38 Warbler Species Found in Kentucky! (w/Pics)
What kinds of warblers can you find in Kentucky?
I’m always amazed at the variety of colors, sizes, and songs of warblers in Kentucky. It seems impossible that all these little vocalists are related!
Whether you’re a casual observer in your local woods or an avid birder expanding your life list, warblers are a welcome sight (and sound!) on a hike.
38 Warblers in Kentucky:
- The range maps below were generously shared with permission from Birds of the World, published by the Cornell Lab of Ornithology. I use their site OFTEN to learn new information about birds!
#1. Myrtle Warbler
- Setophaga coronata coronata
- Adults are 4.7 to 5.5 inches long and weigh 12 to 13 grams.
- Gray, with white wing bars and black on the chest. Patches on the rump and under the wing are yellow.
Myrtle Warblers, also called Yellow-Rumped Warblers, are named for the bright yellow patch above their tails.
There are two subspecies of this warbler, the Myrtle Warbler, and the Audubon’s Warbler. Only the Myrtle subspecies lives in Kentucky.
They are an active species known for catching insects in midair. During winter, they visit feeders with sunflower seeds, raisins, suet, and peanut butter. They also eat winter berries.
Myrtle Warblers are the most versatile foragers of the warblers in Kentucky.
They often search for food in trees but will venture to the ground to forage in leaf debris, and they’ve been known to pick through seaweed in coastal areas!
Listen for the Myrtle Warbler’s loud, clear song, which sounds like “tsee-tsee-TSEE-TSEE-tsee.” It starts soft at the beginning, gets louder in the middle, and then ends quietly.
#2. Wilson’s Warbler
- Cardellina pusilla
- Adults are 3.9 to 4.7 inches long and weigh 5 to 10 grams.
- Greenish and yellow coloring across the body, with gray-brown wings. Males have a black cap.
You’re most likely to spot Wilson’s Warblers when males are active and vocal during the spring migration. Their mating song is a clear, high “tsee-tsee-tsee-tsee” that increases in volume at the end.
The males of this species also have a unique feature that makes them easy to spot. Their black cap is small and round, resembling a toupee! Females may have dark spots or a greenish wash on their heads, but only the males have the black cap.
Unlike other warblers in Kentucky, Wilson’s Warblers are more comfortable on the ground or in the forest understory. This makes them easier to spot without craning your neck! They often nest on the ground, concealed in shrubs at forest edges.
Wilson’s Warblers make a high-pitched “tchee-tchee-tchee-tchee” noise when singing. It’s quick and repeated often.
#3. American Yellow Warbler
- Setophaga petechia
- Adults are 3.9 to 7.1 inches long and weigh 7 to 25 grams.
- Lemon-yellow across the whole body, with light chestnut streaks on the chest. Males are somewhat brighter than females.
There are 35 subspecies of yellow warblers across North and South America! The American Yellow Warbler, our most prevalent species, is found all over Kentucky.
Listen for this species in moist forests of small trees. Its particular favorite nesting habitat is willow groves.
American Yellow Warblers are frequent victims of brood parasitic Brown-headed Cowbirds, who lay their eggs inside the nest of these warblers! But they have a unique way of combating this. They’re known to build a new nest directly on top of their old one, smothering their eggs in addition to the cowbirds’ eggs. As a result, researchers have found nests up to six layers deep!
With its bright yellow coloring and relatively large population, this is one warbler you shouldn’t have trouble finding. The song of the American Yellow Warbler is said to sound like “sweet, sweet, sweet; I’m so sweet!”
#4. American Redstart
- Setophaga ruticilla
- Adults are 4.3 to 5.5 inches long and weigh an average of 8.6 grams.
- Males are black with bright red-orange patches on the tail, wings, and sides. The belly is white.
- Females are charcoal gray with a white belly and light yellow patches instead of red-orange.
American Redstarts prefer breeding habitats with open woods of mostly deciduous trees. However, they’re much less picky when they’re migrating, and they will roost in nearly any area with trees.
The American Redstarts’ abundance and bright coloring make them one of the more easily spotted warblers in Kentucky!
