A small (4 ¾ inches) wood warbler, the male Nashville Warbler is most easily identified by its dull green wings and body, bright yellow breast, gray face, and white eye-ring. The female is similar to the male, but is duller below and on the head. This species is most easily separated from the similar-looking Connecticut Warbler (Oporornis agilis) by the latter species’ dark gray throat present in both sexes. The Nashville Warbler breeds across much of southern Canada and the northeastern United States. Another population breeds in the west from southern British Columbia south to northern California (locally in the mountains to southern California and Nevada). In winter, the eastern population migrates south to Mexico, Central America, and coastal Texas, while the western population migrates to the coast of California. Nashville Warblers breed in a variety of open forest habitat types, ranging from spruce and tamarack forests in the north to oak and pine forests in California. In winter, this species occurs in semi-open portions of humid tropical forests. Nashville Warblers eat small invertebrates, primarily insects (including caterpillars) and spiders. Due to this species’ preference for heavily vegetated habitats, Nashville Warblers are much more easily heard than seen. Birdwatchers may listen for this species’ “seebit, sebit, sebit, sebit, titititititi” song, or may attempt to observe it foraging for insects in the forest canopy. Nashville Warblers are primarily active during the day, but, like many migratory songbirds, this species migrates at night.
occurs (regularly, as a native taxon) in multiple nations
Regularity: Regularly occurring
Type of Residency: Breeding
Regularity: Regularly occurring
Type of Residency: Breeding
Global Range: BREEDS: southern British Columbia to northwestern Montana, south to southern California and Nevada, also from central Saskatchewan to Nova Scotia, south to southern Manitoba, Minnesota, northeastern Ohio, West Virginia, Maryland. WINTERS: southern Sonora and Durango east to Nuevo Leon, southern Texas and Tamaulipas south through Chiapas and into Guatemala; most common in western Mexico and central highlands, less common on Atlantic slope and unknown from Yucatan Peninsula; regularly south to El Salvador, rare or accidental in Honduras, rarely or casually to Costa Rica and western Panama (Stiles and Skutch 1989), southern California, Florida, and West Indies.
Length: 12 cm
Weight: 9 grams
Habitat and Ecology
Comments: Forest-bordered bogs, second growth, open deciduous and coniferous woodland, forest edge and undergrowth, cutover or burned areas; in migration and winter in various woodland, scrub, and thicket habitats. Nests on ground at base of bush, small tree, sapling, or clump of grass, or in hollow in moss.
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.
Comments: Eats insects; forages from ground to treetop, but mainly low in trees and thickets at edge of forest (Terres 1980). Nonbreeding range: visits flowers, takes small berries and arillate seeds, gleans for small insects (Stiles and Skutch 1989).
Life History and Behavior
Lifespan, longevity, and ageing
Clutch size is 4-5. Incubation, by female, lasts 11-12 days. Young are tended by both parents, leave nest at about 11 days.
Molecular Biology and Genetics
Barcode data: Vermivora ruficapilla
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.
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Download FASTA File
Statistics of barcoding coverage: Vermivora ruficapilla
Public Records: 9
Specimens with Barcodes: 10
Species With Barcodes: 1
IUCN Red List Assessment
Red List Category
Red List Criteria
National NatureServe Conservation Status
Rounded National Status Rank: N5B - Secure
Rounded National Status Rank: N5B - Secure
NatureServe Conservation Status
Rounded Global Status Rank: G5 - Secure
The Nashville warbler (Oreothlypis ruficapilla) is a small songbird in the New World warbler family, found in North and Central America. It breeds in parts of the northern and western United States and southern Canada, and migrates to winter in southern California and Texas, Mexico, and the north of Central America. It has a gray head and a green back, and its underparts are yellow and white.
At 12 cm (4.7 in), the Nashville warbler is a small warbler. Both male and female Nashville warblers have a gray head fading into a greenish back and wings, a white belly and a yellow throat and breast. They have a complete white eye ring, no wing bars, and a thin pointed black bill. Adult males have a rusty brown patch on their crown, which is usually hard to see and often covered by gray feathers. Males will raise it slightly when agitated. Females and immature birds have a duller olive-grey head, and less bold yellow on their throat. Males have wingspans of 5.8–6.6 cm (2.3–2.6 in), and females 5.3–6.1 centimetres (2.1–2.4 in). The Nashville warbler is closely related to Virginia's warbler, Lucy's warbler, and the Colima warbler, the four sharing generally similar plumage.
The typical song of the Nashville warbler, recorded in St. Louis County, Minnesota
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The song of the nominate subspecies consists of a rapid seewit-seewit-seewit-ti-ti-ti. Males sing from open perches on the nesting territory. The call sounds like a high seet. Western birds of the race ridgwayi have a slightly lower-pitched, richer song, and a sharper call note.
