Spring Warbler Migration

Yellow-rumped Warbler, California

Yellow-rumped Warbler in our black oak tree, CA. Photo by Athena Alexander

Brightly colored and about five inches long, they vary widely in markings.  Often called “the butterflies of the bird world,” warblers flit tirelessly through the trees, feeding mostly on insects.


These neotropical migrants have arrived for the spring in North America.  They spend their winters in Latin America, travel north for breeding.


We have slightly over 100 warbler species in the New World, and about 55 species travel to North America.  These tiny birds travel hundreds of miles every spring and every fall.


There are many different species of warblers in this world.  This family is classified as Parulidae, or New World warblers, and are not related to the warblers in the Old World or Australia.


More warbler info here.



Blackburnian Warbler, photo by W.H. Majoros. Courtesy Wikipedia

Here in northern California we have a few warblers living in our moderate winter climate year round.  Other warblers are passing through on their spring journey northward, and still others are settling into the backyard for summer breeding.


In the peak of the mating season (now), they are heartily singing from sunrise to dusk.  On still-dark spring mornings I stand on the deck and listen intently, identifying the newly arrived species.



Cerulean warbler. Courtesy Wikipedia

But it is the eastern U.S. that is the mecca for migrating warblers.  They generally land in about the same places every year, around the same time.  (Hotspot list below.)


Sometimes there are 20 or 30 different warbler species in one spot, and it is a frenzy trying to find or photograph these fast-moving tiny birds.


Dendroica tigrina FWS.jpg

Cape May warbler. Photo by S. Maslowski. Courtesy Wikipedia

I have traveled to some of the warbler migration hotspots in the U.S.  And I have also traveled to the warblers’ winter home territories in Central and South America, and Mexico.  It’s all fun.


Another great joy is greeting the spring warblers in our back yard.


They are attracted to our big black oak tree, specifically the leafroller worms:  deftly find a leaf in which the worm has rolled up, use their bill to snap up the tiny worm, slap it against the tree limb, then swallow it.


Every few days we linger, sometimes picnic, under the black oak tree, watching the warblers do their thing.


Below is a list of a few popular spring warbler hotspots.  If you live near one, you are lucky.


And whether you are a birder or not, take a moment to look up, there is magic happening in the trees.


Photo credit:  Athena Alexander unless otherwise noted

Migrating Warbler Hotspots and info:



54 thoughts on “Spring Warbler Migration

  1. Jet, What an interesting comment on the Warbler bird and its good deed to protect our environment from noxious bugs that destroy our plant life. I can’t recall if I’ve seen any in our area…too many trees for them to be seen. Thanks for sharing

    • Pennsylvania is the place where Audubon began his first drawings, and is rife with birds, including warblers. So I am really happy to hear that when you see a warbler, you stop and enjoy it, Morgan. Yes, they are so very pretty. Thanks so much for your comment.

      • I recently moved and I got to see chickadee’s live and “in person” for the first time this winter. They are adorable too….and SO Tiny! ❤

      • Chickadees are so very loveable, they’re perky and chirpy and yes, so adorable. I’m really glad you had a chance to enjoy them, Morgan — thanks very much. 🙂

  2. I can see why these lovelies are referred to as butterflies. What lovely colors and my guess would be a delight for bird watching as easily identifiable. My guess is they are not too keen to come too far north, but then who can blame them. 🙂

    • Warblers do frequent Canada, but only in the warm months. Keep your eyes out this summer, Sue, I am quite certain you’ll see some. Thanks for your visit today, and have a wonderful week, my friend~~

  3. How fun to have neotropic warblers to watch from your home! We just came back from a 2-day birding jaunt, High Island being first stop. We weren’t disappointed (see post). Hope you and Athena are well and getting to see all the colors of the birdie rainbow!

    • PS – Try to see a showing of “The Messenger” at your local Audubon Society. You can also watch the trailer on YouTube. Fascinating to see these beautiful little birds fly in super slow-mo, though sad to think they are disappearing fast.

  4. That first photograph – wow! On my walk home earlier, I was doing just as you suggested, looking up. The blossom has come out, and there are birds, birds, birds. A wonderful commute!
    Thanks, Jet, and have a great week!

    • My friend plaidcamper– I am smiling from your great comment. I love hearing that the joys of spring have graced your day. I hope the new season continues to greet you.

  5. Beautiful birds!! I delight in the many species I see here in Arizona…before moving here, I would never have guessed how many birds I can enjoy in our own backyard……..great post!!

  6. No hotspots near me, but we just returned from two visits to Bosque del Apache NWR where we captured some pretty good shots of a Vermillion flycatcher and his mate! There were other birds new to me in NM. It may take me awhile to post the birds since I’m currently trying to sort through nearly 400 shots from Canyon de Chelly. What an amazing land we live in.

    • I have just enjoyed a few posts from the earlier part of your desert trip, Gunta, and look forward to OMG vermillion flycatchers!! Yes, it truly is an amazing land, thanks for sharing it.

    • Thanks for stopping by, Greg. Admittedly, the warblers are tricky — so quick! And yes, tricky to ID by call; sometimes all you get is a little “tick.” Many thanks~~

  7. Which came first, the English verb warble or the noun warbler? Both directions happen: singer is formed from to sing but to tase is formed from the noun taser.

    The answer to the chicken-or-egg sort of question in this case is that warble came first.

  8. I love the warblers. They have always seemed unique to me. I recall a visit to Cape May that was, indeed, a trip through warbler heaven!

    • Oh yes, Cape May is warbler heaven. I was there visiting one spring, birding with a local group who were very adept at spotting the warblers. It was a fairly large group, maybe 30 of us. And they were very kind in making sure we got to see the warblers, often said, “Did the California Girls see it?”

  9. Even a small island like Abaco has 37 recorded warbler species. Only 5 of them are resident, and the rest fly in for winter where they get a warm welcome. But we don’t have the cerulean. Yet! RH

    • Oh how marvelous to have 37 species on your island, and spending the winter with them must be delightful. Really enjoyed your comment, RH, learning about the warblers in Abaco.

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