This beautiful species is high-energy and constantly moving. American Redstarts use their bright coloring to hunt insects, flashing their tail feathers to startle them into flight. Once the insect takes off, the bird snatches it right out of the air! That’s one stylish way to “catch” a meal! 🙂
The American Redstart song is often compared to a sneeze, with a few short notes at the beginning and an abrupt, loud end: “ah-ah-ah-CHEW!”
#5. Orange-Crowned Warbler
- Leiothlypis celata
- Adults are 4.8 to 5.3 inches tall and weigh an average of 9 grams.
- Their coloring is mottled yellow-green and gray, with gray wing bars.
Unless you’re fortunate and highly observant, you may never see the orange patch that gives the Orange-Crowned Warbler its name! It’s only visible when the “crest” feathers are raised, so catching a glimpse of this tiny bit of color is nearly impossible.
Look for Orange-Crowned Warblers in Kentucky in open, shrubby habitats. They prefer areas with plenty of insects and berries, which are this species’ favorite foods.
Its high, trilling song lasts about one second and is repeated often. It dips in pitch slightly at the end.
#6. Nashville Warbler
- Leiothlypis ruficapilla
- Adults are 4.3-5.1 inches long and weigh up to 13.9 grams.
- Their coloring is yellow below with gray upperparts and a white patch near the legs.
Nashville Warblers have two completely separate breeding areas that don’t overlap! The western population was once considered a distinct species, called the Calaveras Warbler, and generally has a brighter yellow color with a larger white patch.
Nashville Warblers are one of the longest-lived warblers in Kentucky. The oldest known individual was aged ten years and two months!
One way to identify the Nashville Warbler is to think of a beverage often enjoyed in Nashville; its song sounds like “sipa sipa sipa sipa tea-tea-tea-tea!” 🙂
#7. Common Yellowthroat
- Geothlypis trichas
- Adults are 4.3 to 5.1 inches long and weigh an average of 8.5 grams.
- Males and females have distinctly different coloring; although both sexes are yellow and gray, males have a black mask on the eyes that sets them apart.
One look at a male Common Yellowthroat will tell you why this species is also called the Yellow Bandit! The males’ distinctive black eye markings set it apart from other warblers in Kentucky.
Like most warblers, Common Yellowthroats migrate at night during the fall. Nighttime migration helps warblers avoid predators and poor weather conditions like excessive heat and wind.
An advantage for bird enthusiasts is that these species are much easier to spot during migration while resting during the day! With a bit of patience, you might also catch a flock in migration at night, visible against a full moon.
Common Yellowthroats have a distinctive song that’s easy to recognize. Listen for “witchety-witchety-witchety” repeated up to 300 times an hour!
#8. Black-and-White Warbler
- Mniotilta varia
- Adults are 4.5 to 5.1 inches tall and weigh up to 8 grams.
- Their coloring is black and white, with white eyebrows and two black streaks and a middle white streak on the head.
- The body coloring is streaked black and white, with black wings and two white wing bars.
Black-and-White Warblers are one of the most striking warblers in Kentucky!
Their contrasting black and white streaks make them look like they’ve been painted in zebra print. Both males and females have black and white streaks on their heads and white eyebrows with a black bar underneath.
Look for this warbler in mature forests with a mix of deciduous and coniferous trees. Black-and-White Warblers have also been known to live in swampy forests in the southern part of their range.
Like most other warblers, they eat insects and spiders, but they’re unique in how they forage. Instead of picking through leaf litter on the ground, these talented birds walk up and down tree trunks searching for tasty bites in the bark!
Black-and-White Warbler song is high and clear, sounding like “weesa weesa weetee weetee weetee weet weet weet.”
#9. Northern Waterthrush
- Parkesia noveboracensis
- Adults are 4 to 5.9 inches tall and have a wingspan up to 9.5 inches.
- The body shape is small and round with a flat head.
- Their coloring is brown above with a cream belly and black streaks. A streak above the eye is usually cream but sometimes white.
Look for Northern Waterthrush near calm water like ponds, small lakes, or deep swamps. They’re almost always found near water, even while they’re migrating.
The Northern Waterthrush eats insects and snails from the ground and nests close to the ground in tree trunks or root tangles.
