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Hooded Warbler

These small warblers are widespread across the eastern side of the United States and in Central America.

Hooded Warblers prefer large, unfragmented, mixed forests and are declining in areas where forest fragmentation is occurring. Hooded Warblers maintain winter territories as well as breeding territories, and males force females into presumably less desirable habitats in winter.

In a behavior best known from the Killdeer, a female Hooded Warbler will perform a distraction display in order to lead a potential predator away from her nest. She will flutter helplessly on the ground, calling loudly, in order to fool the predator into following her for a seemingly easy meal. When far enough away from the nest, she will simply fly away.


Description of the Hooded Warbler


The Hooded Warbler has greenish upperparts and wings, yellowish underparts, and white outer tail feathers.

Males have a yellow face outlined by a black cap, nape, and throat.  Length: 5 in.  Wingspan: 7 in.

Hooded Warbler

Notice the underside of the tail.  The tail pattern can sometimes be useful when trying to identify a warlber working high in a tree.   Photograph © Greg Lavaty.


Females have a yellow face outlined by only a narrow, black strip at the rear.  Tha amount of black is variable, from almost no black on young females to more obvious markings.

Seasonal change in appearance

There is very little seasonal change in appearance.


Fall immatures resemble fall adults.


Hooded Warblers inhabit the undergrowth of  mixed hardwood forests and cypress swamps.


Hooded Warblers eat insects.

Hooded Warbler

Photograph © Greg Lavaty.


Hooded Warblers forage on the ground or in low foliage.


Hooded Warblers breed across much of the eastern U.S. They winter in Mexico and Central America. The population appears stable.

More information:

Bent Life History

Visit the Bent Life History for extensive additional information on the Hooded Warblers.

Fun Facts

Hooded Warblers frequently fan their tails, showing off their white outer tail feathers.

Hooded Warblers have proportionally large eyes compared to other warblers, perhaps because of their preferred shady undergrowth habitat.

Hooded Warblers are persistent singers, often singing well into the day.


The song is a loud series of slurred notes.  A squeaky call is also given.


Similar Species

Kentucky Warbler
Kentucky Warbler has yellow eye line instead of yellow face, throat never black as in the Hooded.

Common Yellowthroat
The male Common Yellowthroat has a back mask.  Female yellowthroats are similar to immature Hooded, but lack the white in the tail feathers.


The Hooded Warbler’s nest is a cup of leaves, plant fibers, and down and is lined with finer materials. It is placed low in shrubs or vines.

Number: Usually lay 3-5 eggs.
Color: Whitish with darker markings.

Incubation and fledging:
The young hatch at about 12 days and fledge at about 8-9 days, though remaining dependent on the adults for some time.


Bent Life History of the Hooded Warbler

Published by the Smithsonian Institution between the 1920s and the 1950s, the Bent life history series of monographs provide an often colorful description of the birds of North America. Arthur Cleveland Bent was the lead author for the series. The Bent series is a great resource and often includes quotes from early American Ornithologists, including Audubon, Townsend, Wilson, Sutton and many others.

Bent Life History for the Hooded Warbler – the common name and sub-species reflect the nomenclature in use at the time the description was written.


Dr. Chapman (1907) introduces this pretty warbler with the following words of well-deserved praise: “Its beauty of plumage, charm of voice, and gentleness of demeanor, make it indeed not only a lovely, but a truly lovable bird. Doubtless, also, the nature of the Hooded Warbler’s haunts increase its attractiveness, not merely because these well-watered woodlands are in themselves inviting, but because they bring the bird down to our level. This creates a sense of companionship which we do not feel with the birds ranging high above us, and at the same time it permits us to see this exquisitely clad creature under most favorable conditions.”

The hooded warbler makes its summer home almost entirely within the eastern half of the United States, extending its range only slightly into Canada, in southern Ontario. Being a forest-loving bird, it is much less common between the Mississippi River and the Plains than it is in the more heavily forested regions east of that river. It reaches its eastern limit in extreme southern New England, beyond which it occurs only casually. I have found it breeding commonly in southern Connecticut, where the forested slopes and the valleys of small streams support a luxuriant growth of mountain laurel and other undergrowth.

I know of another place in Rhode Island where a few pairs breed in a fine old, mature mixed forest, watered by tiny streams, that protects in its shady ravines and hollows a similar undergrowth; in this same cool forest retreat, we find the Canada warbler breeding near the southern limit of its summer range, save at the higher elevations of the Alleghenies.

Samuel F. Itathbun writes to me: “When my home was in west central New York, about thirty miles from Lake Ontario, a friend and I made a camping stay of ten weeks in July and August, on the end of a projection of the mainland which was bounded on two sides by enclosed bays. This extension of land, about three-quarters of a mile long and in places a quarter of a mile wide, was heavily clothed with a forest of hardwood trees of the highest type, beech, hard maple, basswood, hickory, and here and there a little hemlock. Inside the forest were many open spaces, large and small, thickets of all sizes, some dense and some sparse, and many vistas where the wind and sunshine had free play. We soon found that the hooded warbler showed a predilection for this type of forest, for about fifteen pairs of birds used it as a summer home. During our stay we were never out of hearing or sight of a hooded warbler.”

In the central Allegheny Mountain region, according to Maurice Brooks (1940), “these birds show a preference for areas of deciduous timber, light or heavy. They occur in southern mixed hardwoods, oak-hickory, northern hardwoods, and in ‘chestnut sprout’ areas. On Cheat Mountain they nest at 3,500 feet, and in Giles Co., Va., they breed at 4,000 feet.”

