Wednesday 15 May
Canada warbler (Wilsonia canadensis)
Canada warbler fact file
- Find out more
- Print factsheet
Canada warbler description
Frequently nicknamed the ‘necklaced warbler’ due to the distinguishing pattern of black spots across its yellow breast (4), the Canada warbler (Wilsonia canadensis) is a small, distinctive bird with brightly coloured plumage. It is also sometimes referred to as the ‘Canadian fly-catcher’ or the ‘Canadian fly-catching warbler’ because of its characteristic habit of actively foraging for flies on the ground (4) (5).
The Canada warbler has grey upperparts, white undertail coverts, and a bright yellow throat, breast and belly. The breast has a ‘necklace’ of streaks which vary in colour from black to grey. The width and darkness of the necklace varies depending on the age of the individual and whether it is male or female (2). This species is also noted for its characteristic yellow eyebrows and white eye rings, which form ‘spectacles’ around the eyes (2) (5) and are said to make this distinctive bird look somewhat ‘surprised’ (5).
The adult male Canada warbler has extensive black colouration on the crown and face, with a bold, black necklace, which turn greyer in the autumn. The adult female is duller than the male, with very little black on the face or crown and dusky necklace streaks (2) (5). The juvenile is generally duller than the adult in appearance (6), being brownish on the head and upperparts and buff on the underparts (2).
The distinctive song of the Canada warbler is clear, loud and extremely variable. It consists of one ‘tchip’ or ‘chip’ note (3) (7), preceeded by a rapid, explosive series of short notes and concluded with a three-note phrase, the last note of which is loud and rises in pitch (7). A ‘chyup’ or ‘plip’ call is also given by both the male and the female (3) (7), and a loud, sharp ‘check’ or ‘chip’ is given in alarm (7).Top
Canada warbler biology
The Canada warbler is a social bird, typically living in flocks (3) (4). It usually arrives at its breeding grounds in May (8) (11), although the timing of breeding varies with location. In Pennsylvania, the majority of nests with eggs have been found between late May and mid-June (8), while in British Columbia, the Canada warbler has been recorded breeding from early June through to late July (11). Individuals may return to the same breeding grounds each year (4).
This species nests in forest and shrubby areas, often alongside power lines and roads (11). The well-concealed nest is typically a rather bulky structure built close to the ground, usually among the roots of a fallen tree, in a cavity in the ground, or in moist thickets, moss hummocks, dense ferns, or anywhere with deep litter and dense saplings (4) (8) (11).
The Canada warbler produces a clutch of four or five eggs, with only a single brood per season (3). The eggs are slightly glossy with a buff or creamy-white appearance, and are speckled with dots of varying tints and shades around the larger end (7). The female lays one egg per day during the laying period, with incubation beginning after the final egg is laid and lasting for 10 to 12 days (4) (6). Once hatched, the young chicks will leave the nest after seven to ten days (4) (6), and may live for up to eight years (3).The nests of the Canada warbler are frequently subject to brood parasitism by the brown-headed cowbird (Molothrus ater) (7).
The Canada warbler feeds on a variety of insects and spiders, which are plucked from foliage or from the ground. It will often wait for insects such as a crane fly to fly past, before pursuing it in flight (3) (4). This species has been observed feeding from the branches of trees, up to four metres above the ground (11).Top
Canada warbler range
The Canada warbler is found throughout the Americas. As its name suggests, around 80 percent of the Canada warbler’s breeding grounds are in Canada (6), although this species also breeds across the eastern and central United States (8) (9).
The wintering grounds of the Canada warbler are found mainly in northern South America (4).Top
Canada warbler habitat
In the breeding season, the Canada warbler occurs in the dense understory of cool, moist forests, where it is often found along streams or in other areas near water (4) (8) (10). Although generally found at elevations above 300 metres (4) (8) (10), the Canada warbler may also inhabit cool and wet areas at lower elevations (10).
The Canada warbler prefers mature deciduous or mixed deciduous-coniferous forest where small gaps in the canopy allow shrub layers to develop (11). The shrubby undergrowth provides this species with plenty of cover in which to hide (10).
The Canada warbler typically winters in wet or moist, densely-vegetated areas in a variety of tropical woodlands (3).Top
Canada warbler status
The Canada warbler is classified as Least Concern (LC) on the IUCN Red List (1).Top
Canada warbler threats
Breeding Bird Survey data from Canada and the United States has indicated that the population of the Canada warbler has declined in parts of its range (8).
These declines are likely to be due to forest succession, as well as the loss and degradation of forested wetlands, which are being drained for urban development and agriculture (3) (6). Timber harvesting has led to the creation of more forest edges, which are providing greater opportunities for the brown-headed cowbird to parasitise the nests of the Canada warbler (4).Top
Canada warbler conservation
In the U.S., the Canada warbler population is generally considered to be secure. However, it is considered ‘Critically Imperiled’ or ‘Imperiled’ in Illinois, Indiana and Ohio (6). This species is also considered to be a species of high conservation concern by the ‘Partners in Flight North American Landbird Conservation Plan’ and the Northeast Endangered Species and Wildlife Diversity Technical Committee (12).
