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Wilson's Warbler

Cardellina pusilla

Length: 4.75 inches Wingspan: 7.5 inches Seasonality: Migrant
ID Keys: Yellow underparts, olive-green upperparts, bright yellow face with black cap (male)

Wilson's Warbler - Cardellina pusilla A small, very active warbler of thickets and woodland edges, Wilson's Warblers are often more readily identified by birders due to their habit of foraging quite low in forest vegetation.  They can be found nearly anywhere in the continental United States during their spring migration, but are generally much more common in the West than in the East.  They tend to have increasingly brilliant plumage the as you move westward in the continent.


Prefers low, shrubby undergrowth, such as that along streams, rivers and ponds, second-growth forest, and forest understory.  Avoids dense unbroken forest, and is normally found along forest and woodland edges.


Primarily insects and spiders, but occasionally berries.  


Usually forages quite low in vegetation.  Will also forage along the ground, or fly out from a low perch to catch insects in mid-air.


Non-breeder in South Dakota.  In breeding range, the nest is a cup of grasses, leaves, and moss, built by the female.  The female lays betweedn 4 and 6 eggs, and she alone incubates the eggs.  Upon hatching, both parents help feed the young, with the young leaving the nest after about 10-13 days.


Rapid series of 10 to 15 short whistled notes, with the last few notes generally lower and faster. They also have a chip note call.


Summers in Canada and the western United States.  Winters on the Gulf Coast, Mexico, and points south.

Interactive eBird map:

Click here to access an interactive eBird map of Wilson's Warbler sightings

Similar Species:

The distinctive black cap on a male Wilson's Warbler make it relatively distinctive if seen well. The more uniformly colored female may be more difficult to identify. Here are some other warbler species that may be confused with a Wilson's Warbler.

Hooded Warbler 1 - Setophaga citrina Hooded Warbler 2 - Setophaga citrina Yellow Warbler 10 - Setophaga petechia Yellow Warbler 14 - Setophaga petechia
Hooded Warbler Hooded Warbler Yellow Warbler Yellow Warbler

Conservation Status:

Stable in some locations, but has been on the decline in the west, probably due to loss of riparian habitat.  However, there are no serious threats to overall populations, and the IUCN lists the Wilson's Warbler as a species of "Least Concern".

Further Information:

Photo Information:

September 2nd, 2012 - Minnehaha County, South Dakota - Terry Sohl

Additional Photos:

Click on the image chips or text links below for additional, higher-resolution Wilson's Warbler photos.

Audio File Credits:

Click on the map below for a higher-resolution view
Wilson's Warbler - Range map
South Dakota Status: Uncommon migrant throughout the state, except common in fall in the East.

Additional Wilson's Warbler Photos
Click for a higher-resolution version of these photos
Wilson's Warbler 1 - Cardellina pusillaWilson's Warbler 2 - Cardellina pusillaWilson's Warbler 3 - Cardellina pusillaWilson's Warbler 4 - Cardellina pusillaWilson's Warbler 5 - Cardellina pusillaWilson's Warbler 6 - Cardellina pusillaWilson's Warbler 7 - Cardellina pusillaWilson's Warbler 8 - Cardellina pusillaWilson's Warbler 9 - Cardellina pusilla