Dr. Arthur B. Williams, of Cleveland, Ohio, has very kindly sent me some extensive notes on the habits of the hooded warbler, based on 15 years of observation in the Cleveland region, where the species is evidently abundant and is increasing in numbers and expanding its range. “In the Cleveland region the hooded warbler may be found during the breeding season in most mature beech-maple woodlands, seeming to prefer those which border on the river valleys where there is an abundance of moisture. It nests not only in the ravines and gulches in such woodlands, but also throughout the more level and open stretches of woodland where there is an understory of small beech and maple seedling trees. Characteristics of this forest are reduction of light, reduction of wind movement to a minimum, reduction of evaporation rate by 55 percent as compared with adjoining open field, and a high relative humidity of from 80 to 90 percent during the breeding season.

“In the forest community I studied most thoroughly, an average of 14 pairs of hooded warblers nest in an area of approximately 65 acres. In this community the warbler takes its place in a group of 18 species of nesting birds, the most common of which are the red-eyed vireo, wood thrush, redstart, ovenbird and scarlet tanager. In this group the hooded warbler usually ranks third or fourth in abundance.”

The above accounts are fairly typical of the more northern habitats, but near the southern limits of its breeding range the hooded warbler seems to favor more swampy environment. Andrew Allison wrote to Dr. Chapman (1907) that, in Mississippi, it inhabits “low, heavily shaded woods, with thick undergrowth. Where convenient cover, such as a brake of switch-cane, extends to the border of the woods, the bird has no objection to an open, light, situation; and along the Gulf coast, where the only swampy situations are the narrow ‘baygalls,’ the thickets of rose-bay (Illiciun-&) and azalea afford sufficient seclusion for a few. Damp woods such as are afforded by river and creek bottoms, however, are more favored.”

S. A. Grimes (1935) says of its haunts in northern Florida: “A goodsized, poorly drained swamp, heavily forested with ash and maple, with a dense undergrowth mainly of fetterbush, red titi, and the seedlings and sprouts of several species of lowland trees, and such vines as Virginia creeper, smilax, and ivy, is evidently best suited to the hooded warbler’s requirements. In such places it is usually the most abundant bird throughout the spring and summer, and it is not exceptional to hear, from one point, as many as five or six males singing at one time. In the swamps most favored there is commonly a breeding pair every fifty to one hundred yards in any direction. I have found occupied nests only fifty yards apart.”

8pring: Dr. Chapman (1907) says that the hooded warbler ~reaches the United States by a flight across the Gulf of Mexico, avoiding the West Indies and (for the most part) southern Florida.” This statement is doubtless correct, for there seems to be only scattering records for Key West, the Tortugas and points on the west coast of Florida. Howell (1932) calls it an “abundant migrant and a common summer resident in northwestern Florida south to the lower Suwannee River.” Furthermore, M. A. Frazar (1881) reported “large numbers” seen 30 miles south of the mouth of the Mississippi, flying north toward the river, suggesting that they may have come straight across the Gulf from Yucatan. There seems to be a heavy migration, also, along the coast of Texas.

In northern Ohio, according to Dr. Williams (MS.), “the first week in May usually sees the arrival of the first hooded warblers from the south and within a few days thereafter the entire nesting population is present. The males appear first, but the females are close upon their heels. The males are in song from the moment of their arrival, though their first songs are not so complete or well-developed as they shortly become. Nesting territories are immediately oecupied, and the limits of these correspond closely from year to year. The male patrols the territory regularly. His presence and movements are advertised by his song, which in May and June is almost continuous. He has no regular singing post, but sings as he moves back and forth within the limits of his chosen territory. This is a regular part of his behavior and is thoroughly done. If you approach, he will attempt to lead you away by singing ahead of you. If you sit down and remain motionless, he will quietly approach to look you over. Nesting territories which I have measured vary from 300 by 400 feet to 300 by 700 feet.

“While the male is easily seen and his progress followed by ear, the behavior of the female is quite the opposite. She drops out of sight immediately, and unless she is especially sought for and routed out, the record of observed birds is likely to include only males. She does not sing, but if alarmed or anxious will betray her presence by the characteristic chip note, often repeated at regular intervals. Since the male uses the same note however, one must actually see the female to be sure of her presence.

“Both birds will defend the nesting territory. I have seen them unite to drive out such an innocent intruder as a migrating black. throated blue warbler. The hooded warbler holds very closely to its chosen territory, and second or third nests are located not far from the first. The last birds to be found in the area without young in late September are still resident in the territories occupied by them in May.”

Nesting: Rathbun (MS.) says of its nesting habits in western New York: “All the nests of the hooded warbler found by me were placed at an average height of from 2 to 3 feet above the ground, with the exception of two which were about twice that height. In every case the nests were placed in the lowest fork of a beech sapling well within a small thicket. Invariably, at first sight, it resembled a small cluster of dead leaves caught up by the wind and lodged in the fork. On this platform of dead leaves the nest was securely placed. In each case the nest could not be detected by looking directly at the thicket. I found the easiest way to locate a nest was to place my head close to the ground, scan the low open spaces and look for a clump of leaves, which sooner or later proved to be a nest.

