Cape May Warbler

Setophaga tigrina
Cape May Warbler specimens on display in the exhibit "Birds of D.C."

A medium-sized (5 inches) wood warbler, the male Cape May Warbler is most easily identified by its streaked olive back, streaked yellow breast and flanks, and yellow face with prominent rusty cheek patches. Female Cape May Warblers are similar to males, but are duller and lack rusty patches on the face. The male is relatively unmistakable in good light, but the female may be confused with other female wood warblers with streaked flanks, such as the female Blackburnian Warbler (Setophaga fusca). The Cape May Warbler primarily breeds in south-central Canada. Smaller numbers breed south of the U.S. border in the upper Midwest and northern New England. The Cape May Warbler winters from the Florida Keys and the Bahamas south to southern Mexico and Central America. Cape May Warblers breed in northern evergreen forests, particularly in areas where spruce and fir trees occur. In winter, this species may be found in a number of shrubby habitat types, including mangroves and forest edges. Cape May Warblers mainly eat small invertebrates, including insects and spiders, although this species may eat fruits or berries in winter. In appropriate habitat, Cape May Warblers may be observed foraging for food located on leaves, needles, and branches in the forest canopy. Birdwatchers may also listen for this species’ song, a high-pitched “seet” note repeated several times in quick succession. Cape May Warblers are primarily active during the day.

DC Information

Fairly common migrant, more so in fall than spring. Seen in May and September in wooded forests, usually in stands of young pines. The female has yellow, not red, cheeks.

Specimen Information

A male is on the left, a female on the right.

Distribution Map

distribution map for this species

Bird Vocalizations

Sound from xeno-canto. XC67173 Dendroica tigrina (Cape May Warbler)

Sound from xeno-canto. XC17040 Dendroica tigrina (Cape May Warbler)

Sound from xeno-canto. XC52354 Dendroica tigrina (Cape May Warbler)