The Nashville warbler was originally described as Sylvia ruficapilla by Alexander Wilson in 1811, using a name which had already been used by John Latham, but not in a valid description according to the International Code of Zoological Nomenclature. Possibly unintentionally, Wilson spelled its name as Sylvia rubricapilla in a later volume in 1812, and this spelling was once commonly used. The genus Sylvia is now restricted to Old World species of the family Sylviidae, unrelated to species such as the Nashville warbler, that are classified in the New World warbler family Parulidae. Until recently, most taxonomies have put this species in the genus Vermivora. However, this species forms a clade with several related species classed in Vermivora, such as the Tennessee warbler and Lucy's warbler, which are more closely related to the flame-throated warbler and crescent-chested warbler than to other species of Vermivora. They therefore are now classified in the genus Oreothlypis along with the flame-throated and crescent-chested warblers, although the new genus Leothlypis was initially proposed for the Nashville warbler and allies, excluding the latter two species.
Two subspecies exist, with discrete breeding ranges. The nominate subspecies, O. r. ruficapilla, breeds in northeastern North America. The other subspecies, O. r. ridgwayi, known as the Calaveras warbler, nests in western North America. The latter differs from the former in its relatively duller plumage and more persistent tail movements.
Distribution and habitat
Nashville warblers breed in two distinct areas, one in Canada and the northeastern United States, and another in the western United States. The northeastern part of its range extends from Côte-Nord and Cape Breton Island in eastern Canada to central Alberta. For the most part, it only breeds between about 52 and 45.5 degrees north, but it is also found less commonly in the Appalachians of Pennsylvania and West Virginia. Although named after Nashville, Tennessee, the Nashville warbler only visits that area during migration. They migrate to southernmost Texas and California, mid-Mexico, and the northernmost parts of Central America (Guatemala and El Salvador) in winter. In their breeding range, they prefer open mixed woods and bog habitats.
Nashville warblers forage by gleaning in the lower parts of trees and shrubs, frequently flicking their tails. In winter, they join together into loose flocks, and sometimes join mixed-species feeding flocks. These birds mainly eat insects, but will supplement this diet with berries and nectar in the winter.
Nashville warblers conceal their nests on the ground under shrubs. Nests are open cups built out of bark strips, leaves, and moss, and are lined with fine materials such as feathers or hairs. Typically four or five eggs are laid in a clutch, and incubated for 11–12 days. Only the female incubates the eggs, though the male brings her food. On hatching, the young have no feathers apart from some brown down, and their eyes are closed. Juveniles fledge and leave the nest 11 days after hatching.
- BirdLife International (2012). "Vermivora ruficapilla". IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Version 2013.2. International Union for Conservation of Nature. Retrieved 23 April 2014.
- Curson, Jon; Quinn, David; Beadle, David (1994). New World Warblers. London: Christopher Helm. pp. 102–103. ISBN 0-7136-3932-6.
- Sibley, David Allen (2000). The Sibley Guide to Birds. New York: Alfred A. Knopf. p. 430. ISBN 978-0-679-45122-8.
- Walter, Faxon (1896). "Helminthophila rubricapilla vs. Helminthophila ruficapilla". The Auk XIII.
- Curson, J. (2009). "Family Parulidae (New World Warblers)". In del Hoyo, Josep; Elliott, Andrew; Christie, David. Handbook of the Birds of the World 15. Barcelona: Lynx Edicions.
- Chesser, R. T.; Banks, R. C.; Barker, F. K.; Cicero, C.; Dunn, J. L.; Kratter, A. W.; Lovette, I. J.; Rasmussen, P. C.; Remsen, J. V., Jr.; Rising, J. D.; Stotz, D. F.; Winker, K. (2010). "Fifty-First Supplement to the American Ornithologists' Union Check-list of North American Birds" (PDF). The Auk 127 (3): 726–744. doi:10.1525/auk.2010.127.3.726.
- Banks, Richard C. (August 2010). "Recognize the parulid genus Oreothlypis: Proposal (453) to South American Classification Committee". Archived from the original on 12 July 2014. Retrieved 12 July 2014.
- Lowther, Peter E.; Williams, Janet McI. (2011). "Nashville Warbler (Oreothlypis ruficapilla)". In Poole, A. The Birds of North America Online. Ithaca: Cornell Lab of Ornithology.
Names and Taxonomy
Comments: Formerly (AOU 1983, 1998) placed in the genus Vermivora, transferred to Oreothlypis by AOU (2010). Some authors include V. virginiae and V. crissalis in this species (AOU 1983); the three species may constitute a superspecies (AOU 1998).