“The hooded warbler builds a neat, compact, and nicely woven nest, outwardly constructed of dry plant fibers, some quite long and some shorter, from the outside of dead plants. The substantial lining is composed of fine, dry, soft grasses, bits of plant fibers and other soft material, with occasionally a few horsehairs, to aid in holding the lining in place.~~

In southern Connecticut, the nests of the hooded warbler are usually built in the low, dense thickets of mountain laurel (Italinia latifolia), which is locally abundant there, often in extensive patches, in wellshaded spots. Judge J. N. Clark (1882) gives the following good description of such a nest:

Pieces of yellow birch bark, beech and chestnut leaves carefully matted and bound together and to the triangular crotch, formed the base of the structure, rounded and neatly finished at the top with the inner bark of chestnut and cedar, with fine grass and scales from beech buds and a little fern down mixed In, and all secured compactly together with spider webs. I speak advisedly having seen the bird diligently gather the webs. Inside the nest was neatly and smoothly lined with mixed horsehair and very fine grass. Largest outer diameter three inches and a half, inner diameter two inches, and depth two inches, and built in a little kaimla bush about fifteen inches from the ground. This description will answer for most of the many nests I have found of the species, with varying quantities of birch bark and fern down, invariably in a kalmia bush.

T. E. McMullen has sent me the data on 20 New Jersey nests; 14 were in small hollies in thick, dry or swampy woods; others were in pepper or huckleberry bushes, or in laurels; the heights above ground varied from 10 inches to 3½ feet. Dr. George M. Sutton (1928) mentions a very unusual nest in Pymatuning Swamp, Pa., “at the surprising height of eighteen feet from the ground in a slender upright shoot growing out from the trunk of a large beech tree.”

In my collection are 22 sets of eggs from North Carolina; 5 of these were in oak saplings, 3 in myrtles, and 2 each in alders and hollies; the others were in various saplings, bushes, and brier patches; they were found at heights varying from 10 inches to 4 feet. In Georgia and South Carolina, the nests are often built in canes, as well as in low bushes, seldom as much as 5 feet up. In northern Florida, according to Grimes (1935): the site of the nest may vary considerably, but one feature of the nest itself is quite consistent: its inconspicuousness. I have seen many nests of this species in northeastern florida and believe I am safe in saying that nine out of ten are built in the fetterbush (Pieris ndtida) in this region. I cannot name a second choice, but have found nests In such other shrubs as the button-bush, swamp blackberry, wax myrtle, and red titi, and in seedlings of the laurel oak, water oak, swamp ash, and red bay. * * I have seen one nest in a low fetterbush directly beneath the center of a large horizontal palmetto frond that shielded it from rain as well as from view.

There is a good deal of variation in the size, shape, and even the general tone of the exterior of the nest The type most often met with is sman, compact, rather dark in appearance, and an inconspicuous object in its natural surroundings. Such a nest is made outwardly of dead leaves of swamp ash, red maple, smilax, and water elm held together with strips of bark, spider web, and the black, hairlike heart of dried Spanish moss, these materials forming the foundations and shell of the structure. The shell or framework is reinforced with a strong lining of bark of the wild grape vine and cypress tree tightly bound together with spider web and threads of moss, like the outer wall. The Innermost lining, on which the eggs rest, ordinarily consists entirely of the black, skeletonized Spanish moss, somewhat more generously supplied at the bottom of the nest than up the sides.

Dr. Williams (MS.) gives me the following account of nesting hooded warbiers in Ohio: “The first nest of the season is carefully made and is a real work of art. It is made without hurry and may take as long as a week for completion. Preferred nesting sites may be grouped under four heads:

“1. Rather isolated sites in more open woods where suckers from the roots of beech or sour gum trees, young sugar maple saplings, plants of red-berried elder or maple-leaved viburnum, or even blackberry canes, which may occasionally be found growing in open places in the woods, furnish the actual support for the nest, while the birds seem to rely on the natural camouflage of construction to make the nest inconspicuous. These nests resemble so closely a wad of woods rubbish caught by accident in the low growth near the ground that they escape the attention of most woods prowlers.

“2. Already existing camouflage in the shape of dead leaves hanging near the ground seems to exert a real fascination for the nest-builder, and frequently determines the exact location of the nest. The nest itself simulates such litter so closely that it easily escapes attention if built in such a situation. It is interesting to note that a nest which I discovered in a dead beach top lying on the ground had its exact counterpart over 40 years previously in New York State, as described by J. H. Langille.

“3. Small ravines seem to offer attractive nesting sites, a favorite location being just over the edge so that the nest is just below the level of the surrounding ground. Thus it is well out of the way of the beaten paths which woodland animals often make along the ravine edges and it is well-screened by vegetation above it.

“4. Thickets of spicebush, choke-cherry, grape tangles, or luxuriant vegetation of herbaceous plants are sometimes chosen, and in such a situation the nest is screened from view on all sides. One such nest was discovered in the forked stem of a plant of blue cohosh, 16 inches from the ground.

“In the case of 99 nests which I have studied, the average distance from the ground to the rim of the nest was 25 inches. The highest was 63 inches, but this nest was in a small sugar maple growing in a ravine in such a way that the nest was practically at ground level at the ravine edge. The lowest nest was 7 inches from ground to rim. This was in a small Y-shaped sugar maple seedling in which the dead cane of a blackberry had become lodged.