In Canada in particular, as much as 85 percent of the Canada warbler population may have disappeared since 1968, prompting COSEWIC to list the Canada warbler as a threatened species. Adults, nests and eggs of the Canada warbler are protected in Canada under the Migratory Birds Convention Act of 1994 (6).
This species would also benefit from the maintenance and protection of suitable habitat (6).Top
Find out more
Find out more about the Canada warbler:
BirdLife International - Canada warbler:
Cornell Lab of Ornithology: All About Birds - Canada warbler:
This information is awaiting authentication by a species expert, and will be updated as soon as possible. If you are able to help please contact:
- Brood parasite
- An animal that lays its eggs in the nests of members of its own or other species; the host then raises the young as its own.
- Small feathers concealing the bases of larger flight feathers, usually on the wings or tail.
- A plant that sheds its leaves at the end of the growing season.
- The act of keeping eggs warm so that development is possible.
- Primary forest
- Forest that has remained undisturbed for a long time and has reached a mature condition.
- The progressive sequence of changes in vegetation types and animal life within a community that, if allowed to continue, results in the formation of a ‘climax community’ (a mature, stable community in equilibrium with the environment).
IUCN Red List (August, 2011)
- Dunn, J. and Garrett, K. (1997) A Field Guide to Warblers of North America. Houghton-Mifflin, Boston.
- Vuilleumier, F. (2009) Birds of North America: Western Region. Dorling Kindersley, New York.
Reitsma,L., Goodnow, M., Hallworth, M.T., and Conway, C.J. (2010) Canada warbler (Wilsonia canadensis). In: Poole, A. (Ed.) The Birds of North America Online. Cornell Lab of Ornithology, Ithaca. Available at:
- Earley, C.G. (2003) Warblers of the Great Lakes Region and Eastern North America. Firefly Books Ltd., Buffalo, New York.
- Savignac, C. (2008) COSEWIC Assessment and Status Report on the Canada Warbler in Canada. Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada, Ottawa, Canada.
Cornell Lab of Ornithology: Birds in Forested Landscapes - Canada warbler, Wilsonia canadensis (August, 2011)
- McWilliams, G.M. and Brauning, D.W. (2000) The Birds of Pennsylvania. Cornell University Press, Ithaca, New York.
BirdLife International (August, 2011)
- Bonney Jr, R.E. (1988) Canada warbler. In: Andrle, R.F., Carroll, J.R., Federation of New York State Bird Clubs, New York (State) Deptartment of Environmental Conservation and Cornell University Laboratory of Ornithology (Eds.) The Atlas of Breeding Birds in New York State. Cornell University Press, Ithaca, New York.
- Campbell, R.W. (2001) Canada warbler. In: Canadian Wildlife Service, The British Columbia Ministry of Environment, Lands and Parks, and the Royal British Columbia Museum (Eds.) The Birds of British Columbia. Volume 4 – Passerines: Wood-Warblers through Old World Sparrows. UBC Press, Vancouver, Canada.
- Lambert, D. (2006) VINS releases report on Canada warbler habitat management. The All-Bird Bulletin, March, 2006: 3.
More »Related species
Play the Team WILD game
MyARKive offers the scrapbook feature to signed-up members, allowing you to organize your favourite ARKive images and videos and share them with friends.
Terms and Conditions of Use of Materials
Copyright in this website and materials contained on this website (Material) belongs to Wildscreen or its licensors.
Visitors to this website (End Users) are entitled to:
- view the contents of, and Material on, the website;
- download and retain copies of the Material on their personal systems in digital form in low resolution for their own personal use;
- teachers, lecturers and students may incorporate the Material in their educational material (including, but not limited to, their lesson plans, presentations, worksheets and projects) in hard copy and digital format for use within a registered educational establishment, provided that the integrity of the Material is maintained and that copyright ownership and authorship is appropriately acknowledged by the End User.
End Users shall not copy or otherwise extract, alter or manipulate Material other than as permitted in these Terms and Conditions of Use of Materials.
Additional use of flagged material
Green flagged material
Certain Material on this website (Licence 4 Material) displays a green flag next to the Material and is available for not-for-profit conservation or educational use. This material may be used by End Users, who are individuals or organisations that are in our opinion not-for-profit, for their not-for-profit conservation or not-for-profit educational purposes. Low resolution, watermarked images may be copied from this website by such End Users for such purposes. If you require high resolution or non-watermarked versions of the Material, please contact Wildscreen with details of your proposed use.
Creative commons material
Certain Material on this website has been licensed to Wildscreen under a Creative Commons Licence. These images are clearly marked with the Creative Commons buttons and may be used by End Users only in the way allowed by the specific Creative Commons Licence under which they have been submitted. Please see http://creativecommons.org for details.
Any other use
Please contact the copyright owners directly (copyright and contact details are shown for each media item) to negotiate terms and conditions for any use of Material other than those expressly permitted above. Please note that many of the contributors to ARKive are commercial operators and may request a fee for such use.
Save as permitted above, no person or organisation is permitted to incorporate any copyright material from this website into any other work or publication in any format (this includes but is not limited to: websites, Apps, CDs, DVDs, intranets, extranets, signage, digital communications or on printed materials for external or other distribution). Use of the Material for promotional, administrative or for-profit purposes is not permitted.