This species has the fascinating habit of “commuting” from its roosting site to a foraging area during winter! They travel up to 1.2 miles to feed and then return to their nest at the end of the day.
Listen for their call, a loud, short “spwik” noise, or their song, which is a series of chirps that fall in pitch at the end.
- Seiurus aurocapilla
- Adults are 4.3 to 6.3 inches tall and have a wingspan up to 10 inches.
- Their coloring is olive-brown with a white belly. The chest is streaked with black. The head has an orange streak in between two black streaks.
- They are plump at the start of migration but thin-bodied when they return from winter.
Ovenbirds are often mistaken for thrushes because they’re larger than most other warblers. Look for this species in deciduous forests with closed canopies, its preferred breeding habitat.
This species spends more time on the ground than most other warblers in Kentucky. They even place their nests, called “ovens” because of their domed shape, on the ground! They eat snails and insects on the forest floor, foraging with a jerky walk.
Ovenbirds migrate south for the winter and occasionally have crossed the Atlantic Ocean! They have been found in Ireland, Great Britain, and Norway. That’s a long way from home for such a tiny bird!
Male and female Ovenbirds look and sound similar. Their main song is a repeated “chur-TEE, chur-TEE, chur-TEE” without long pauses.
#11. Tennessee Warbler
- Leiothlypis peregrina
- Adults are up to 4.5 inches tall and weigh an average of 10 grams.
- Males have white undersides and gray wings, with a yellow back. The head is gray, with a white eyebrow and gray eye streak.
- Females are yellow-green with gray wings. The undersides are usually white, sometimes with a yellow wash.
Surprisingly, Tennessee Warblers don’t breed OR spend their winters in Tennessee!
This species was named for an individual collected there, probably during migration.
The Tennessee Warbler kept its confusing name because of its nondescript appearance. If we were to call it something based on its looks, it might be the “Typical Warbler” or “Small Grayish Songbird” :-).
Even though its looks are plain, the Tennessee Warbler’s song is anything but! It has a high-pitched, clear, chirping song that starts slow and gains speed toward the end. It sounds like they’re trying to rush to finish the song before being cut off!
#12. Mourning Warbler
- Geothlypis philadelphia
- Adults are 3.9 to 5.9 inches long and weigh 11 to 13 grams.
- They are yellow underneath and olive-green above, with a gray hood in females and near-black in males.
The easiest way to identify Mourning Warblers in Kentucky is to look at their eyes.
While many similar species have white eye-rings or markings, the black eyes of the Mourning Warbler blend into the dark hood coloring on their head. Look for Mourning Warblers in dense second-growth forests.
Mourning Warblers might be considered a bit of a picky eater! They have the unusual habit of removing the legs and wings of insects before they eat them. Occasionally, they eat plant material like berries and seeds, but insects make up most of their diet.
Mourning Warblers are also known to have a more musical, pleasant voice than some of their closest relatives. Listen for a bright song: “chirry, chirry, chirry, chorry, chorry.”
#13. Northern Parula
- Setophaga americana
- Adults are 4.3 to 4.9 inches long and weigh 5 to 11 grams.
- Blue-gray above and white below, with yellow patches on the chest and back.
Northern Parulas live in forests with hanging mosses like Spanish moss and beard lichen. They use these plants as nest bedding and spend most of their time high in the forest canopy. So looking for these little warblers can easily give you a case of “warbler neck!”
Interestingly, Northern Parulas that live in the west have a different song than those in the east. Eastern individuals sing a nasal buzzing trill, about one second long. The western birds’ song is longer and less buzzy.
Even though this species doesn’t visit feeders, you can still plant native shrubs and flowers to help it during migration.
#14. Magnolia Warbler
- Setophaga magnolia
- Adults are 4.3 to 5.1 inches long and weigh 6 to 12.5 grams.
- Yellow, gray, and black with white patches.
Magnolia Warblers are generally small but have relatively long tails for their size. To identify this species, look for a white patch near the base of the tail and black tail-feather tips. Males have a black mask and white eyebrow, while females have a less-prominent gray cap.
This species spends winters south of the U.S. in the Caribbean and Mexico. It travels nearly the entire way through the country to get to its northern breeding grounds!