“Nest construction conforms to a very definite pattern. First there is a wad of loose dead leaves or long plant fibers like the strips of inner bark of dead chestnut or the inner bark of small sugar maples stripped off by squirrels, though beech leaves and the skeletonized leaves of sugar maples most frequently enter into this foundation. ï This wad of loose material may be long if there is a long narrow crotch to be filled up, or relatively fiat if the location includes some sort of platform or cradle as a nest support. Usually the location is in a fork, and often includes a dead branch which has fallen across the fork, thus providing additional support. In a depression in the center of this loose collection of leaves a thin but strong basket is woven, the materials most frequently used being the strong, flat strips of bark of the wild grape. Other materials may sometimes be used, but they all have the common characteristics of flatness and strength. There is always a well-formed rim, carefully worked, of long plant fibers bound about the upper part of the structure, and well fastened in most cases with insect or spider silk, to which, sometimes, masses of the scales of beech buds or dried catkins of oak or hickory, or the dried staminate blossoms of the beech, adhere. The lining is always of springy, rather hard, finely shredded plant material, quite often hairlike in character. Probably much of this is finely shredded inner bark of grape vine. Many of the attachments of the nest to its supports will be of spider webbing or at least be reinforced by spider silk. Often long streamers will be left hanging from the bottom of the nest or from the rim. Second or thi.rd nests are apt to be much more hurriedly constructed than the first ones of the season, and lack the care and attention to details bestowed upon the earlier ones. Of 84 nests studied, measurements averaged as follows: height (from bottom to rim) 75 mm.; outside width, 79 mm.; inside width, 36.5 mm.; depth (inside), 52.5 mm.”

Eggs: Three or four eggs, often only three, make up the set for the hooded warbler, very rarely as many as five. These are usually ovate, sometimes tending toward short ovate or elongate ovate, and they are only slightly glossy. The creamy white ground is blotched, spotted or speckled with “bay,” “chestnut,” “auburn,” “carob brown,” or “russet,” with undermarks of “vinaceous-brown,” or “brownish drab.” The markings on some eggs are scattered over the entire surf ace, but generally they are more or less confined to the large end, where they tend to form a wreath. Some have such pale spots that they appear as freckles, or, again, they may be so dark as to appear almost black. The measurements of 50 eggs average 17.6 by 13.6 millimeters; the eggs showing the four extremes measure 19.1 by 13.8, 18.5 by 14.5, and 15.2 by 12.7 millimeters (Harris)

Young: Grimes (1935) says:

The hooded warbler ordinarily rears only one brood each season in this area, but I have known some to build again a week or ten days after the young left the first nest and successfully bring off a second brood. S * ï While the female hooded seems to assume the whole task of building the nest, the male has a part in incubating the eggs and brooding the nestlings. [See remarks under plumages.] They share equally the work of supplying food for the young, and when a second nest is started, the male takes over the care of the fledglings of the first brood until they are able to shift for themselves. It is a rather common occurrence to find a male being trailed all over the swamp by a clamorous brood of young as large as the parent himself. But I have noticed that they do not receive as much attention as they demand.

Eugene P. Odum (1931) made some observations on a nest near Chapel Hill, N. C., of which he writes:

During the first three days after the young had hatched, the male fed on the average of six times per hour, and the female fed three times and brooded three times per hour, during the five hours of observation. The average length of brooding periods was about ten minutes. During the remaining days that the young were in the nest brooding was discontinued, and the male fed on the average of every ten and one-half minutes, and the female every fourteen minutes, in eight hours of observation. The nest was somewhat infested with lice, and the female often spent several minutes eating. Tbe excretus was usually carried away.

The young were batched almost naked, but soon were clothed in a coat of gray down. By the eighth day, when their eyes opened, they were partly feathered, and were beginning to utter audible food cries, resembling those of other young warblers. Their food seemed to be entirely insects, many of which were caught on the wing. Large brown crane-flies formed an important item in the fare.

Dr. Williams (MS.) contributes the following information: “The Incubation period is 12 days, and it is quite usual to find one infertile egg. The life of the young in the nest is 8 days or a little over. The young come off the nest before they are able to fly at all well, but they have remarkably well-developed legs and feet, are very active as climbers and scramblers, and seem to be quite self-reliant. At first they seek places where fallen tree tops or a tangle of decaying logs on the forest floor offer them a refuge. Here both parents continue to feed them, but they are soon on the wing and may be seen following the parent birds about begging for food.

“By no means are all pairs successful in rearing a brood at the first attempt. In a four-year study of the birds of a 65-acre tract it appeared that only one seventh of the pairs were successful in the first attempt. Nests are frequently disturbed or destroyed, apparently by predators. But the hooded warbler is a persistent nester. Second and third attempts are made if necessary, and I am of the opinion that only the advance of the season finally puts an end to the bird’s efforts to get a family of young on the wing if previous efforts are not successful. One young hooded warbler in juvenal plumage and in a dying condition was found at a considerable distance from any known occupied nesting territory on August 22, apparently abandoned by the parent birds at this late date.

“During the nesting period the interest of both parent birds in the welfare of the nest and its contents is intense. Frequent visits are made to it, apparently with no other purpose than to assure themselves that everything is all right. Cooperation between the two parents in the care of the nest and young is developed to a high degree. In the case of one pair held under close observation during the entire nesting period, it seemed to be the job of the male to clean the nest. Sometimes the female, brooding the young, would signal for the male by giving a call, and on his arrival would stand on the rim of the nest watehing him while he performed this duty. During incubation the male frequently brought food to the female, and she in turn would pass them on to the young beneath her. As to whether the male ever assists the female in incubating the eggs I am unable to say. Early in my acquaintance with the hooded warbler I thought I saw a male in the act of incubating the eggs in the nest, and I so recorded it. As I gained in experience and in familiarity with the species, I noted that some females had much more black on the head than others, and I am not sure that the incubating bird may not have been one of these well-marked females.”

