occurs (regularly, as a native taxon) in multiple nations
Regularity: Regularly occurring
Type of Residency: Breeding
Global Range: BREEDING: southeastern Idaho, northeastern Utah, and central Colorado south to southeastern California, southern Nevada, southeastern Arizona, and central New Mexico (AOU 1983). NON-BREEDING: southwestern Mexico from Jalisco through Michoacan and Guerrero to Morelos and Oaxaca (AOU 1983).
- Clements, J. F., T. S. Schulenberg, M. J. Iliff, B.L. Sullivan, C. L. Wood, and D. Roberson. 2012. The eBird/Clements checklist of birds of the world: Version 6.7. Downloaded from http://www.birds.cornell.edu/clementschecklist/downloadable-clements-checklist
Length: 12 cm
Weight: 8 grams
Catalog Number: USNM A10719
Collection: Smithsonian Institution, National Museum of Natural History, Department of Vertebrate Zoology, Division of Birds
Sex/Stage: Male; Adult
Preparation: Skin: Whole
Collector(s): W. Anderson
Year Collected: 1858
Locality: Cantonment Burgwyn, Taos, New Mexico, United States, North America
- Type: Baird. 1860. Birds Of North America, Atlas. xi, pl. 79, fig. 1.
Comments: BREEDING: Arid montane woodlands, oak thickets, pinyon-juniper, coniferous scrub, chaparral (AOU 1998). Brushy steep mountain slopes within or near dry coniferous woodlands (Dunn and Garrett 1997). In northern part of breeding range, generally use scrubby habitat below pine woodlands; in southern part of range use scrubby habitat islands with coniferous woodlands (Martin and Olsen, in press). Will inhabit ravines or rocky slopes with dense scrub oaks or mountain mahogany (CERCOCARPUS spp.). Also found along mountain streams in sagebrush (ARTEMISIA spp.), or cottonwood (POPULUS spp.) and willow (SALIX spp.) habitat at 1,800-2,800 meters. Relatively common in pine-oak woodland (PINUS and QUERCUS spp.) and pinyon-juniper (PINUS and JUNIPERUS spp.); also occurs in ponderosa pine (PINUS PONDEROSA) and mixed-conifer forests. Observed in pinyon-juniper; mountain mahogany; Gambel oak (QUERCUS GAMBELII); sagebrush; plum thickets (PRUNUS spp.); creekside birch (BETULA spp.), cottonwood, pinyon, and willows; at elevations between 1,900 and 2,700 feet (Bent 1953; Hejl et al. 1995; Dunn and Garrett 1997).
In a northwestern Colorado study of pinyon-juniper woodland, preferred shrubby, Gambel oak-covered slopes with high grass, forb, and shrub cover. Was positively associated (in order of importance) with increasing slope, basal area of living oaks, number of shrub species, and percent litter cover; negatively associated with dead pinyon and juniper (Sedgwick 1987). In an Arizona study, occurred in 50 percent of pine-oak study plots (n=8) and was not present in pure pine forest plots without oak (n=8; Rosenstock 1998).
Nests on ground among dead leaves, or in small depression under cover of bush, tufts of grass, etc. Well-concealed by vegetation, of bark, grasses, roots, mosses, lichens; rim of nest may be level with surface (Bent 1953; Griscom and Sprunt 1957). In snow-melt drainages on Mogollon Rim, Arizona, showed a preference for nesting in microhabitats higher on slope in sites dominated by locust (ROBINIA NEOMEXICANA), but also chose sites with more Gambel oak (QUERCUS GAMBELII) or maple (ACER GRANDIDENTATUM) than random and non-use sites. Nest success was also greater in preferred sites than in non-preferred microhabitats (Martin 1998). On Mogollon Rim, often placed nest under small, shrubby oaks (Zyskowski 1993 cited in Rosenstock 1998). Of 15 nests in southern Arizona, 60 percent placed in clumps of a perennial bunchgrass, pine dropseed (BLEPHARONEURON TRICHOLEPSIS); 40 percent in low foliage of silver-leaf oak (QUERCUS HYPOLEUCOIDES) or Arizona white oak (Q. ARIZONICA), and nest cover (oak canopy volume below 2 meters and grass cover) were more abundant at nest sites than random points (Horton 1987). In very dry years, may select wetter sites in drainage bottoms, but may also be more vulnerable to higher nest predation rates (Martin and Olson in press.)
