This beautifully black-and-white streaked warbler is a migratory bird of the Americas. It can be found singing its high-pitched song as it travels from its warm wintering grounds of Central and northern South America up to the forested breeding grounds of eastern North America.

Physical Description

These small songbirds are easy to spot due to the black-and-white streaky coloring all over their bodies. They are small and somewhat chunky, with thin, slightly curved bills. Males and females can be difficult to tell apart; however, females have white cheeks and throats, while males have black cheeks throats.

Size

Adults measure between 4.3-5.1 inches (11-13 centimeters) in length. They weigh between a quarter to half an ounce (about 8-15 grams).

Native Habitat

This species specializes by foraging on tree trunks and tree branches! It is found in leafy, deciduous forest interiors during the breeding season. They pass through a wide variety of wooded habitats along their migration route. During the winter months, they can be found in forests, mangrove swamps and shaded coffee farms. 

Lifespan

Most warblers only live a few years in the wild, although some remarkable individuals live up to ten years! 

Communication

These birds are known for their high-pitched whistling song that sounds a bit like a rusty wheel turning. During the breeding season, males sing to establish territory; they do this to attract females and tell other males to stay off their turf. 

Food/Eating Habits

Black-and-white warblers mainly eat insects and spiders. They have a somewhat peculiar hunting method for warblers; like nuthatches, they will creep vertically along the bases and branches of trees, searching the tree bark for food to eat.

Sleep Habits

Black-and-white warblers are active during the daytime.

Social Structure

Black-and-white warblers pair up during the breeding season to nest and raise their young. They will join mixed-species flocks while migrating from their northern breeding grounds to their southern winter homes. 

Reproduction and Development

After beginning their spring migration, black-and-white warblers reach their northern breeding grounds in April, which is early for migratory birds. Males arrive before females, and they use this extra time to create territories for themselves by the time potential mates arrive.

After a pair has been established, the female will lead males to potential nesting sites within their territory. Females build cup-shaped nests, usually on the ground, but well-hidden among leaves and grasses. Common nesting materials include twigs, grasses, moss, tree bark, and pine needles. Females incubate the eggs, which are light brown with dark speckles. The eggs hatch after about two weeks, and both parents help feed the babies until they are ready to leave the nest.

Conservation Efforts

Although these birds have been designated by the IUCN as "least concern," their population is decreasing. This is largely due to habitat loss in both their summer and winter grounds. They are also threatened by pesticide use, which kills the insects they rely on for food. And as nighttime migrants, they are at greater risk for fatal collisions with hard-to-see manmade objects, like telephone poles and reflective buildings.

Like many birds that build open cup-shaped nests, black-and-white warblers are at risk for being parasitized by cowbirds. In nest parasitism, the "parasite" species (the cowbird) lays its eggs in the nests of the "host" species (the warbler). Many of these host birds will then incubate the egg and raise the young cowbird as if it were one of its own brood, often neglecting their own young in the process.

Help this Species

  • Be a smart consumer. Choose products made with sustainable ingredients, such as Smithsonian certified Bird Friendly coffees, which support farmers striving to limit their impact on wildlife and habitat.
  • Choose your pets wisely, and do your research before bringing an animal home. Exotic animals don’t always make great pets. Many require special care and live for a long time. Tropical reptiles and small mammals are often traded internationally and may be victims of the illegal pet trade. Never release animals that have been kept as pets into the wild.
  • Be a responsible cat owner, and keep cats indoors or under restraint when outside. Never release animals that have been kept as pets into the wild.
  • Conservation starts with you! Join a citizen science project, such as FrogWatch or Neighborhood Nestwatch, where you can help collect valuable data for scientists. Encourage your friends and family to get involved too.
  • Plant native flowers in your garden to help feed resident and migrating pollinators. You'll make your lawn beautiful and help wildlife at the same time!

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