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Overview

Brief Summary

Helmitheros vermivorum

A medium-sized (5-5 ½ inches) wood warbler, the Worm-eating Warbler is most easily identified by its dull olive back, dull yellow underparts, and conspicuous black head stripes. In some respects, this species resembles the Northern Waterthrush (Parkesia noveboracensis), which may be distinguished by its darker brown back, brown head stripes, and streaked breast. Male and female Worm-eating Warblers are similar to one another in all seasons. The Worm-eating Warbler breeds in the eastern United States from Massachusetts south to Louisiana and west to Missouri. Although its breeding range covers a wide area, this species breeds only locally within this range where appropriate habitat exists. In winter, Worm-eating Warblers migrate south to southern Mexico, Central America, and the West Indies. Worm-eating Warblers breed in large areas of unbroken deciduous forest with extensive shrubby undergrowth. In winter, this species primarily inhabits humid tropical forests. Ironically, Worm-eating Warblers rarely eat worms, preferring to eat caterpillars and other small insects. In appropriate habitat, Worm-eating Warblers are most easily observed while foraging for food. This species hops through vegetation close to the forest floor, jumping down to catch prey hidden in dead leaves on the ground. Worm-eating Warblers are primarily active during the day, but, like many migratory songbirds, this species migrates at night.

Threat Status: Least Concern

  • Hanners, Lise A. and Stephen R. Patton. 1998. Worm-eating Warbler (Helmitheros vermivorum), The Birds of North America Online (A. Poole, Ed.). Ithaca: Cornell Lab of Ornithology; Retrieved from the Birds of North America Online: http://bna.birds.cornell.edu/bna/species/367
  • Helmitheros vermivorum. Xeno-canto. Xeno-canto Foundation, n.d. Web. 20 July 2012. .
  • Peterson, Roger Tory. Birds of Eastern and Central North America. Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1980. Print.
  • Worm-eating Warbler (Helmitheros vermivorum). The Internet Bird Collection. Lynx Edicions, n.d. Web. 20 July 2012. .
  • eBird Range Map - Worm-eating Warbler. eBird. Cornell Lab of Ornithology, N.d. Web. 20 July 2012. .
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Distribution

occurs (regularly, as a native taxon) in multiple nations, but breeds in a single nation

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National Distribution

United States

Origin: Native

Regularity: Regularly occurring

Currently: Present

Confidence: Confident

Type of Residency: Breeding

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Global Range: (>2,500,000 square km (greater than 1,000,000 square miles)) BREEDING: discontinuously from northeastern Kansas and southeastern Nebraska east across southern Great Lakes region to southern New England, south to northeastern Texas, southcentral Alabama, northwestern Florida, and South Carolina (AOU 1983). NON-BREEDING: southern Mexico (Oaxaca, Chiapas, Veracruz, and Yucatan Peninsula) south along the Caribbean slope of Middle America to central Panama; also in the Bahama Islands, Greater Antilles, and Virgin Islands (AOU 1983) (uncommon in Puerto Rico and St. John, rare on other Virgin Islands).

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Range

E US; winters se Mexico to Panama and Greater Antilles.
  • Clements, J. F., T. S. Schulenberg, M. J. Iliff, D. Roberson, T. A. Fredericks, B. L. Sullivan, and C. L. Wood. 2014. The eBird/Clements checklist of birds of the world: Version 6.9. Downloaded from http://www.birds.cornell.edu/clementschecklist/download/

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Physical Description

Size

Length: 13 cm

Weight: 13 grams

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Diagnostic Description

Strongly streaked crown against olive-green body; often seen hopping and climbing on or hanging from shrub and subcanopy branches while foraging. Often forages in clusters of dead leaves, especially on wintering grounds.