NON-BREEDING: In migration and winter also in open woodlands, second growth, thickets and arid scrub (AOU 1998). In western Mexico, described as a two-zone generalist, occurring in tropical deciduous forest and thornforest (Hutto 1992). In migration, uses brushy and weedy habitats lower than breeding elevations, such as scrub oak, mesquite, patches of fennel (FOENICULUM), tree tobacco (NICOTIANA; Dunn and Garrett 1997). Uses montane pine habitats, cottonwood and willow riparian areas as stopover habitat. Riparian corridors may be especially important, but little information available (Martin and Olsen in press). In the Chiricahua Mountains, Arizona, Hutto (1985) reported highest densities in creek bottom habitats in spring, also occurred in desert washes; in fall, highest densities observed in desert flats and desert washes, also occurred in creek-bottoms and pine-fir; found in lower elevations both seasons.
Habitat and Ecology
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.
Migrate later than other warblers, arriving in Arizona in early April, in Nevada and Utah in late April/May. In Arizona, males establish breeding territories in May. Possibly disperse to lower elevations after breeding and before migration. Fall migration from mid-August to early Mexico, passing through southern mountains of Arizona and New Mexico, Trans-Pecos region of Texas, and Sierra Madre de Occidental and Central Plateau in Mexico (Martin and Olsen, in press). Occur in mixed species flocks after breeding season (Fischer 1978, cited in Martin and Olsen in press).
Comments: Insectivorous. Forages on ground in thick brush and flies into air to catch insects; both parents seen carrying caterpillars to young (Terres 1980). Will probe, glean, hover, and hang upside down to catch insects (Martin and Olson, in press). During breeding season in Arizona, mainly take caterpillars, also spiders, carpenter ants, stink bugs, weevils (Martin and Olson, in press).
Males intraspecifically territorial on breeding grounds, but will tolerate other closely related warblers. Females territorial around nest. Territories often, but not always, bordered by natural edges such as canyon walls or thick forest (Martin and Olson, in press). In Arizona, territories ranged between 0.83 to 2.26 hectares and were elongate (Fischer 1978, cited in Martin and Olson in press).
Life History and Behavior
Clutch size three to five (usually four). Young cared for by both parents. Young fed on caterpillars and are in nest when larvae most abundant (Griscom and Sprunt 1957).
Molecular Biology and Genetics
Barcode data: Vermivora virginiae
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 virginiae
Public Records: 3
Specimens with Barcodes: 3
Species With Barcodes: 1
National NatureServe Conservation Status
Rounded National Status Rank: N5B - Secure
NatureServe Conservation Status
Rounded Global Status Rank: G5 - Secure
IUCN Red List Assessment
Red List Category
Red List Criteria
Comments: Threats are largely unknown. Research on both breeding and wintering grounds needed. PREDATION: Was the only cause of nest mortality in Arizona; 69 percent of observed nests (n=26) fledged at least one young (Martin 1993). Documented predators include Cooper's hawk (ACCIPITER COOPERII), red squirrel (TAMIASCIURUS HUDSONICUS), and grey-collared chipmunk (EUTAMIAS CINEREICOLLIS). Potential predators include other accipiters, long-tailed weasel (MUSTELA FRENATA), vagrant shrew (SOREX VAGRANS), Steller's jay (CYANOSITTA STELLERI), and house wren (TROGLODYTES AEDON) (Martin and Li 1992, Martin 1993). BROOD PARASITISM: An occasional cowbird host, but little information on parasitism rates, behavioral adaptations to parasitism, or affects on reproductive success or populations. Apparent rarity of occurrences possibly due to this warbler's preference for higher elevations (Harrison 1984, cited in USDA 1994). In Arizona, of 167 nests only 3 documented with cowbird young or eggs (Martin and Olsen, in press). Within city limits of Flagstaff, one of three observed nests was parasitized (Fischer 1978, cited in Martin and Olson in press). No other information on nests near agriculture or human habitations.