Plumages: The downy young are described as gray, but Dr. Dwight (1900) calls the natal down pale sepia-brown. He describes the juvenal plumage, in which the sexes are alike, as “above, pale yellowish wood-brown, edged with Mars-brown, drab when older. Wings and tail deep olive-brown, edged with olive-green, brightest on the secondaries and tertiaries, the wing coverts edged with pale wood-brown, often darker. Below, primrose-yellow, washed with wood-brown on the throat, breast and sides. The three outer rectrices largely white on their inner webs.”

He says that the first winter plumage is “acquired by a partial postjuvenal moult beginning the end of June which involves the body plumage and the wing coverts but not the rest of the wings nor the tail. Young and old become practically indistinguishable.”

In the young male in first winter plumage, “the crown occiput, sides of neck, whole throat and part of the chin are jet-black veiled with narrow edgings of lemon-yellow most marked on the throat. The rest of the upper surface and the sides are bright olive-green; the forehead, sides of head, anterior part of chin, breast, abdomen and crissuin are rich lemon-yellow; the forehead partly veiled with olivegreen or dusky tips, the lores with black ones.”

The first nuptial plumage is “acquired by wear which is not very obvious, the black areas losing the veiling yellow tips. The olive green above becomes grayer and wear brings into prominence a slight grayish collar bordering the black ‘hood.'” The adult winter plumage is “acquired by a complete post-nuptial moult the last of June and in July. In some cases scarcely distinguishable from the first winter but usually the yellow edgings are absent or very obscure. The black occupies the whole chin up to its apex and the yellow below is richer.” The adult nuptial plumage is acquired by wear as in the young bird.

Of the female Dwight says:

The plumages and moults correspond to those of the male, from which indistInguishable until the first winter plumage is assumed. This lacks the black of the male and is uniform olive-green above and lemon-yellow below, occasionally one or two black feathers being assumed on the crown. The first nuptial plumage acquired by wear is, of course, plain olive-green and yellow. The adult winter plumage assumed by a complete moult shows a variable amount of black about the head and throat. How much of the black is due to individual vigor and how much to successive postnuptlal moults is a question not easily answerable. We know that some females in the breeding season are almost indistinguishable from males, and there are all sorts of intermediates from these mature birds down to those of the worn first winter dress, which are guiltless of black.

The fact that very old, or very vigorous, females sometimes assume a plumage that is scarcely distinguishable from that of the male casts some doubt on the statements made by some observers that both sexes incubate the eggs. Apparently, most, if not all, fully adult females have more or less black in the crown and throat. In this connection the reader is referred to remarks by Ridgway (1889) and to descriptions of the adult female by Ridgway (1902) and by Chapman (1907), all of which refer to this subject. For a detailed description of the immature plumages and molts, the reader is referred to an interesting paper by William Palmer (1894).

Food: Forbush (1929) says: “Little is known of the food of this bird. Grasshoppers, locusts, caterpillars and plant-lice are taken by it, and it takes many small insects upon the wing, but what they are we know not.” A. H. Howell (1932) states that “examination of the stomachs of 6 specimens from Florida showed the food to consist of flies, ants, wasps, beetles, bugs, moths and their larvae, caddis flies, round-worms, and spiders.”

Most of the food of the hooded warbler is obtained on or near the ground in the forest undergrowth where it lives, but it subsists largely on insects caught in the air. It is an expert fly-catcher, an activity for which its bill and bristles are well developed, and it may often be seen darting up into the air for a passing insect, or, if not successful on the first dash, following the insect in its erratic flight until it is captured, much after the manner of the true flycatchers.

Behavior: Mr. Rathbun writes to me: “The hooded warbler does not spend its life far above the ground. Rarely have I found it over 15 feet above ground, and then only when startled. Neither is it often seen on the ground. It prefers small semi-open thickets of beech and maple, where it nests. It is a lively bird, and is constantly moving from one thicket to another, at times following the edges and again in the densest part. It seems to have much curiosity, for if a person sits quietly in the woods, he will hear the constantly nearing sound of its sharp alarm note until finally the bird will peer from the foliage, from which it quickly flies if disturbed. It is an exceedingly active bird in every way and one may be sure that, if there is a hooded warbler in any wood, sooner or later its alarm note will be heard and the bird glimpsed.”

Although this warbler spends most of its life in the lower story of the forest, it often rises to the treetops to sing, as William Brewster (1875) observes: “As the day advanced t.he males would frequently ascend to the tops of the forest trees, and sing many times in succession sitting perfectly motionless in one place, then with expanded wings and tail would sail toï the next tree and sing again. * * * lYhen among the low thickets they are restless and shy, keeping a considerable distance ahead however fast you may walk, and were it not for the loud song they would be most difficult to procure. At such times they have a habit, observable in others of the genus, of flirting up six or eight feet after an insect and dropping almost perpendicularly again with closed wings.”