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Ecology

Habitat

Habitat and Ecology

Systems
  • Terrestrial
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Comments: BREEDING: Well-drained upland deciduous forests with understory patches of mountain laurel or other shrubs, drier portions of stream swamps with an understory of mountain laurel, deciduous woods near streams; almost always associated with hillsides (Gale 1995, Bushman and Therres 1988). Coastal plain habitats in Maryland include well-drained oak and oak-hickory forests, flatland white oak forests along river terraces, and drier islands of nontidal forested wetlands (Stasz 1996). Dense patches of shrubs or saplings may be an important component of territories (Patton and Hanners, unpub. data; Bushman and Therres 1988). Most abundant in mature woods but also may be common in young and medium-aged stands (see Bushman and Therres 1988). Nests on the ground, usually on hillsides, in cryptic nests among dead leaves, usually against roots or stems of shrubs or saplings, in a slight cavity (Harrison 1978), or up against rock outcrops. Nests are constructed of skeletonized leaves and lined with sporophyte stems of hairy cap moss (POLYTRICHUM sp.).

NON-BREEDING: In migration, occurs in various forest, woodland, scrub, and thicket situations, but specific habitat requirements are not known. In winter, inhabits undergrowth shrub and subcanopy layers of forests. Wunderle and Waide (1993) reported that worm-eating warblers are forest specialists but use a variety of forest types in the Caribbean, including "montane pine and broadleaf forest, wet limestone and dry forest, and dry scrub and residential habitats in the Bahamas." On the Caribbean slope of Central America, habitats include scrub and broadleaf and gallery forests (Rappole et al. 1983).

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Migration

Non-Migrant: No. All populations of this species make significant seasonal migrations.

Locally Migrant: No. No populations of this species make local extended movements (generally less than 200 km) at particular times of the year (e.g., to breeding or wintering grounds, to hibernation sites).

Locally Migrant: Yes. At least some populations of this species make annual migrations of over 200 km.

Arrives in North America during spring migration in early April, and at breeding grounds in West Virginia, Pennsylvania, and Connecticut in late April or early May. Departure dates from breeding grounds not well known but some birds may depart by mid-July (Patton and Hanners, unpub. data). Fall dates in southern United States range from 30 August to 1 October (Chapman 1907). Extreme dates in Central America range from 31 August to 18 April in the Honduras (Monroe 1968). Arrives in Puerto Rico in October, departs by end of April (Raffaele 1983). Arrives in Costa Rica early September, rarely late August, through October, departs by mid- to late April (Stiles and Skutch 1989).

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Trophic Strategy

Comments: Eats primarily caterpillars, various insects and spiders. Obtains food from live and dead foliage in spring and summer using an array of foraging techniques including gleaning, reaching, hanging, probing, gaping, pecking, prying, pulling, leaping, sallying, and flutter-chasing (see Remsen and Robinson (1990) for definitions). Reaches into dead leaf clusters to remove caterpillars and spiders. Feeds at tree tops with early leaf-out and moves into subcanopy and understory as the summer progresses. In the nonbreeding season, most prey is obtained from dead curled leaves in the forest understory; also gleans prey from dense foliage, vine tangles, sometimes ground litter, or pecks into rotten twigs for termites (Stiles and Skutch 1989). See also Rappole and Warner (1980).

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Population Biology

Number of Occurrences

Note: For many non-migratory species, occurrences are roughly equivalent to populations.

Estimated Number of Occurrences: 81 to >300

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Global Abundance

10,000 to >1,000,000 individuals

Comments: Occurs in relatively low densities rangewide, and populations appear to be patchily distributed (Rosenberg and Wells 1995).

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General Ecology

In Missouri, density was 2.13 males per 10 ha in continuous forest (Wenny et al. 1993). In Connecticut, density ranged from 4.46 males per 10 ha at a 300-ha TNC preserve to 0.26 per 10 ha at a wooded 56-ha site (Gale et al. 1997). Territorial in winter in Mexico (Rappole and Warner 1980); may forage in mixed-species flocks with resident, tropical forest birds (Greenberg 1987).