Restoration Potential: Unknown. Still a relatively common species in appropriate habitats, but threats to species and habitats are poorly understood.
Preserve Selection and Design Considerations: Utilizes a variety of dry, shrubby habitats often with some coniferous tree component, and may be dependent on riparian habitats during certain seasons. Otherwise, no information available on this species' landscape relationships, such as area sensitivity, habitat configuration, patch size, use of habitat corridors, successional stages, etc.
Management Requirements: Management requirements unknown. Reproductive success is affected by microhabitat, but needs further study (Martin 1998). Activities that reduce or remove preferred shrub habitats (e.g., shrub eradication, fire, some grazing, campgrounds, off-road vehicle use, urbanization) could be detrimental but effects are unstudied.
TIMBER HARVEST: In pine-oak forests, associated with presence of oaks (Rosenstock 1998). Gambel oak often vulnerable to fuelwood collecting and shrub eradication efforts which would be detrimental. Regeneration of dense shrubs on harvested units probably beneficial, but data is lacking.
FIRE: Response to fire poorly known. Declines immediately after fires that remove shrub habitats and brushy understories, but should benefit from burns that promote regeneration of shrubs and native understory grasses. Many oaks can resprout and possibly recolonize areas after fire, and fire may be necessary to create forest openings and maintain oak in the landscape (Finch et al. 1997). Significant drop in abundance in Arizona on controlled burns that removed the combustible understory and reduced the number of potential nest sites and foraging opportunities (Horton 1987). In New Mexico, Johnson and Wauer (1996) observed a drop in abundance on burned plots, but eventual increase 2 to 4 years post-fire as shrubs developed. In the last century, fire regimes have changed markedly in pinyon-juniper, mountain mahogany, oak scrub, and southwestern ponderosa pine habitats due fire suppression, grazing, timber harvest and other management activities (Horton 1987; West 1988; Fulé et al. 1997) with unknown affects on distribution. Further study needed of the species' immediate and longer-term responses to current burn patterns and natural fire regimes.
GRAZING: No information on direct or indirect effects of grazing. Likely declines with grazing practices that reduce the volume of shrub cover or remove young shrubs suitable for nest sites and nests may be vulnerable to trampling. On the other hand, heavy grazing that reduces grass competition and promotes shrub dominance could be beneficial. Over the last century, livestock grazing in pinyon/juniper, mountain mahogany/oak scrub, and southwestern ponderosa pine habitats has generally altered vegetation composition, age structures, and fire patterns (West 1988), with unknown consequences for this warbler.
Management Research Needs: Little known about natural history and ecology; migratory patterns; lifespan and survivorship; physiology; nutrition and energetics; disease, nest predation and other sources of mortality; philopatry, territory and home range size; details of habitat relationships; limiting factors. Need quantified information on habitat, microhabitat, and landscape relations, particularly as they affect reproductive success and survival. Need information on winter and migration habitat use; threats on breeding and wintering grounds; effects of land management activities including grazing, timber harvest, fuelwood collecting, shrub eradication, and fire management; relationships to ecological processes such as fire and drought; vulnerability to brood parasitism near agriculture and human habitation.
Relevance to Humans and Ecosystems
Stewardship Overview: Associated with dense shrubby habitats. Listed on the Partners in Flight WatchList as a species of moderate conservation priority chiefly due to limited knowledge of the species' biology (Muehter 1998). Classified as a species of concern by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service in the Great Plains/Rocky Mountain and Southwestern administrative regions based on the Partners in Flight ranking (USFWS 1995). May be vulnerable due to its narrow geographic distribution on breeding and wintering ranges and lack of large populations in breeding range (Reed 1992). Further research needs to be done to determine the actual status.
