Black-and-white Warbler

Mniotilta varia
Black-and-white Warbler specimens on display in the exhibit "Birds of D.C."

A medium-sized (4 ½ - 5 ½ inches) wood warbler, the Black-and-white Warbler is most easily identified by its black-and-white striped body, streaked flanks, and thin black bill. Males have black and white stripes on the crown and throat, whereas the female is only striped on the crown and is paler on the throat and below. Both sexes have dark tails, dark legs, and conspicuous black- and-white wing bars. The Black-and-white Warbler breeds across much of the eastern United States and southern Canada, absent only from parts of the southeast and Midwest. In winter, this species may be found along the coast of the southeastern U.S. from North Carolina to Florida, and along the coast of Texas. South of the U.S., this species is a winter visitor to central and southern Mexico, Central America, the West Indies, and parts of northern South America. Black-and-white Warblers breed in a variety of deciduous or mixed deciduous and evergreen forest habitats, with a preference for mature forests. In winter, this species occurs in numerous kinds of habitats ranging from scrubland to moist tropical forests. Black-and-white Warblers eat small invertebrates, primarily insects (including caterpillars) and spiders. Unusually for a wood warbler, the Black-and-white Warbler feeds by picking prey out of crevices in bark while climbing up the sides of tree trunks and large branches. As this interesting behavior recalls that of a nuthatch or creeper, birdwatchers who believe they’ve caught a momentary glimpse of either may want to consider taking a closer look: they may well have seen a Black-and-white Warbler instead. This species is primarily active during the day, but, like many migratory songbirds, this species migrates at night.

DC Information

Common summer resident, April to September. Breeds from early May to early July. Found crawling along trunks and branches in wooded areas. The female does not have the black cheeks of the male.

Distribution Map

distribution map for this species

Bird Vocalizations

Sound from xeno-canto. XC67176 Mniotilta varia (Black-and-white Warbler)

Sound from xeno-canto. XC17014 Mniotilta varia (Black-and-white Warbler)

Sound from xeno-canto. XC17015 Mniotilta varia (Black-and-white Warbler)