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Swainson's Warbler

Limnothlypis swainsonii

Length: 5.5 inches Wingspan: 9 inches Seasonality: Non-resident in South Dakota
ID Keys: Plain brownish overall, darker on upperparts, pale plain underparts, rufous crown and dark eye line

Swainson's Warbler - Limnothlypis swainsoniiThe Swainson's Warbler is a rather plain warbler of the southeastern United States.  With their preference for lush or swampy bottomland hardwood forests and behavior of skulking and foraging through thick vegetation, they are a species that is more often heard than seen clearly.  Numbers have declined in the U.S. in recent decades due to habitat loss.  Fragmention of their forested habitats also increases "edge" habitat preferred by Brown-headed Cowbirds, and thus increases incidents of nest parasitism by Cowbirds of Swainson's Warbler nests.

Habitat: During the summer breeding season, Swainson's Warblers are found in swampy bottomland forests in the southeastern U.S. or in lush forests of the Appalachians. Typically found in areas with significant brushy undergrowth.

Diet: Feeds on insects and spiders. 

Behavior: Foraging is most often done by walking along the ground, using it's relatively thick and strong bill (for a warbler) to probe the ground or flip over leaves in search of insects and insect larvae.  They will also ocassionaly capture flying insects in mid-air.

Nesting: The nest is built of vegetation such as leaves, grasses, and sticks, lined with softer mosses, lichens, or evergreen needles.  It is typically placed near water, fairly low to the ground, in a thicket next to a more open area.  The female alone builds the nest and incubates the eggs, but the male will feed the female while incubating, and both parents will help to feed the young.

Song: Song of the Swainson's Warbler is a series of clean slurred phrases with strong ending.

Migration: Summers in the southeastern United States.  Winters in the Caribbean and the Yucatan of Mexico.

Interactive eBird Map: Click here to access an interactive eBird map of Swainson's Warbler sightings

Similar Species: Most similar to the Worm-eating Warbler. Similar structure and colors (and sometimes habitat) to Ovenbird, Northern Waterthrush, and Louisiana Waterthrush, but those species all have significant striping on the underparts.

Conservation Status: Despite local declines where habitat has been lost, there are no large systematic threats to the species as a whole.   The IUCN currently classifies the Swainson's Warbler as a species of "Least Concern".

Further Information: 1) Cornell's All About Birds - Swainson's Warbler

2) Audubon Field Guide - Swainson's Warbler

3) USGS Bird InfoCenter - Swainson's Warbler

Image Information: Image is painting by Louis Agassiz Fuertes, found in Warblers of North America, 1907.  Copyright is expired in the U.S., public domain image.


Click below for a higher-resolution map
Swainson's Warbler - Range Map
South Dakota Status: Non-resident in South Dakota

Additional Swainson's Warbler Photos (Coming soon)