Like many other warblers, this species has two different types of songs: one is used for courtship and mating, and the other is used to mark their territory. Both are three short notes accented at the end, but the territory call is more musical.
#15. Bay-Breasted Warbler
- Setophaga castanea
- Adults are 5 to 6 inches long and weigh on average 12.5 grams.
- Males are black and white, with ruddy chestnut markings on the head and chest.
- Females are olive-green with white and brown wings.
Bay-Breasted Warblers live primarily in mature conifer forests. They spend much of their breeding season in the boreal forest, where they are numerous and easy to find. However, they’re solitary and not as easy to spot during their migration.
Bay-Breasted Warblers in Kentucky are specialist predators of spruce budworms, a caterpillar native to their range. The population of this warbler has been known to fluctuate depending on the budworms’ population. Sometimes it will disappear entirely from an area if food is scarce. However, the warbler population can rebound into the thousands during budworm outbreaks!
Listen for their clear, loud song, which sounds like “tsee-tsee-TSEE.”
#16. Blackburnian Warbler
- Setophaga fusca
- Adults are 4.3 to 5.1 inches long and weigh 8 to 13 grams.
- Males of this species have a brilliant yellow-orange face and throat with black stripes. The body is striped black and white.
- Females have the same general pattern but are much duller and more yellow than white.
The Blackburnian Warbler’s bright orange coloring and a triangular eye patch is the easiest way to identify this species. It may be black in adult males and gray in immature or female birds, but it’s evident in all plumage and seasons.
Look for Blackburnian Warblers in mixed forests, where they spend their time high in the treetops foraging insects. To attract migrating Blackburnian Warblers, consider a birdbath or water dripper, which may entice them to leave their canopy roost in search of a drink.
Blackburnian Warblers sing a unique song, which is so high-pitched at the end it can be hard to hear! It’s a series of notes that sound like “zip-zip-zip-tititi-TCHEEE.”
During the beginning of the mating season in the spring, you might be lucky enough to catch this species marking its territory. The mating males do an acrobatic, looping “ballet,” chasing others away from prime locations.
#17. Chestnut-Sided Warbler
- Setophaga pensylvanica
- Adults are 3.9 to 5.5 inches long and weigh 8 to 13 grams.
- Their coloring is primarily black and white, with yellow on the head and back and a distinctive chestnut stripe on the sides.
Chestnut-Sided Warblers are one of the most recognizable warblers in Kentucky!
Their multicolored pattern and dark reddish-brown stripe make them stand out among the young deciduous trees they prefer to nest in. Look for this species lower in trees than other warblers since it often forages at the base of shrubs.
The most common mating song of Chestnut-Sided Warblers is an accented series of notes that sounds like “pleased-pleased-pleased-to-MEECHA.” They also sing an unaccented version, “please-please-please,” to mark their territory.
They have a solitary and very territorial personality, and it’s not uncommon to see males chasing other birds away from their area.
#18. Blackpoll Warbler
- Setophaga striata
- Adults are 4.9 to 5.9 inches long and weigh 12 to 15 grams.
- Their coloring is black, white, and gray. A black cap, white cheeks, and gray-barred wings are typical.
The Blackpoll Warbler’s song is so high-pitched it’s sometimes called nature’s hearing test! The fast, chipping song can easily be confused for an insect. It lasts about three seconds and sounds like “tsit tsit TSIT TSIT tsit tsit.”
Blackpoll Warblers travel huge distances between their breeding grounds and their winter habitat for such small birds. They can fly nonstop for up to three days over the open ocean to their winter home!
This migration takes a combination of endurance, food stores, and prevailing wind that pushes them toward their destination. It’s truly an incredible feat!
To help this little bird with its annual trip, consider planting native trees or bushes that the warblers can use as a resting and foraging stop.
#19. Black-Throated Blue Warbler
- Setophaga caerulescens
- Males are larger warblers with a small bill—deep blue on upperparts and white underneath, with a black face and throat.
- Females are greenish-gray all over; some have tints of blue on their wings or tail feathers.
- Both sexes have a white square patch on their wings, which will help to identify them.
