Black-and-White Warblers: The Zebra Birds

The black and white warbler is one of the most striking birds to spot during spring migration. Look and listen for this bird with stunning stripes.

black and white warblerCourtesy Ginger English
Black-and-white warbler

How to Identify Black-and-White Warblers

Birds in the warbler family are tricky to identify—they’re all relatively the same size, many of them have some variation of yellow and black field marks, and they move so fast they’re gone in the blink of an eye. One warbler stands out with its stunning stripes. Resembling an avian zebra, black-and-white warblers scurry up, down and around tree trunks like nuthatches.

“The black-and-white warbler was a first-time visitor to my yard last summer, and it was such a delight to see. It has a very different look. Before gathering information on the bird, I dubbed it a ‘zebra warbler,'” says Ginger English of Bauxite, Arkansas.

Learn how to identify palm warblersyellow-rumped warblers and yellow warblers.

What Do Black-and-White Warblers Eat?

The striped birds feverishly poke and prod for their next insect meal. A black-and-white warbler creeps up and down as it probes bark crevices for moth and butterfly larvae, beetles and spiders. These tiny warblers can be difficult to spot as their striped plumage blends in against tree bark, just like brown creepers.

Next, learn what foods orioles eat.

Black-and-White Warbler Range

This warbler breeds in northern and eastern North America, and it can be seen in woodland habitats during migration, mostly east of the Rocky Mountains. It winters along the Gulf Coast, and in the Caribbean, Mexico and Central and South America. It’s one of over 35 warbler species to wow visitors in northwest Ohio each spring at the Biggest Week in American Birding.

Check out more birding hotspots for spring migration.

black and white warbler Tessa Nickels 001Courtesy Tessa Nickels

Black-and-White Warbler Song

One way to identify these birds is by their song, even if you can’t see them. The males sing a high-pitched, repeating weesy, weesy, weesy song. “Black-and-white warblers are always the first to start singing here in southern West Virginia. There were some little bugs crawling along this redbud tree, and I caught this adorable bird having a great time catching them,” says Tessa Nickels of Omar, West Virginia.

Check out 25 photos of warblers you should add to your life list.

Lori Vanover
Lori has 20 years of experience writing and editing home, garden, birding and lifestyle content for several publishers. As Birds & Blooms senior digital editor, she leads a team of writers and editors sharing birding tips and expert gardening advice. Since joining Trusted Media Brands 13 years ago, she has held roles in digital and print, editing magazines and books, curating special interest publications, managing social media accounts, creating digital content and newsletters, and working with the Field Editors—Birds & Blooms network of more than 50 backyard birders. Passionate about animals and nature, Lori has a Bachelor of Science degree in Agricultural and Environmental Communications from the University of Illinois. In 2023, she became certified as a Wisconsin Extension Master Gardener, and she is a member of the Wisconsin Society for Ornithology and sits on the organization's Publications Advisory Committee. She frequently checks on her bird feeders while working from home and tests new varieties of perennials, herbs and vegetable plants in her ever-growing backyard gardens.
Sheryl DeVore
Sheryl DeVore is a science, nature, health and social issues writer, editor and educator. In addition to being an expert on wild birds, she has been studying plants, insects and other natural wonders for more than 25 years. Her byline has appeared in Birds & Blooms, the Chicago Tribune and the publications of the National Audubon Society and the Ladybird Johnson Wildflower Center. DeVore has taught journalism classes at Northwestern University, as well as nature and bird writing classes and workshops for The Field Museum, The Nature Conservancy, the Chicago Botanic Garden and the Lake County Forest Preser.