11 Reasons Why Birders Are Obsessed With Warblers

Updated: Mar. 09, 2023

Warbler sightings are a welcome sign of spring for birdwatchers. Check out amazing facts about these migrating birds.

With more than 50 species found in North America, enthusiasts clamor and gather for a chance to spot the energetic little birds during spring migration. With these amazing warbler facts, you’ll appreciate them even more.

A golden-winged warbler sings out loudly while perched
Ray Hennessy/Shutterstock
A golden-winged warbler sings out loudly while perched.

Warblers Are Singing Champs

With a seemingly unlimited combination of melodies, these migrating wonders lure us with their subtle, varied voices. Songs range from the black-and-white warbler’s repeated wheezy, wheezy, wheezy, the blue-winged’s bee-buzz rasp and the familiar sweet, sweet, sweet, I’m so sweet of the yellow warbler.

Yellow warbler sitting in nest
Dantesattic/Getty Images
A female yellow warbler sits in a nest.

Yellow Warblers Defend Their Nests

Brown-headed cowbirds are known to lay eggs in the nests of many warblers, particularly those of yellow warblers—but the warblers have a way of fighting back!

To handle the intruder’s eggs, a female warbler will often build another nest on top of all the existing eggs and lay additional eggs. One yellow warbler nest was noted for reaching six layers deep.

Psst—these pictures of warblers will make you want to go birding.

A black-and-white warbler with a bug in its beak
Courtesy Douglas Emlin
A black-and-white warbler holds a bug in its beak.

Warblers Have Well-Designed Beaks

Most warblers have thin, tweezerlike beaks that are ideal for snatching up insects. One exception is the prothonotary warbler’s strong beak, which is sometimes used for probing in bark or dead wood.

Find out more about what foods warblers eat and how to attract them.

A yellow-rumped warbler perches on a fence
William Leaman /Alamy Stock Photo
A yellow-rumped warbler perches on a fence

Warblers Are a Sign of Spring

Many bird-watchers eagerly anticipate the return of warblers. The yellow-rumped, pine and black-and-white warblers are often spotted in March or April as one of the first signs of the spring migration season.

Meet the beautiful sky blue cerulean warbler.

Pine Warbler (Dendroica Setophaga pinus)
SteveByland/Getty Images
Pine warbler on a suet feeder in early spring

Warblers Have Big Appetites

Warblers primarily stick to bugs, including spiders, caterpillars and beetles. But some, including yellow-rumped and pine warblers, may visit backyard feeding stations for mealworms, suet, hulled sunflower seeds or peanut butter smeared into the nooks of trees.

Look for a chestnut-sided warbler during spring migration.

Blackpoll warblers are capable of flying extremely long distances
Johann Schumacher Design
Blackpoll warblers are capable of flying extremely long distances.

Some Warblers Have Truly Epic Migrations

All warblers that visit North America migrate, but the champions are the blackpoll warblers. Some of these robust fliers travel up to 12,400 miles round trip from Alaska to South America every year. Their impressive path in fall includes flying nonstop for three days over the Atlantic Ocean, covering about 1,800 miles during that time.

Learn how to identify a hooded warbler.

Prothonotary warbler at nest box
Steve and Dave Maslowski
Prothonotary warblers use nest boxes.

Warblers Live in a Variety of Homes

It’s not one-location-fits-all when it comes to warbler nests. The cuplike nests, built out of grass, bark and other plant materials, might be nestled in the crook of a tree or shrub, suspended within reeds and sedges, or nestled upon the ground.

Northern parulas build nests in hanging clusters of Spanish moss or beard lichen. And prothonotary and Lucy’s warblers create homes in existing holes in trees. Some backyard birders may even be able to attract these cavity dwellers with nest boxes.

Attract a prothonotary warbler with a birdhouse.

Yellow-rumped warbler at berries
Courtesy Cheryl Arsenault
Yellow-rumped warblers eat berries.

Yellow-Rumped Warblers Are Specialized Snackers

Although many warblers eat berries during fall migration, yellow-rumped warblers are uniquely adapted to take advantage of this food option in winter. They can digest the waxy coating of bayberries, juniper berries and even poison ivy berries when insects are scarce. Their ability to switch to berries allows them to winter in sections of the eastern and western U.S.

Learn all about the acrobatic Nashville warbler.

American Redstart
Neil Bowman/Getty Images
American redstart 

Warblers Grab Food on-the-Go

Warblers happily pluck insects or slugs from the ground or off leaves and bark. Some species, such as the American redstart and the Canada warbler, even demonstrate their skills by snatching their prey in midair.

Look and listen for common yellowthroats in spring.

Yellow warbler nest
Courtesy John Pizniur
Yellow warbler nest with eggs

Warblers Construct Intricate Nests

Like hummingbirds, some warblers gather spiderwebs to assist in their nest construction. These sticky webs also offer hungry fliers an opportunity to pluck insects that get caught in the threads.

Enjoy breathtaking blackburnian warbler photos.

Black-and-white warbler
Pencil: Ivantsov/GETTY IMAGES; BIRD: Carol Hamilton/Dreamstime.com
A black-and-white warbler is as light as a pencil!

Warblers Are Tiny Birds With Changing Looks

Most warblers are extremely tiny and light, weighing less than half an ounce. That’s about as much as a pencil!

They arrive in the spring sporting their bright, well-known plumage, making them a fun discovery for both new and experienced bird-watchers. But by late summer, some molt into duller colors of their nonbreeding feathers, making them less obvious and trickier to spot.

Next, discover the top warbler hotspots to visit in spring.