This warbler breeds in Kentucky and migrates south to the Caribbean for the winter. And who wouldn’t want to do that!
You will typically find Black-throated Blue Warblers in forests foraging on low twigs looking for spiders or caterpillars.
Males sing to defend their territory and chase off other males. The songs are three or four syllables of rising notes, slightly deeper than other warblers. A funny way to remember their sound is to think of the phrase,“please, please, please squeeeeze.”
#20. Cerulean Warbler
- Setophaga cerulea
- Small warbler with a small bill that sits in a horizontal position.
- Males are sky blue with a white belly and black streaks all over. The wing has two white lines.
- Females are blue-green and mostly yellow all over—faint white over the eye and two white stripes on the wings.
The female Cerulean Warbler is known to have an odd way of leaving the nest. Some call it bungee jumping. First, they fall out the side of the nest with their wings down; then, once she clears the nest, she will begin to fly.
These warblers spend summer in Kentucky, then migrate a long distance to South America.
Cerulean Warblers can be hard to see! They prefer the tops of the canopy WAY up in forests, where they forage for insects on the branches.
You have a better chance of hearing one before seeing it. Listen for the males’ buzzy song, which it sings while searching for food in the trees. It often comes in a series of three buzzy notes, then a high-pitched trill, followed by a lower warble.
#21. Worm-eating Warbler
- Helmitheros vermivorum
- Adults are 4.4 to 5.2 inches tall and have a wingspan up to 9 inches.
- Their beaks are particularly long for their size, and they are round-bodied with a flat head.
- Their coloring is dull gray-brown, occasionally with a yellow head and black streaks over the eyes and on the crown.
Despite their name, Worm-eating Warblers rarely eat earthworms!
Depending on what’s available in their habitat, they’re much more likely to eat caterpillars and other arthropods. This species prefers mature hardwood forests with lots of undergrowth and leaf litter.
Male and female Worm-eating Warblers look alike, and there is no reliable way to tell them apart without close study. However, males are generally more vocal and have a short, high-pitched call that sounds like “tseet.”
Although Worm-eating Warblers are territorial, they sometimes join flocks of mixed species during the winter. It might seem neighborly, but this is for self-preservation and to help with foraging!
#22. Louisiana Waterthrush
- Parkesia motacilla
- Adults are 5.5 to 6.7 inches tall and have a wingspan up to 10 inches.
- Their coloring is brown above with a cream belly and black streaks. The legs are long and pinkish.
The Lousiana Waterthrush is the largest wood-warbler in Kentucky!
You may have to start looking earlier than you think to spot this species. They leave their breeding grounds and migrate south early, sometimes beginning in July.
Nearly all Louisiana Waterthrush will have left North America by late August each year. They also return from their wintering home sooner than most other songbirds, arriving in early March.
Male Louisiana Waterthrushes have a distinctive song that sounds like a descending scale followed by a warbling note. However, they only sing in their breeding grounds and are silent at their winter home!
#23. Blue-Winged Warbler
- Vermivora cyanoptera
- Adults are about 4.5 inches tall and weigh up to 8.5 grams.
- Males are a beautiful bright yellow with contrasting gray-blue wings and a black eye streak.
- Females are slightly lighter yellow with a gray eye streak.
Look for Blue-Winged Warblers in Kentucky in abandoned fields at the edge of forests.
This beautiful yellow bird gets its name from its blue-gray wings, especially visible against its yellow body.
Although this species primarily eats insects, it is a generalist and will change its diet based on what is available. For example, the Blue-Winged Warbler might dine on spiders almost exclusively during one season and switch to aphids the next season if they’re more plentiful. This little bird isn’t picky!
Blue-winged Warblers have a short, trilling song that sounds like “bee-buzz,” repeated multiple times.
#24. Golden-Winged Warbler
- Vermivora chrysoptera
- Adults are about 4.5 inches tall and weigh up to 10 grams.
- Their coloring is light and dark gray with a yellow cap and wings.
- They have a black throat patch and eye streaks.
Golden-Winged Warblers prefer open, scrubby landscapes and wetland areas for their habitat. They nest on the ground or low in bushes, with a cup-like nest.
