Wood-Warblers (Parulidae)

Males of some species of warbler sing two categories of songs.

Depending on the species, each male may sing one to several category I songs and category 2 songs. I have examples of the two categories of song for the Chestnut-sided Warbler.

Some other warbler species (e.g. Ovenbird) have a different song system. They have a single primary song which they sing during the day and an infrequently heard 'extended song' which consists of parts of the primary song and added notes. Birds sometimes sing the extended song in flight.

Note: This list incorporates the recent taxonomic revisions of the wood-warblers by the AOU.


Seiurus aurocapilla

The male Ovenbird's loud and frequently repeated primary song (teacher teacher teacher . . . ) is a major part of the spring and summer soundscape in eastern deciduous forests. Each male has one primary song, which differs subtly among birds. Ovenbird males also occasionally sing a complex extended song which usually contains teacher phrases from the primary song along with additional notes and phrases. The extended song varies markedly among birds. Ovenbirds may sing the extended song during display flights and also from perches and from the ground. It is heard most often near dusk when the bird is displaying, but it may be heard at anytime of day or night. It is frequently called the ‘flight song‘ or the ‘nocturnal song‘, but neither of these names is accurately descriptive. This example of the extended song was recorded a few minutes before 1AM with an automatic system set up to detect migrating birds at night. (Albany County, New York.)
Habitat: Ground to mid-level of deciduous woods.

Worm-eating Warbler

Helmitheros vermivorum

Male's song is a dry, rapid trill similar to the chipping sparrow's song. It is sometimes said to be sung on one pitch, but this bird's song consistently dropped in pitch near the end. (One bird, Albany County, New York.)
Breeding habitat: Hillsides and ravines in deciduous or mixed forest with shrubs.

Louisiana Waterthrush

Parkesia motacilla

Song characteristically starts with loud, strong, slurred whistles but ends in a jumble of twitters. Chip has a low, full quality. (One bird, Albany County, New York.)
Habitat: Breeds in wooded ravines along streams.

Northern Waterthrush

Parkesia noveboracensis

Song is loud and emphatic comprising three, 2-5 note phrases. Doesn't have the twittering ending of the Louisiana Waterthrush. (Two songs of two birds, Albany County, New York)
Habitat: Woods by ponds, slowly-flowing streams, swamps.

Golden-winged Warbler

Vermivora chrysoptera

Common male's song is similar to the blue-winged warbler's song but has two or three (sometimes one or four) buzzy notes after the initial buzz. (One bird, Albany County, New York.)
Habitat: Breeds in early stage successional growth such as old fields, woodland clearings and edges, etc.

Blue-winged Warbler

Vermivora cyanoptera

Male's usual song is a lazy, two-note bee-bzzzz. The first note sounds inhaled and the second note may be higher or lower than the first. The golden-winged warbler's song is similar but has two or three bzz notes following the first note. This unusual song seems to be backwards -- bzzz bee. Perhaps this blue-wing was a young one just learning his song. (Three birds, Albany and Rensselaer Counties, New York.)
Habitat: Breeds in successional growth such as old fields, woodland clearings and edges, etc.

Black-and-White Warbler

Mniotilta varia

Male's very high pitched, sibilant song is rhythmic. Compare with blackpoll and blackburnian warblers. (Three songs, Albany County, NY; three songs Vilas County, Wisconsin; two songs, Rensselaer County, New York.)
Habitat: Mature deciduous or mixed woods.

Prothonotary Warbler

Protonotaria citrea

Male's song is a series of strong, clear upslurred notes which rise in intensity but do not change in pitch. The number of notes in a song can vary from 4-14. Only males sing on breeding grounds. This bird was singing constantly while foraging. One call note is a quiet tseep. It is often repeated and usually used during interactions between the sexes; however, we did not see the female at the time of this recording. (Evangeline Parish, Louisiana.)
Habitat: Breeding territory usually associated with quiet waters, as in wooded swamps, bottomlands, and stream banks.

Warbler, Swainson's

Limnothlypis swainsonii

Male's loud, ringing primary song is often written as whee-whee-whee whip-poor-will. Each male has one primary song, but different males may use different numbers of notes and sing at different rates. First notes of song are similar to those of the Louisiana Waterthrush, but the two species' songs end quite differently. We watched this bird loaf and preen under a shrub for several minutes; it then flitted into dense undergrowth and began singing. (One bird, Evangeline Parish, Louisiana.)
Habitat: Canebreaks, dense understory in damp bottomlands, rhododendron tangles.

