|Species: Townsend’s Warbler
distinctive wood-warbler that breeds among the treetops of mature
fir forests in the Pacific Northwest, Townsend’s Warbler also nests
in montane spruce-fir forests in Idaho, Montana, and northwest
Wyoming, and boreal forests in Alaska and the Yukon Territory. In
September, it begins its southward migration to California and the
highlands of Mexico and Central America, where it is the most common
of all species (including residents) in some locales.
The Townsend’s Warbler is unique within the complex of closely
related ‘virens’ warblers in having extensive yellow on the breast
and a dark cheek patch; the back is green in all plumages.
Hybridization with the Hermit Warbler is frequent where the breeding
ranges overlap, primarily in Washington State.
Medium-sized, rather long-tailed warbler with rather small bill.
Total length about 12 cm; body mass about 9g.
Bright yellow stripes bordering black cheek-patch. Crown and throat
black; yellow extends below throat to lower breast; remaining
underparts white; sides and flanks streaked black. Back olive green,
with distinct black streaks or spots. Two white wing-bars and
extensive white in outer tail-feathers.
Differs from male in that female has generally duller markings and
colouration, crown is olive green with thin black streaks,
cheek-patch is deep olive (not black), throat is yellow and has
variable amount of black markings, and back has less distinct black
streaks than male.
Similar to adult female, but back has indistinct streaking; throat
and breast yellow; sides indistinctly streaked with dusky;
tail-feather more pointed.
Adult male not easily confused with other western warblers. Adult
female and immature resemble Black-throated Green Warbler, but
Townsend’s has distinct cheek-patch and lacks yellow wash on vent.
Black-throated Green has yellow face, with less contrasting dusky
olive auricular markings; brighter, unmarked green back; and yellow
wash on vent. Hermit Warbler lacks yellow on breast and lacks
distinct cheek-patch, and streaking on underparts is indistinct and
restricted to sides, if present.
Foraging birds on the breeding grounds spend most of their time high
in the crowns of tall conifers and are thus often difficult to
observe. In migration and winter, foraging takes place at all
levels, even near the ground, and in a broader variety of trees.
During those seasons they often join mixed flocks of kinglets,
chickadees and other warblers.
Habitat: Shady moist coniferous forests, where it spends much
of its time high in the trees foraging for weevils, leafhoppers,
scale insects, and caterpillars.
was among the many species first collected by John Kirk Townsend
during his expedition with Thomas Nuttall through the Rocky
Mountains to the Pacific Coast in 1834.
With the exception of recent studies of winter species interactions
and breeding biology, most information of the life history of the
Townsend’s Warbler is anecdotal or consists of isolated
Nests are built high in conifers, exceptionally as low as 8ft. and
as high as 100ft.
The nest is a bulky but shallow cup of plant fibers and bark, lined
with moss, plant downs and hairs; the nest is placed on al limb well
out from the trunk and usually protected above by a spray of
needles. 3-5 white eggs wreathed and speckled with brownish
No clear trends are
evident although a slight overall increase is indicated from BBS.
Townsend’s is possibly susceptible to forest fragmentation, as it is
consistently most abundant in breeding season in extensive old
Townsend's Warbler preferred habitat is open coniferous or
mixed coniferous-deciduous forests and breed slightly more
north than southern British Columbia. They are therefore not
seen in high numbers around our banding station. Capture
rates (2010-2012; standardized as birds captured per 100 net
hours) begin in August and continue through October
reflecting capture of a few individuals passing through
during fall migration to their southern wintering grounds.