Their yellow wings are more prominent in males, with females generally lighter in color.
Golden-Winged Warblers migrate each year from their breeding grounds in Kentucky to Central and South America. Interestingly, the vast majority (70%) of the world’s population of this species breeds in Wisconsin, Minnesota, and Manitoba!
To hear the Golden-Winged Warbler’s song, listen for a series of trilling notes: “bzzzzz buzz buzz buzz.”
#25. Brewster’s Warbler
- Vermivora cyanoptera x chrysoptera
- Adults are about 4.5 inches tall and weigh up to 10 grams.
- The coloring is pale cream to gray, with gray-blue wings, yellow wing bars, and a yellow cap.
- They do not have a black throat patch.
Brewster’s Warblers are one of two hybrid types created by a Golden-Winged Warbler mating with a Blue-Winged Warbler. It’s the more common of the two hybrids and abundant in its range.
In some areas, it’s slowly replacing the Golden-Winged Warbler as that species’ population declines.
Brewster’s Warblers are similar to Blue- and Golden-Winged Warblers in their preference for open, scrubby habitats near mature forests. They also have a similar diet of ground-dwelling insects and spiders.
Their song, however, is very different from both species! Listen for a short “ehhh” note followed by a longer, lower-pitched “ahhhh” sound.
#26. Lawrence’s Warbler
- Vermivora cyanoptera x chrysoptera
- Adults are about 4.5 inches tall and weigh up to 10 grams.
- Their coloring is primarily yellow, with gray-blue wings and tail feathers.
- The throat is black, and the eyes have a black streak.
Lawrence’s Warblers are the much more rare, genetically recessive hybrid of the Golden- and Blue-Winged Warblers. Besides their coloring, which includes the black throat patch typical of Golden-Winged Warblers, they are similar to both species.
Look for Lawrence’s Warblers near mature forests, in abandoned fields with brush to nest in. But, don’t be surprised if you don’t find one!
There are even fewer Lawrence’s Warblers than Golden-Winged Warblers; they are the rarest of this genus’ breeds and hybrids. As a result, experienced birders with huge life-lists often never see one of these truly rare birds!
Similar to Blue-winged Warblers, Lawrence’s Warblers have a short, trilling song that sounds like “bee-buzz,” repeated multiple times.
#27. Prothonotary Warbler
- Protonotaria citrea
- Adults are up to 5.1 inches tall and weigh up to 12.5 grams.
- Lemon-yellow bodies and heads with blue-gray wings. Males have an orange cast to the head.
- Black eyes, beak, and legs.
Prothonotary Warblers are the only warbler in Kentucky that nests in cavities.
Instead of using the ground or a low bush, this species will build a nest in unused woodpecker holes or tree cavities. Look for Prothonotary Warblers in mature forests near densely forested streams. You may catch one foraging on the bank for insects and snails!
Prothonotary Warblers are also distinctive while in flight because of their two-toned tail feathers. The base of the tail is white, and the tips are dark gray.
Males and females have very different body shapes. Males are rounder and fuller in the neck. Females have a more streamlined body, long neck, and olive-green coloring on the back and head.
Their song is easy to identify; it’s a series of loud notes that sound like sweet-sweet-sweet-sweet-sweet.”
#28. Kentucky Warbler
- Geothlypis formosa
- Adults are 3.9 to 5.9 inches long and weigh 11 to 13 grams.
- Their coloring is yellow and olive green with some black on the head.
- Yellow bands run from the beak, across the brow, and around the eyes, giving this species a spectacled appearance.
Kentucky Warblers live in moist deciduous forests and have one of the widest ranges of any warbler in Kentucky. Unfortunately, they’re scarce and tough to see, so finding one may prove to be challenging even if you live in its range.
Their olive-green back and wings help them to blend in with foliage on the forest floor, where they spend most of their time foraging for insects. If you do spot one, try to catch a glimpse of its eye markings, which wrap around the eyes in yellow and look like a pair of glasses!
Male Kentucky Warblers sing one song all their lives and don’t have multiple songs for different purposes, unlike most other warblers. The song is a rolling “churree” repeated five to eight times.