Orange-crowned Warbler

Oreothlypis celata

Trilled song varies among individuals; it may contain one, two or three parts and the pitch may stay level, drop or rise. The volume often decreases at the end. These birds were singing from perches within low trees; others sang from within bushes. (Two songs of two birds, Denali area, Alaska).
Habitat: Deciduous thickets, brush.

Nashville Warbler

Oreothlypis ruficapilla

Male's song is characteristically a series of phrases (often clearly two-note phrases) and then a short trill. Compare with northern waterthrush. (Two songs of three birds, Albany County, NY)
Habitat: Breeds in woods with understory, brushy edges of swamps and bogs.

Connecticut Warbler

Oporornis agilis

Male's song is loud, rich, rhythmic and repetetive. The birds in these recordings sang almost constantly for long periods while concealed in dense foliage near the tops of black spruce trees. They occasionally moved from tree to tree but rarely perched in the open. (Four songs each of two birds, St Louis County, Minnesota)
Habitat: Breeds in spruce/tamarack bogs and wet second growth forests.

Mourning Warbler

Geothlypis philadelphia

Male's song is loud and typically has two parts with the second part lower pitched. Many variations. (One bird, Lewis County, New York.)
Habitat: Breeds in low, dense vegetation such as brambles etc. that grows after fires or forest clearing; wet woods with dense ferns and undergrowth.

Common Yellowthroat

Geothlypis trichas

Each male has one primary song that he sings over and over throughout the day. The song has a characteristic rhythm (witchity witchity witchity) but varies among individuals. Here are eight examples of primary songs by six males. The chip call which the bird gives when disturbed is a firm chik. (Albany and Rensselaer Counties, New York.)
Habitat: Dense brush and tangles often near water.

Hooded Warbler

Setophaga citrina

Male's songs are loud, clear, musical whistles. In the second part of this recording you can hear two birds counter-singing. (Three birds, Albany County, New York.)
Habitat: Breeds in mature woods with well-developed understory.

American Redstart

Setophaga ruticilla

Male's song is a variable series of high-pitched notes usually ending in a downslurred much lower note. Females also sing but much less commonly. (Five calls of three males. Albany and Lewis Counties, New York.)
Habitat: Wet deciduous or mixed woods with understory of young trees. Edges of woods.

Kirtland's Warbler

Setophaga kirtlandii

Male's song is loud, emphatic and full-bodied. This bird sang frequently from exposed perches in a young pine plantation. Two or three hundred feet away, a neighboring bird sang a slightly higher pitched, more hurried version of the same song. Kirtland's Warbler is an endangered species that breeds primarily in north-central Lower Michigan, but in recent years it has extended its range to locations in Wisconsin and Southern Ontario. (Two birds, Adams County, Wisconsin.)
Habitat: Breeds in stands of young jack pines.

Cerulean Warbler

Setophaga cerulea

Male's song is an ascending series of burry notes ending with a high burry trill. The final burry trill distinguishes it from some similar songs of northern parula. Often calls from canopy of mature deciduous trees. (One bird, Rensselaer County, New York.)
Habitat: Mature deciduous woods usually along rivers or near swamps.

Northern Parula

Setophaga americana

Song is rising buzzy trill that usually ends with an emphatic note. (One bird, Vilas County, Wisconsin)
Habitat: Breeds in woods where trees have lichen or spanish moss, often near water.

Magnolia Warbler

Setophaga magnolia

Male's emphatic ending song is quite variable but often sounds brief and hurried. Song may suggest chestnut-sided warbler, but is usually shorter. (Two songs each of three birds, St. Lawrence and Albany Counties, New York.)
Habitat: Breeds in young coniferous woods; spruce, hemlock, fir thickets.

Blackburnian Warbler

Setophaga fusca

Male's song is very high pitched. Compare with black-and-white and blackpoll warblers. (Five songs of three males, Albany County, New York.)
Habitat: Breeds in mature mixed or coniferous woods.

Yellow Warbler

Setophaga petechia

Male's song is bright, rapid and generally emphatic. It usually starts with a series of 'sweet' notes. The last note is often emphasized and can be slurred up or down. In the last two examples here, the closest male is immediately answered by a neighboring bird, as occurs in territorial disputes. Chip call. (Four calls of three birds, Albany and Schoharie Counties, New York.)
Habitat: Brushy areas often near water.