Despite what its name may suggest, Virginia's warbler is not actually named after the American State of Virginia, which makes sense as the birds range only reaches as far east as the state of Texas. The bird's common eastern range is central and southern mountains of Colorado, central Wyoming, and central and western New Mexico. The bird was named for Virginia Anderson, the wife of an army surgeon who discovered the bird at Fort Burgwin, New Mexico, in 1858. When Spencer Fullerton Baird of the Smithsonian Institution fully described the bird for science in 1860 he honored the wishes of the warbler's discoverer and designated Virginia to be both the bird's common and scientific name.
Virginia's warbler is a small bird, only 4 to 4½ inches in length. It is mainly gray in color, with a lighter colored under-belly and a white eye ring. The rump and undertail coverts are yellow. Males also have a yellow patch on their breast and a red cap, both of which are lacking in female and immature birds. Virginia's warbler can be easily mistaken for the Colima warbler, but it is smaller and has a more yellow rump.
Virginia's warbler is common in dense oak and pinyon woodlands and brushy streamside hills at altitudes ranging from 6,000–9,000 ft (1,800–2,700 m). It summers in the south-western United States and will migrate as far south as Belize during the winter, as well as stopping in several Caribbean islands such as the Bahamas, Cuba, and the Turks and Caicos Islands.
Nests are built on the ground, hidden amongst dead leaves and tufts of grass at the base of a shrub or young tree. The nest is cup-shaped and constructed from moss, grass, strips of bark, and roots. The female will lay between three to five eggs, which are white in color and dotted with fine brown speckles. Young are attended to by both sexes, but incubation period and other nesting habits are mostly unknown.
- BirdLife International (2004). Vermivora virginiae. 2006. IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. IUCN 2006. www.iucnredlist.org. Retrieved on 12 May 2006.
- Vermivora virginiae, ITIS Report
- Olson, C. R., and T. E. Martin. 1999. Virginia’s Warbler (Vermivora virginiae). In The Birds of North America, No. 477 (A. Poole and F. Gill, eds.). The Birds of North America, Inc., Philadelphia, PA.
- Conway, Courtney Joseph, Ph.D., (1998) Ecological and physiological constraints on avian incubation behavior and nest-site selection. University of Montana, 149 pages.
- Berry ME & Bock CE. (1998). Effects of habitat and landscape characteristics on avian breeding distributions in Colorado foothills shrub. Southwestern Naturalist. vol 43, no 4. p. 453-461.
- Howard P. (1999). Virginia's Warbler at Kennesaw Mountain, Cobb County, Georgia. Oriole. vol 64, no 1-2. p. 5-6.
- Martin PR & Martin TE. (2001). Behavioral interactions between coexisting species: Song playback experiments with wood warblers. Ecology. vol 82, no 1. p. 207-218.
- Martin PR & Martin TE. (2001). Ecological and fitness consequences of species coexistence: A removal experiment with wood warblers. Ecology. vol 82, no 1. p. 189-206.
- Sedgwick JA. (1987). Avian Habitat Relationships in Pinyon-Juniper Woodland. Wilson Bulletin. vol 99, no 3. p. 413-431.
- Swanson DL, Palmer JS, Liknes ET & Dean KL. (2000). A breeding population of Virginia's warblers in the southwestern Black Hills of South Dakota. Southwestern Naturalist. vol 45, no 1. p. 39-44.
- Voelker, Gary and Sara L McFarland. (2002) Molt patterns and molting grounds of Lucy's and Virginia's Warblers: Similar yet different. The Wilson Bulletin. Vol 114, no 2. p. 255 (9 pages).
Names and Taxonomy
Comments: Formerly (AOU 1983, 1998) placed in the genus Vermivora, transferred to Oreothlypis by AOU (2010). Constitutes a superspecies with V. ruficapilla and possibly V. crissalis (AOU 1998).