across eastern US states.

Although called a Tenessee warbler, they do not breed or spend much time in Tenessee! They were so named as this was the first place they were spotted and were given this name.

Tennessee Warblers eat mostly caterpillars and they can be found in woodlands hunting for them on trees and shrubs.

15. Louisiana Waterthrush

Louisiana Waterthrush

Credit: Andy Reago & Chrissy McClarren

Louisiana Waterthrush breeds in Kentucky and arrive early in the year in March and only stay until mid-August.

Louisiana Waterthrush are drab in comparison to other warblers with brown on top and pale below. They have a white eyebrow stripe and long pink legs.

  • Length: 5.9-6.1 in (15-15.5 cm)
  • Weight: 0.6-0.8 oz (18.2-22.9 g)
  • Wingspan: 9.4-10.6 in (24-27 cm)

Although not as colorful as other warblers they still have a ringing song. 

Louisiana Waterthrush breed in eastern US states and can be seen in the southeast during migration. They spend the winter in Mexico, Central America and the Caribbean, arriving back in spring early in the year.

You can find Louisiana Waterthrush along streams and moving water in woodlands hunting for insects, vertebrates and larvae.

16. Black-throated Green Warbler

Black-throated Green warbler (Setophaga virens)

Black-throated Green Warblers breed in Kentucky and can be spotted here from late March until early November. Their numbers swell during the spring and fall migration, with birds moving through the state.

A small yellow songbird with a yellow face and head and olive-yellow back. They have black streaking on the sides and wings and are whitish underneath.

  • Length: 4.3-4.7 in (11-12 cm)
  • Weight: 0.3-0.4 oz (7-11 g)
  • Wingspan: 6.7-7.9 in (17-20 cm)

Black-throated Green Warblers can mostly be seen during their long migration over the Eastern US up to their breeding grounds in Northeastern US states and Canada.

They live high up in forests eating insects and their black throat is an easier way to tell them apart from other small yellow birds.

17. Magnolia Warbler

Magnolia Warbler

Magnolia Warblers migrate through Kentucky between mid-April and the end of May and from mid-August until mid-October.

Although not as distinctive in color as some warblers, they are common on low branches, so it’s easier to spot them during migration.

Magnolia Warblers males are black on the back and yellow underneath. They have black streaking from a ‘necklace’ on their necks down over their bellies. Females are grayer on the back and lack the distinctive streaking down the belly.

  • Length: 4.3-5.1 in (11-13 cm)
  • Weight: 0.2-0.5 oz (6-15 g)
  • Wingspan: 6.3-7.9 in (16-20 cm)

Magnolia Warblers breed across Canada and Northeastern US states in forests. They can be seen during migration in the Eastern US.

They spend the winter in Central America and the Caribbean.

18. Blackpoll Warbler

Blackpoll Warbler

Credit: Fyn Kynd

Blackpoll Warblers can be spotted in Kentucky mostly in the spring migration but also to a lesser amount in the fall migration.

Although they will usually only be spotted in spring migration, these unusual dark warblers have a black cap and a thick white band under the eye. It’s best to look for them in spring as in fall they molt to yellow and make the journey south without really stopping.

Blackpoll Warblers are black-and-white with a black cap in the males. They look very different in late summer and molt into yellow with darker streaking on the back.

  • Length: 5.5 in (14 cm)
  • Weight: 0.4-0.5 oz (12-13 g)
  • Wingspan: 8.3-9.1 in (21-23 cm)

Blackpoll Warblers breed in Canada and can be seen during spring migration in the Eastern US. In fall, they migrate back without really stopping to their winter grounds in South America and the Caribbean. Instead, they make the journey over the Atlantic Ocean non-stop.

Mainly feeding on spiders and insects, Blackpoll Warblers will also eat fruit such as honeysuckle and pokeberry in the fall.

19. Chestnut-sided Warbler

Chestnut sided warbler

Chestnut-sided Warblers breed in Kentucky and can be spotted here between mid-April and November. Their numbers swell during the spring and fall migration at the beginning of May and in September.

The chestnut stripes and bright yellow cap set this warbler apart and make it easy to spot.

Chestnut-sided Warblers are stocky with a bright yellow crown, gray underneath and chestnut down the sides in the breeding males. Females are paler than males.

  • Length: 4.7-5.5 in (12-14 cm)
  • Weight: 0.4-0.5 oz (10.7-14.3 g)
  • Wingspan: 7.5-8.3 in (19-21 cm)

Breeding in northeastern US states and southeastern Canada, Chestnut-sided Warblers can also be seen during migration over the Eastern US.

These warblers are more often found on forest edges or thickets looking for insects.

20. Palm Warbler

palm warbler

Palm Warblers are winter birds in Kentucky. They arrive in September and October and leave in April and May. Their number swells during the migration in the spring and fall with birds passing through.