I should call the hooded warbler more retiring than shy. If actively pursued, it retires to the seclusion of its leafy retreats, but it can be approached quietly, and has been photographed successfully at its nest, where the male seems to be less timid than t.he female. Forbush (1929) tells of one that even followed a man about for a while; and he quotes Aretas A. Saunders as saying that “he saw a pair of these birds acting as if their nest was near-by, but he could not find it. He stayed to eat his lunch, and as he finished and was about to rise, the male bird suddenly dropped to a Low bush and then flew directly at his head; as Mr. Saunders dodged, the bird’s wing brushed his face. This seems remarkable, as this bird usually seems to be of a gentle disposition, though some rival males fight fiercely in the mating season.~~ Mr. Allison told Dr. Chapman (1907) of “a very interesting fight between two male Hooded Warblers, for the possession of a female; the two began the contest in a tree, fluttering down into the mud and water, and the upper one, who had the other by the head, was in a fair way to drown or disable his opponent, when we frightened them off.”

A conspicuous habit of the hooded warbler, so common with the redstarts and some other fly-catching warblers, is the frequent fanning in and out of its showy tail feathers, making a striking display of the white areas, a directive rather than a concealing action. Referring to this, Francis II. Allen writes to me: “The constant opening and shutting of the hooded warbler’s tail, showing the areas of white, is extraordinary. Sometimes the bird switches its whole body to right or left, and sometimes the tail is jetted up and down slightly, but the opening and shutting is constant and very rapid. It is a graceful bird, and the tail action is as easy as the flickering of a flame.”

Voice: Aretas A. Saunders contributes the following study of the song of this warbler: “The song of the hooded warbler is one of the loudest of the warbler songs, and clearest in musical quality. It is short, consisting of S to 11 rather rapid notes, averaging 7. A typical song begins with two or three 2-note phrases or single notes, and ends with two longer, strongly accented notes, the first high in pitch and the second low; tawit tawit tawit t& t6o.

“In 25 of my 38 records the last two notes are the highest and lowest pitches of the song. In 26 records t.hese two notes are simple and distinct; in 7 records they are connected by a slur, tee yoo. In 3 records the last note is a downward slur, so that the ending is tee to yo; while in 2 records the last note is highest of the song, the ending being tay tee. The first notes are regular 2-note phrases in 21 records and single notes in 9, while the remaining 8 records are quite irregular.

“Pitch of the song varies from D”‘ to E flat””. Individual songs have a range of pitch from one and a half to four tones, the average being about two and a half tones. Songs vary from 1 to 2% seconds, mainly according to the number of notes they contain.

“The birds sing on spring migration and from arrival on the breeding grounds till July. The average date of the last song heard in 12 seasons in Allegany State Park, N. Y., is July 16; the earliest July 8, 1930, and the latest July 24, 1938. But the bird is rather uncommon and local there, and could not be heard daily, so that the average may be somewhat later than this. The song is occasionally resumed in late August and September.”

Albert R. Brand (1938) found that the number of vibrations per second in the song of the hooded warbler varied from 5,850 on the highest notes to 2,925 on the lowest notes, with an approximate mean cf 4,000.

Wayne (1910) says that, in South Carolina, the song period is portracted for more than 5 months; and Grimes (1935) hears the males singing “throughout the sultry days of July and August and until late September.”

Dr. Chapman (1907) writes: “The song of the Hooded Warbler is distinguished by an easy, s~ding gracefulness. To my ear the words you nwst come to the woods or you won’t see me, uttered quickly, and made to run one into am other exactly fit the bird’s more prolonged vocal efforts, though they are far from agreeing with the attempts at syllabification of others. The call is a high, sharp cheep, easily recognized after it has been learned.” He quotes from Allison’s notes: “There are two common songs, both uttered on every possible occasion in spring, when the woods are ringing with them. The most frequent is a short one of four syllables, Se-whit, se-wheer; the longer song may be rendered, Whee-whee-wh~e-a-wh~e, accented as marked. A sharper, very clear-cut chirp is sometimes to be heard late in the evening, about dusk.”

To John N. Clark’s (1882) ear the bird seems to say Pe-ter Pe-te~r I?e-gis-ter, sometimes repeating the Pe-ter three times, or only once, again saying just Re-gis-ter, with the accent on the Re.

Rathbun (MS.) writes: “The song of this warbler signals its arrival, and on any soft June morning which has a rising temperature and rather high humidity, this warbler’s song will be given more or less incessantly and at its very best, the forest fairly ringing with its lovely song. As nesting time draws near, the song improves in quality and frequency; this will continue until shortly after the eggs are hatched, when a decline begins, ceasing altogether by August 1. The bird has two songs, each consisting of clear, lively and sprightly notes. One song is decidedly longer than the other and, in my opinion, is much the better of the two. It is composed of seven notes, quite rapidly given, the last note having a strong rising inflection and often ending abruptly. It is essentially a carefree song, musical, and often spiced with a little jauntiness, which in many ways perfectly reflects the actions of the bird. It also has a quality which enables it to be heard for a long distance. This warbler has an abrupt alarm note which is much used by both sexes not only as a warning note, but also to hold the members of the family group together.” Dr. Williams says in his notes: “In addition to the full song, and its variations and modifications, the hooded warbler on occasion uses a song of a chip-chip-chippity nature, somewhat comparable to the redstart’s well-known vocal effort, and quite unlike the more usual song. When first heard, it seems as if it must come from the throat of quite another bird. “The quite characteristic chip note, used by both male and female, has been described by most authors who have written about the hooded warbler. Some say that it has a metallic ring at the end, while others quite definitely say that it has not. The fact is that both are correct. The chip note may be delivered either with or without the ringing ending, and it more often lacks the ring late in the season than earlier. It may be distinguished from the cardinal’s well known chip because it, is louder and less sparrowlike, and has a ring at the end which the cardinal’s note lacks. From the note of the Louisiana waterthrush it may be separated by the fact that it is not so loud. And it may be told from the chipmunk’s chip because of its more even spacing, and its more usual ring, which the chipmunk’s note lacks.