#29. Hooded Warbler
- Setophaga citrina
- Adults are up to 5.1 inches long and weigh 9 to 12 grams.
- Predominately brown and yellow, males have a black “hood” encircling their yellow face.
Male Hooded Warblers are easily recognized by their ski-mask type markings.
Although the distinctive black hood can help you identify male Hooded Warblers, females and younger individuals are harder to spot because they have a gray head cap. As a result, they appear similar to other, more common warblers in Kentucky.
Male Hooded Warblers can recognize the song of other males of the same species. This is thought to help avoid territorial conflicts by signaling to neighboring birds that they’ve reached another birds’ territory.
Listen for their clear, whistling song, which sounds like “wheeta wheeta whee-tee-oh.”
#30. Cape May Warbler
- Setophaga tigrina
- Adults are 4.7 to 5.9 inches long and weigh 9 to 17 grams.
- Yellow, olive green, and brown with a red eye patch.
Look for Cape May Warblers in Kentucky at the edge of coniferous woods. They prefer to nest near the trunk of black spruce trees. Cape May Warblers lay the most eggs of any warbler, up to 9 in a single brood!
This species eats spruce budworm, a type of caterpillar plentiful in their breeding area. The spruce budworm is an extremely destructive pest to spruce-fir forests, so Cape May Warblers are essential to their ecosystem!
The reddish patch near the eye on males of the species is a sure sign you’ve seen a Cape May Warbler. On both male and female birds, look for a tiger-striped yellow belly and white bars on the black and yellow wings.
Their clear, high song sounds like “tsee-tsee-TSEE-TSEE,” starting soft and getting louder at the end.
#31. Palm Warbler
- Setophaga palmarum
- Adults are 4.7 to 5.5 inches long and weigh 12 to 15 grams.
- The coloring is generally a mix of olive, yellow, and white, but is varied between the eastern and western subspecies.
Look for Palm Warblers in Kentucky in open, weedy fields with scattered trees and bushes.
They prefer the boreal forest of the far north for breeding.
This species is one of few warblers that displays very different plumage based on location. Yellow or Eastern Palm Warblers have a lemon-yellow body and an olive back in the east. Western Palm Warblers, in contrast, have a white to brown base color with a yellow patch on the chest. Both subspecies have distinctive rust-colored caps during the breeding season.
Despite their varied appearance, Palm Warblers’ songs are similar across the continent: a loud, buzzy trilling noise.
#32. Pine Warbler
- Setophaga pinus
- Adults are 5 to 5.7 inches long and weigh an average of 12 grams.
- Their coloring is yellow, white, and black. Males have more yellow than females and are usually brighter.
- Both sexes have two white wing bars on a dark background.
Pine Warblers are unique among warblers in Kentucky.
Unlike their relatives, they will eat seeds and have been known to visit feeders during migration and in winter. Offer cracked corn, millet, peanuts, and suet to attract these bright songbirds. Their summer diet is made up mostly of pine seeds, which they pick from pinecones with their long, pointed beaks.
Pine Warblers migrate, but their range is much more restricted than most warblers. They spend the entire year in the continental U.S., flying to southern states for winter and breeding in northern states during the summer.
Their song is a fast, trilling series of 10 to 30 notes.
#33. Yellow-Throated Warbler
- Setophaga dominica
- Adults are 5.1 to 5.5 inches long and weigh 8 to 11 grams.
- Their coloring is gray, black, and white with a bright yellow throat.
Yellow-Throated Warblers in Kentucky prefer tall trees with an open understory. Look for this species in pine and cypress forests.
In comparison with other warbler species, Yellow-Throated Warblers have a reduced range. They spend their breeding season farther south and winter farther north than most of their relatives, and individuals in the middle of their range have been known to skip migration altogether!
Listen for the “cheet-cheet-cheet-cheet” song of the Yellow-Throated Warbler or the call they use to signal danger, which sounds like a soft “chip.”
#34. Prairie Warbler
- Setophaga discolor
- Adults are 4.3 to 5.2 inches long and weigh an average of 8 grams.
- Primarily yellow, with heavy black streaks. Males usually have a chestnut patch on their backs.
Even though their name suggests they prefer open fields and grassy areas, this species lives primarily in wooded habitats.