The palm warbler has a rusty red patch on the top of its head and is a browny-olive color over the rest of its body and yellow on the breast and belly.

  • Length: 4.7-5.5 in (12-14 cm)
  • Weight: 0.3-0.5 oz (7-13 g)
  • Wingspan: 7.9-8.3 in (20-21 cm)

The breed in Canada but can be found in eastern states during the migration and all year along the far south coast and Florida.

Spring and fall is the best time to spot them in weedy fields, forest edges, and scrubby areas. They are often found foraging along the ground for insects, mixed in with other birds such as Sparrows, Juncos, and Yellow-rumped Warblers.

To attract more Palm Warblers to your backyard, try planting native plants that attract insects and bayberry or hawthorn for their berries.

21. Worm-eating Warbler

Worm eating Warbler

Credit: Andrew Weitzel

Worm-eating Warblers are not very commonly spotted in Kentucky, but some do spend the summer here and can be spotted between April and the end of September.

Worm-eating Warblers are quite dull in comparison to most warblers. They are greenish-gray in color but with buffy-yellow heads with distinctive black stripes through the eye and crown.

  • Length: 4.4-5.2 in (11.2-13.1 cm)
  • Weight: 0.4-0.5 oz (12-14 g)
  • Wingspan: 7.9-8.7 in (20-22 cm)

They have a smaller territory than many warblers and breed in eastern US states but not in the far northeast or the most northern states. They can be seen during migration in the southeast and coastal areas.

Worm-eating warblers feed on caterpillars rather than worms and can be found in forests, often near the ground.

22. Pine Warbler

pine warbler

Pine Warblers can be spotted in Kentucky all year.

Pine Warblers are small plump yellow birds with olive backs, yellow throats, chests and upper bellies and white lower bellies, and gray wingbars.  Females can appear browner and have more white on the belly.

  • Length: 5.1-5.5 in (13-14 cm)
  • Weight: 0.3-0.5 oz (9-15 g)
  • Wingspan: 7.5-9.1 in (19-23 cm)

They breed in Northeastern US states before heading south. Some remain all year in Southeastern US states.

Pine Warblers can be found in pine forests, as their name would suggest, often high up in the trees. They eat caterpillars, beetles, spiders, and other insects and larvae and when the weather is colder, they will eat fruit and seeds.

You can attract more Pine Warblers with tube feeders and platform feeders with millet, cracked corn, sunflower seeds, peanut hearts, and suet.  Also, plant native fruits and vines such as bayberry, grape, sumac, and Virginia creeper.

23. Nashville Warbler

nashville warbler

Nashville Warblers are spotted in Kentucky during migration in the spring and fall.

Nashville Warblers are mostly yellow with a green back and gray head. 

  • 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)

They 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.

They can be seen in scrubby habitats and low deciduous forests hunting for insects.

24. Bay-breasted Warbler

bay-breasted warbler

Bay-breasted Warblers are spotted in Kentucky in the spring and fall migration.

Bay-breasted Warblers are different colors during the breeding season than after the fall molt. They look similar to Blackpoll Warblers in the fall.

Bay-breasted Warbler males are gray with black streaking on the back and have reddish-brown crown and breast. They are white underneath and have black faces with a white patch behind their faces.

Female Bay-breasted Warblers are similar but with less reddish-brown coloring and no black on the face when in breeding plumage. Non-breeding females and immature have yellowish-green heads, necks and upper backs.

  • Length: 5.5 in (14 cm)
  • Weight: 0.3-0.6 oz (10-17 g)
  • Wingspan: 7.9-8.7 in (20-22 cm)

Bay-breasted Warblers breed in Canada and can be seen over eastern US states during the migration. They spend the winter in South America.

They can be spotted mostly in spruce and fir forests in the breeding season, eating spruce budworm but can be seen in any forest type during migration.

25. Blackburnian Warbler

Blackburnian Warbler

Blackburnian Warbler are spotted in Kentucky during the spring and fall migration.

Blackburnian Warbler males are black and orange birds with orange throats and face marking, black backs and wings and white with black streaks on the belly. Females are yellower. They have distinctive dark triangles on each side of their face, by their eyes.

  • Length: 4.3-4.7 in (11-12 cm)
  • Weight: 0.3-0.4 oz (8.9-12.6 g)
  • Wingspan: 7.9-9.1 in (20-23 cm)

Blackburnian Warblers, like many warblers, can be seen during migration in eastern US states. They breed in Canada and northeastern US states and some may breed as far south as Virginia or North Carolina. They spend winters in South America.

They can be found in woods and forests hunting for caterpillars, but they are difficult to spot as they are often up at the top of trees hidden from view by leaves.