Townsend’s Warbler

You are most likely to find the Townsend’s Warbler in the Pacific Northwest.  Look for these warblers high up in conifer trees where they forage for insects. They are hard to see in the foliage, but you might be able to see them when they come down to feed at eye level. Townsend's Warbler|Oceano State Park|Oceano, CA The dark mask on the male is an obvious field mark to look for.


The male has a black and yellow patterned head with a black ear patch, crown, throat, and nape.  He is olive-green above with a yellow breast, white belly, and has yellow sides streaked with black. His wings and tail are dusky.  There are two white wing bars on his wings and he has white outer tail feathers. The female has an olive-green ear patch and crown.  She has less black on the throat than the male but has a well defined dark cheek patch. Both have small bills and yellow spots below the eyes.

Immature males have less black. They are olive-brown above with a dusky white throats and dusky streaks on its flanks.  They have buffy eyebrows and olive-brown cheek patches.    Immature females have yellow on the throat and face.

Range and Habitat

Townsend’s Warblers are mostly found in the Pacific Northwest, from Alaska to Oregon.  They are found in moist, shaded conifer and fir forests.  Some of these warblers winter in a thin strip along the Pacific coast of California, but others travel to Mexico and Central America. Other groups migrate east to the western edge of the Great Plains. They often are found in mixed species flocks in the winter.  The colors of the Townsend’s Warbler blend well into the colors of the Spruces and pines in the coastal forests of the west


Townsend’s Warblers feed high up in the trees by picking off insects and moth larvae from the twigs and leaves. They are able to hover and often will fly out to catch insects. They also eat spiders, invertebrates, Spruce Budworms and honey-dew secreted by scale insects. These warblers are patterned like a Black-throated Gray Warbler but they have a higher song with high buzzes and “zee” notes.  Their songs are variable and their notes rise and fall.

Breeding and Nesting

They breed from Alaska, the Yukon, Washington, Idaho, and Wyoming south.  The males arrive first at the breeding grounds, pick their territories, and defend their territories from others by singing.  Pairs are formed after the females arrive.  Townsend’s Warblers are monogamous; the male remains close by his mate and sings softly to her. He approaches her with his head down and displays by spreading his wings and tail.  The female builds her nest of moss, grass, twigs and bark strips.  It is located at the end of a conifer branch, high up in the tree. She lays 3-5 eggs. The male feeds the female while she is brooding.  The young leave the nest in 8-11 days.   Both parents feed and care for the young by splitting the brood between them.  Hybrids often occur with the Hermit Warbler in Washington and Oregon.

Photo Gallery Townsend’s Warbler