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.

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Lori Vanover
Lori Vanover is the senior digital editor for Birds & Blooms. She has a bachelor's degree in agricultural and environmental communications from the University of Illinois. Lori enjoys growing vegetables and flowers for pollinators in her backyard gardens. She also is an avid bird-watcher.
Sheryl DeVore
Sheryl DeVore is a science, nature, health and social Issues writer, editor, educator and wild birds expert. She has been watching birds, plants, insects and other natural wonders as well as writing stories about education, social issues, art, music and nature for more than 25 years. With an education, science, and journalism background, she enjoys sharing her knowledge and inspiration from nature.