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Life History and Behavior

Life Expectancy

Lifespan, longevity, and ageing

Maximum longevity: 8.1 years (wild)
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Reproduction

Eggs are laid in May, will lay replacement clutches through June. In the middle Atlantic region, nests from mid-May to mid-July (Bushman and Therres 1988). In Connecticut, extreme egg dates for first or subsequent clutches range from 13 May to 21 June, with nestlings last observed on 11 July (Patton and Hanners, unpub. data). Clutch size is 5-6 for first clutches; replacement clutch size is usually 4. Single-brooded. Incubation lasts 13 days, by females only. Young are brooded by the female and fed by both parents. Mean nestling duration is 8.5 days but young may fledge as early as day 5 if disturbed (Patton and Hanners, unpub. data).

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Molecular Biology and Genetics

Molecular Biology

Barcode data: Helmitheros vermivorum

The following is a representative barcode sequence, the centroid of all available sequences for this species.


There are 3 barcode sequences available from BOLD and GenBank.

Below is a sequence of the barcode region Cytochrome oxidase subunit 1 (COI or COX1) from a member of the species.

See the BOLD taxonomy browser for more complete information about this specimen and other sequences.

CCTATACCTAATTTTCGGCGCATGAGCCGGAATAGTGGGTACCGCCCTAAGCCTCCTTATCCGAGCAGAACTAGGCCAACCCGGAGCCCTTCTGGGAGACGACCAAGTCTACAACGTAGTTGTTACAGCCCATGCCTTCGTAATAATTTTCTTTATAGTCATGCCAATTATAATCGGAGGGTTCGGAAACTGACTAGTCCCCCTAATAATCGGAGCCCCAGACATAGCATTCCCACGAATAAACAATATAAGCTTTTGACTACTCCCACCATCATTCCTTCTCCTACTAGCATCCTCCACGGTAGAAGCAGGTGTCGGCACAGGCTGAACAGTGTACCCCCCACTAGCTGGGAACCTAGCCCACGCCGGAGCTTCAGTAGACTTAGCAATTTTCTCCCTACACCTGGCCGGTATCTCTTCAATCCTCGGAGCAATTAACTTCATTACAACAGCGATCAACATGAAACCTCCCGCTCTCTCACAATACCAAACCCCACTATTCGTTTGATCAGTCCTAATCACTGCAGTCCTCTTACTCCTTTCTCTCCCAGTTCTAGCCGCAGGGATCACAATACTCCTCACAGACCGCAACCTCAATACCACATTCTTTGATCCTGCCGGAGGGGGAGATCCCGTCCTATATCAACATCTCTTCTGATTCTTTGGCCACCCAGAAGTCNNNNNNNNNNNNNNN
-- end --

Download FASTA File

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Statistics of barcoding coverage: Helmitheros vermivorum

Barcode of Life Data Systems (BOLDS) Stats
Public Records: 4
Specimens with Barcodes: 8
Species With Barcodes: 1
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Conservation

Conservation Status

IUCN Red List Assessment


Red List Category
LC
Least Concern

Red List Criteria

Version
3.1

Year Assessed
2012

Assessor/s
BirdLife International

Reviewer/s
Butchart, S. & Symes, A.

Contributor/s

Justification
This species has an extremely large range, and hence does not approach the thresholds for Vulnerable under the range size criterion (Extent of Occurrence <20,000 km2 combined with a declining or fluctuating range size, habitat extent/quality, or population size and a small number of locations or severe fragmentation). The population trend appears to be increasing, and hence the species does not approach the thresholds for Vulnerable under the population trend criterion (>30% decline over ten years or three generations). The population size is very large, and hence does not approach the thresholds for Vulnerable under the population size criterion (<10,000 mature individuals with a continuing decline estimated to be >10% in ten years or three generations, or with a specified population structure). For these reasons the species is evaluated as Least Concern.

History
  • Least Concern (LC)
  • Least Concern (LC)
  • Least Concern (LC)
  • Lower Risk/least concern (LR/lc)
  • Lower Risk/least concern (LR/lc)
  • Lower Risk/least concern (LR/lc)
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