Prairie Warblers are at home in stands of young pine trees and second-growth forests. One of the easiest places to spot this species is Christmas tree farms!
Look for a smaller bird that constantly bobs its tail up and down. Listen for its two similar songs, one for courtship and the other for marking territory. The quick, five- to six-syllable song rises sharply in pitch and sounds similar to a cricket’s chirping.
#35. Canada Warbler
- Cardellina canadensi
- Adults are 4.7 to 5.9 inches long and weigh 9 to 13 grams.
- Their coloring is slate gray above, yellow below, and they have a black “necklace” of streaks around their throat.
Look for Canada Warblers in mixed forests with a dense, shrubby understory. They’re most often found where rhododendron is growing.
This species has two striking features that help to distinguish it from other warblers in Kentucky. The bright whitish eye-rings give this bird a permanently surprised expression, and its “necklace” of black markings helps it stand out among its relatives. These features are most evident in males, and while females have a necklace, it generally isn’t as defined or dark.
Canada Warblers are excellent travelers, migrating up to 3,000 miles from their winter homes to their breeding grounds.
They have a loud song, but it’s highly variable and unreliable for identification. Its warning call, a series of “chups,” can be heard during migration.
#36. Black-Throated Green Warbler
- Setophaga virens
- Adults are 4.3 to 4.7 inches long and weigh 8 to 11 grams.
- They are olive-green on the head and back, black and white below and on the wings, and a yellow mask on the face.
Listen for Black-Throated Green Warblers’ songs, which are often described as “trees, trees; I love trees!“ They aren’t picky about their habitat and will nest in coniferous, deciduous, or mixed forests.
They have even been known to inhabit cypress swamps in parts of their range.
Black-Throated Green Warblers are prolific and loud vocalists! They often sing throughout the day during the mating season. One individual who was recorded for an hour even managed to sing his mating song 466 times in a row! It sounds similar to “hee-hee-hee-hee-HA-hee.”
#37. Connecticut Warbler
- Oporornis agilis
- Adults are 5.1 to 5.9 inches long and weigh an average of 15 grams.
- They have a distinct two-toned pattern, a whitish-gray head and neck, and a yellow body.
- Their white eye-rings give them a wide-eyed, surprised look.
Connecticut Warblers are infamously challenging to find in Kentucky!
They’re secretive, shy birds with a short song and unobtrusive habits.
This species prefers remote bogs and deciduous forests, far from human interaction. Connecticut Warblers are also relatively solitary birds, and it’s unusual to find them in pairs or groups except during fall migration. Because of its secretive nature and remote habitat, only one study of a nesting pair has ever been done.
If you find a Connecticut Warbler in the wild, consider yourself lucky to add it to your life list!
Its song is a high and musical “chippy-chuppy, chippy-chuppy, chippy-chuppy,” repeated often.
#38. Swainson’s Warbler
- Limnothlypis swainsonii
- Adults are 4.9 to 6.3 inches tall and have an average wingspan of 9 inches.
- Their coloring is olive-green to rusty brown, with a lighter underside.
- They typically have a dark brown eye streak with a lighter eyebrow.
Swainson’s Warblers are uncommon and hard to spot, thanks to their understated coloring and smaller size. They prefer flooded swampland away from developed areas.
Unlike most other warblers in Kentucky, there is no difference in appearance between males and females.
They’re also unique in the way they move. They prefer to walk quickly instead of hopping on the ground, and they’re known to fly much longer distances than their warbler cousins, sometimes from one end of their territory to the other without stopping!
Their song is a clear “see-see-see-see-see-see” that starts high in pitch and drops lower toward the end.
Do you need help identifying or attracting warblers in Kentucky?
Here are a few resources that can help!
National Geographic Guide to the Birds of North America
The Stokes Field Guide to the Birds of North America
How many of these warblers have you seen before in Kentucky?
Leave a comment below!
To learn more about birds in Kentucky, check out my other guides!
22 Types of WATER BIRDS That Live in Kentucky(Ducks, herons, loons, etc.)
19 Types of BIRDS OF PREY That are Found in Kentucky! (Hawks, owls, eagles, etc.)