“During May and June the hooded warbler is one of the most consistent singers of the woods which he frequents. He is one of the last to stop at night as darkness comes on, sometimes continuing longer than the wood thrush, the scarlet tanager or the wood pewee.”

Field marks: The adult male hooded warbler is unmistakable, with its black hood and throat surrounding its bright yellow cheeks in marked contrast with its olive-green black and yellow under parts. There are no white wing-bars, but the outer tail feathers are largely white and are ahnost constantly displayed. The fully adult female is often much like the male in general appearance, as noted under Plumages, but young birds are mainly plain olive above and yellow below. The seasonal plumages are not strikingly different. The song is quite distinctive.

Enemies: Dr. Friedmann (1929) says that this warbler is a rather uncoimnon victim of the cowbird; he had only ten records.

Harold S. Peters (1936) lists one louse, two bird-flies, and one tick as external parasites on the hooded warbler. Dr. Williams (MS.) says: “The raccoon, skunk, opossum, red squirrel, and pilot blacksnake are all regular prowlers throughout the areas where the hooded warbler nests. The barred owl and the blue jay have young to feed while the warblers are incubating their eggs and feeding their own young in the nest. The cowbird is a frequent visitor to hooded warblers’ nests, slightly over 50 percent of nests found with eggs or young containing from one to three cowbird’s eggs or young.”

Winter: Dr. Skutch contributes the following: “Very rarely recorded in southern Central America, the hooded warbler is one of the less abundant winter residents in the lowlands of Honduras and Guatemala. In northern Central America it is found on both the Caribbean and Pacific sides of the mountains, and in midwinter ranges upward to at least 3,000 feet above sea level. On September 28, 1933, I met a male on the Sierra de Tecp&n at an altitude of 8,500 feet; but he was obviously a transient and did not linger; nor have I any other record of the species at so high an altitude. The hooded warbler frequents low, moist thickets and second-growth woodland, and like practically all birds of similar habitat, is found singly rather than in flocks. Wearing his bright nuptial attire through the year, the male hooded warbler is always a delightful bird to meet amid the low second-growth, and is sufficiently rare to make the encounter a memorable event. The birds arrive in Guatemala in September and remain until early April.

“Early dates of fall arrival in Central America are: Guatemala: Hacienda California (Griscom), September 22; Sierra de Tecp~n, 8,500 feet, September 28, 1933; Colomba, September 29, 1934. Honduras: Tela, September 3, 1930. Late dates of spring departure from Central America are: Guatemala: INlotagna Valley, near Los Amates, April 6, 1932.”

Range: Eastern United States, eastern Mexico, and Central America.

Breeding range: The hooded warbler breeds north to extreme southeastern Nebraska (rarely); central Iowa (mouth of the Des Moines River; probably Grinnell, Mahoska County, and Burlington); central and northeastern Illinois (Havana, Glen Elyn, and probably Waukegan); southwestern Michigan (Kalamazoo County; probably Macataw, and Grand Rapids) ; northern Ohio (rarely Toledo, Oberlin, Cleveland, and Painesville) ; northwestern Pennsylvania (Erie); western and central New York (Gaines, Rochester, Oswego, Baldwinsville, Stockbridge, and Cincinnatus); rarely to southern Massachusetts (Springfield and Dighton) ; and southern Connecticut (Newton, New I-Iaven, and Preston). East to southern Connecticut (Preston) southeastern New York (Greenwood Lakes, Highland Falls, and Palenville); and south along the Atlantic coast to northern peninsular Florida (Old Town, Palatka, and Hastings). South to northern Florida (Hastings) ; the shores of the Gulf of Mexico, and southeastern Texas (Brazoria County, Kountz, and probably Matagorda). West to southeastern Texas (probably Matagorda); eastern Oklahoma (Cherokee Nation, Le Flore County, and McCurtain County) ; eastern Kansas (probably Fort Leavenworth and Burlington); and southeastern Nebraska.

Winter range: It winters in southern Tamaulipas (Altimira); Veracruz and the Yucatan Peninsula south to southern Guatemala (Quetzaltenango, Patlul, and Oc6s) and Costa Rica (Mount Cacaguatique, Volc6n de Conchagua, and Gu~cimo; rarely central PanamA (Canal Zone).

The species is rare in southern Wisconsin (North Freedom, Appleton, Green Bay, and Two Rivers); and in southern Ontario (Rondreau, Woodstock, Toronto, and Cataraqui), and is only casual in South Dakota (Faulkton); North Dakota (Kenmare); Minnesota (Heron Lake and Minneapolis); Vermont (Rutland and St. Johnsbury); Maine (Fryeburg and Falmouth); and New Brunswick (Saint John). It is accidental in Jamaica; the Bahamas (Cay Lobos); Bermuda; Puerto Rico (Barrio Miradero); and the Virgin Islands (Saint Croix).

