Wilson's Warbler

Cardellina pusilla
A Wilson's Warbler specimen on display in the exhibit "Birds of D.C."

A small (4 ¾ inches) wood warbler, Wilson’s Warbler is most easily identified by its black cap and yellow throat and breast. Other field marks include an olive-green back, thin black bill, and orange legs. The female Wilson’s Warbler is duller yellow-green and lacks the male’s black cap. Wilson’s Warbler breeds across a large portion of central Canada and Alaska. Smaller breeding populations occur south of the Canadian border in Maine, along the Pacific coast, and at higher elevations in the Rocky Mountains. Most Wilson’s Warblers winter in Mexico and Central America, but a small number spend the winter in south Texas and along the Gulf Coast of eastern Texas and Louisiana. In summer, Wilson’s Warbler breeds in overgrown thickets, clearings, and other semi-open habitats near woodland. During the winter, this species inhabits tropical forests as well as overgrown fields and scrubland. On migration, Wilson’s Warbler may be found in a variety of habitat types similar to those used for breeding. This species primarily eats insects and spiders, but occasionally also eats fruit. Despite its bright colors, Wilson’s Warbler is often difficult to observe due to its small size and preference for habitats with thick vegetation. With the aid of binoculars, Wilson’s Warblers may be seen deep in the undergrowth gleaning insects from branches. Wilson’s Warbler is most active during the day, but, like many migratory songbirds, this species migrates at night.

DC Information

Uncommon migrant in May and in August and September. Usually found in low bushes near water. The male has a small black cap lacking in the female.

Distribution Map

distribution map for this species

Bird Vocalizations

Wilsonia pusilla

Sound from xeno-canto. XC67051 Wilsonia pusilla (Wilson's Warbler)

Sound from xeno-canto. XC37365 Wilsonia pusilla (Wilson's Warbler)