Chestnut-sided Warbler

Setophaga pensylvanica

Male chestnut-sided warblers have two categories of songs. Category one songs end with an emphatic "meet-you". (Here is an isolated "meet-you" to help you hear it in the songs). There are only a few versions of these songs, which are sung in the daytime near females and seem to be concerned with attracting and keeping a mate. Songs in the second category do not have an emphatic ending and are sometimes more warbling than the "meet-you" songs. They are directed at males and appear to be concerned with maintaining territory. They are sung before dawn and during aggressive encounters later in the day. They are more variable than the "meet-you" songs, and some are shared by neighboring males. (Five "meet-you" songs by three birds and seven category 2 songs by seven birds. Albany County, New York, and Vilas County, Wisconsin.)
Habitat: Breeds in brush and new growth in cut-over areas, abandon fields, roadsides, hedgerows etc.

Blackpoll Warbler

Setophaga striata

Male's song is extremely high pitched. Often sounds loudest in middle. Compare with black-and-white and blackburnian warblers. (Albany County, New York.)
Habitat: Breeds in cool, damp low or stunted conifers, edges of bogs.

Black-throated Blue Warbler

Setophaga caerulescens

A lazy, buzzy song. Last note usually ascending. (Five songs of three males, Albany County, NY)
Habitat: Deciduous or mixed woodlands with good understory.

Palm Warbler

Setophaga palmarum

Song is series of buzzy notes which are too far apart to be called a trill. May sound hesitant. (One bird, Vilas County, Wisconsin.)
Habitat: Breeds in spruce or tamarack bogs. Sings from perches in trees.

Pine Warbler

Setophaga pinus

Male's song is a simple trill reminiscent of the chipping sparrow or dark-eyed junco but more musical. (One bird, Vilas County,Wisconsin.)
Habitat: Strongly associated with pine trees in breeding season.

Yellow-rumped Warbler

Setophaga coronata

Song is variable and sometimes may sound like another warbler species. A common song type has two parts and includes a trill (3 songs by 2 males, eastern or "Myrtle" subspecies). Song of the western or "Audubon's" subspecies is said usually to be lower pitched and more musical than the Myrtle's song (Western Meadowlark prominent in background). (Albany and Washington Counties, New York; Keyhole State Park, Wyoming.)
Breeds in coniferous or mixed forests. In winter, found in forest edges, brush, thickets, and gardens; avoids deep woods.

Prairie Warbler

Setophaga discolor

Male's song is an easily recognized series of rising notes. Rate of delivery can vary considerably. Usually has a burry quality but sometimes is a clear whistle, as in the last example. (Four songs of three birds, Albany County, New York.)
Habitat: Old fields, shrubby pastures, old orchards and other successional habitats.

Golden-cheeked Warbler

Setophaga chrysoparia

The male Golden-cheeked Warbler's song is variable but generally contains buzzy phrases. This male sang two slightly different versions of a buzzy song as it moved quickly through brushy habitat on a windy day. This is an endangered species with a patchy distribution within a limited range in central Texas. (Lost Maples State Park, Texas.)
Habitat: Mature juniper-oak woodlands.

Black-throated Green Warbler

Setophaga virens

This is the so-called accented version of the male's song, in which the last note is higher and accented. The male usually sings it from a low perch or while foraging. I do not yet have a quality recording of an unaccented song. (Five songs of three males, Albany County, New York.)
Habitat: Coniferous, or mixed woods with good understory.

Canada Warbler

Cardellina canadensis

Male's song is variable but always begins with a chip note. (Two birds, Albany County, New York.)
Habitat: Moist woodlands, swamps, thickets with understory

Warbler, Wilson's

Cardellina pusilla

Family: Parulidae

Male's song is a rapid series of sharp chi chi chi notes varying at the end. Songs vary regionally. The pitch of this Alaskan bird's song rose at the end, but eastern birds' songs usually drop. Males generally sing from perches but occasionally sing while in flight. Females sometimes sing, but song differs from that of males. (One male, Denali Highway, Alaska)
Breeding habitiat: Moist shrubby areas with good ground cover, including bogs, pond edges, and stream sides.