Most Common Warblers You Will See – photo and ID guide

nashville warbler

There are over 50 species of warbler that visit the US and Canada. Many of them look quite similar in shades of yellow. These small birds can be hard to spot as they are often high up in the trees.

To add to the confusion warblers often molt and change into a more dull fall color to make spotting them harder.

Of the 50 types of warbler that visit the US and Canada, I have gathered the most common 18 that visit. During spring they head up to breeding grounds, before migrating back south for the winter.

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So don’t delay get spotting these migratory birds while you can.

18 Common Warblers:

  1. Yellow-rumped Warbler
  2. Common Yellowthroat
  3. Chestnut-sided Warbler
  4. Black-and-white Warbler
  5. Prairie Warbler
  6. Orange-crowned Warbler
  7. American Redstart
  8. Northern Parula
  9. Pine Warbler
  10. Yellow Warbler
  11. Ovenbird
  12. Nashville Warbler
  13. Yellow-throated Warbler
  14. Palm Warbler
  15. Wilson’s Warbler
  16. Hooded Warbler
  17. Black-throated Green Warbler
  18. Black-throated Blue Warbler

Warblers are migratory birds that travel long distances from as far as South America up to breeding grounds in Canada.

So a great time to see warblers is in spring during migration, especially in May. Canada is the best place to see them in the summer and in southern states, some warblers will overwinter.

Common Warblers in Spring:

  1. Yellow Warbler
  2. Common Yellowthroat
  3. Yellow-rumped Warbler
  4. American Redstart
  5. Northern Parula

Common Warblers in Winter:

  1. Yellow-rumped Warbler
  2. Palm Warbler
  3. Orange-crowned Warbler
  4. Common Yellowthroat
  5. Pine Warbler

1. Yellow-rumped Warbler

yellow rumped warbler

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 mostly insects 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.

2. Common Yellowthroat

common yellowthroat

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 mostly insects and will be found in large backyards that have dense vegetation.

3. Chestnut-sided Warbler

Chestnut sided warbler

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.

4. Black-and-white Warbler

Black and white warbler

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 along the border with Canada from east to west.

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

5. Prairie Warbler

Prairie Warbler (Dendroica discolor)

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 and 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 a prairie warbler they actually live in fields and forests

6. Orange-crowned Warbler

orange-crowned-warbler

Orange-crowned Warblers are not as brightly colored as other warblers with their yellow-olive coloring, which is more yellow on the Pacific Coast. The orange crown is rarely seen.

  • Length: 4.3-5.5 in (11-14 cm)
  • Weight: 0.3-0.4 oz (7-11 g)
  • Wingspan: 7.5 in (19 cm)

Breeding in Canada and western states before migrating to the Pacific, East and Gulf Coasts and Mexico. Orange-crowned Warblers can also be seen during migration across all states.

Orange-crowned Warblers can be found in shrubs and low vegetation and breed in open woodland.

Their diet consists mainly of insects and spiders such as spiders, caterpillars, and flies.  They will also eat fruit, berries, and seeds and regularly visit backyard feeders.

To attract more Orange-crowned Warblers to your yard try suet and peanut butter or hummingbird feeders with sugar water nectar.

7. American Redstart

American redstart

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 also in backyards and thickets eating berries such as serviceberry and magnolia.

8. Northern Parula

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.

Feeding on insects high up in deciduous forests and building 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.

9. Pine Warbler

Pine Warblers are small plump yellow birds with olive backs, 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.

If you enjoy spotting birds then check out these great guides:

10. Yellow Warbler

yellow warbler

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. 

11. Ovenbird

Ovenbird

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.

12. Nashville Warbler

nashville warbler

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)

Breeding 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.

13. Yellow-throated Warbler

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. Some birds may remain resident all year in Florida.

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

Check out these quick photo ID guides:

14. Palm Warbler

palm warbler

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

  • 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)

Palm Warblers breed predominantly in Canada and can be seen during migration in eastern US states. Some winter in Florida and along the southeastern coast.

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.

15. Wilson’s Warbler

wilsons warbler

Small yellow warblers with a black cap in the males and olive cap in females.

  • 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)

Breeding in Canada, Alaska and northwestern states, Wilson’s Warblers can also be seen across all states during migration. They winter in Mexico and Central America.

To find Wilson’s Warblers look along streams in thickets.

16. Hooded Warbler

Hooded warbler

Male Hooded Warblers have a bright yellow face with a distinctive black hood and throat. They are yellow underneath and olive-green above.

Females and immature are more yellow and without the black face markings.

  • Length: 5.1 in (13 cm)
  • Weight: 0.3-0.4 oz (9-12 g)
  • Wingspan: 6.9 in (17.5 cm)

They breed in eastern states before heading south into Central America and the Caribbean for winter.

Forests with dense understories to hunt for insects are the best place to find Hooded Warblers.

17. Black-throated Green Warbler

Black-throated Green warbler (Setophaga virens)

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.

18. Black-throated Blue Warbler

Male Black-throated Blue Warblers are a lovely rich blue color on the back and white underneath. They are unusual amongst the predominantly yellow warblers. Females are very plain in comparison and are grayish-olive.

  • Length: 4.3-5.1 in (11-13 cm)
  • Weight: 0.3-0.4 oz (8-12 g)
  • Wingspan: 7.5-7.9 in (19-20 cm)

Breeding in northwestern US states and Canada. They can also be seen during migration over eastern US states.

They can be found in lower areas of deciduous forests, shrubby areas and sometimes gardens looking for insects.