Migration: Late dates of spring departure are: Volc~n de Conchagua, March 3. Guatemala: Uaxactin, PePin, April 11. British Honduras: Mountain Cow, April 13. Mexico: Veracruz, Los Tuxtias, March 30. Bahamas: Cay Lobos Light, April 15.

Early dates of spring arrival are: Virgin Islands, St. Croix, March 16, Cuba: El Guama, near Pinar del Rio, March 25. Florida: Pensacola, March 16 (1947). Alabama: Mobile, March 24; Birmingham, March 28 (average of 10 years, March 30). Georgia: Atlanta, March 17. South Carolina: Yemassee, March 24. North Carolina: Windsor, March 31; Raleigh, April 5 (average of 26 years, April 17). Virginia: Cape Henry, April 9 (average, April 17); Rockbridge County, April 22. West Virgin ia: Bluefield, April 20; French Creek, April 24 (average of 17 years, May 1). District of Columbia: Washington, April 13 (average of 35 years, April 29). Maryland: Whaleysville, April 16; Patuxent Wildlife Research Refuge, Laurel, April 17. Delaware: Kent and Sussex Counties, April 3 (average of 14 years, April 15). Pennsylvania: Chambersburg, April 23. New Jersey: Cape Ivlay, April 25. New York: Niagara Falls, April 6 (1947); Westchester County, April 28 (1929). Connecticut: Fairfield and Hartford, May 1. Massachusetts: Martha’s Vineyard, April 22 (1929); Northampton, May 2, (1929). Vermont: Rutland, May 4. Maine: Gorham, May 18. Louisiana: New Orleans, March 8. Mississippi: Deer Island, March 14. Arkansas: Huttig, March 19; Helena, March 31. Tennessee: Elizabethton, March 29 (1950); Nashville, March 31 (average of 13 dates, April 12). Kentucky: Bowling Green, April 13. Missouri: Dunkun County, April 2; St. Louis, April 17. Illinois: Chicago, March 27 (1950) ; Crab Orchard Lake, March 30 (1950); Blue Island, April 6 (1947); Rockford, April 6 (1950). Indiana: Lake County, April 14. Ohio: Put-in-Bay, March 28 (1950); Columbus, March 30, (1950) ; Toledo, April 9 (1947) ; average for central Ohio, May 2. Michigan: Detroit, April 6 (1947); Ann Arbor, April 7. Ontario: Toronto, March 28 (1950); Hamilton, March 30 (1950) ; Point Pelee, April 23. lowa: Keokuk, May 7. Wisconsin: Milwaukee and Madison, March 27 (1950). Minnesota: Minneapolis, May 17. Texas: Cove, February 29; Houston, March 2. Oklahoma: Adair County, April 9. Nebraska: Omaha, May 7.

Late dates of fall departure are: Texas: Harlingen, November 7. Wisconsin: Dane County, September 12. Ohio: Columbus, October 10 (average for central Obio, September 20). Indiana: Brookville and Lebanon, October 20. Iflinois: Rockford, September 19. Missouri: St. Charles County, September 20; Dunklin County, September 28. Kentucky: Bowling Green, October 15. Tennessee: Athens, October 18. Arkansas: Arkansas County, October 7. Louisiana: Baton Rouge region, October 26. Maine: Fryeburg, September 18. Massachusetts: Framingham, October 15; Marblehead, November 7. Rhode Island: Green Hill, September 17. Connecticut: Fairfield, September 22. New York: Orient, Long Island, September 28. New Jersey: Grantwood, Bergen County, November 8. Pennsylvania: Renovo, October 4. Maryland: Patuxent Wildlife Research Refuge, October 3. District of Columbia: Washington, October 1 (average of 10 years, September 14). West Virginia: Bluefield, October 8; Mount Lookout, Nicholas County, November 9. Virginia: Lynchburg, October 10; Cape Henry, October 16 (average, September 20). North Carolina: Raleigh, October 1 (average of 8 years, September 13). South Carolina: Charleston, November 11. Georgia: Savannah and Atlanta, October 28. Alabama: Birmingham, October 22 (average of 10 years, October 8). Florida: Pensacola, November 8. Cuba: Habana, September 24.

Early dates of fall arrival are : Texas: Galveston, August 27. Kentucky: Bowling Green, August 20. Mississippi: Deer Island, July 30. New York: New York City, July 19. Florida: Alligator Point~ July 19; Key West, September 19. Cuba: Habana, August 27. Guatemala: Hacienda California, September 22. Honduras: near Tela, September 3. Nicaragua: Escondido River, September 24. Costa Rica: Gu~cimo, October 26.

Egg dates: Connecticut: 42 records, May 22 to June 15; 23 records, May 27 to June 2, indicating the height of the season. Georgia: 10 records, April 30 to June 13; 5 records, May 6 to 31.

New Jersey: 35 records, May 23 to June 14; 22 records, May 27 to 31.

South Carolina: 10 records, April 25 to June 26; 6 records, May 7 to 18 (Harris).

About the Author

Sam Crowe

Sam is the founder of He has been birding for over 30 years and has a world list of over 2000 species. He has served as treasurer of the Texas Ornithological Society, Sanctuary Chair of Dallas Audubon, Editor of the Cornell Lab of Ornithology's "All About Birds" web site and as a contributing editor for Birding Business magazine. Many of his photographs and videos can be found on the site.

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