Male. Note: yellow face with black hood and white on sides of tail.
  • Male. Note: yellow face with black hood and white on sides of tail.
  • Female. Note: yellow face with some black patterning.
  • Juvenile. Note: yellow face outlined in olive and dark lores.

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Hooded Warbler

Wilsonia citrina
Members of this diverse group make up more than half of the bird species worldwide. Most are small. However their brains are relatively large and their learning abilities are greater than those of most other birds. Passerine birds are divided into two suborders, the suboscines and the oscines. Oscines are capable of more complex song, and are considered the true songbirds. In Washington, the tyrant flycatchers are the only suboscines; the remaining 27 families are oscines.
This large group of small, brightly colored songbirds is a favorite of many birdwatchers. Wood-warblers, usually called “warblers” for short by Americans, are strictly a New World family. Most of the North American members of this group are migratory, returning in the winter to the tropics where the family originated. Warblers that nest in the understory tend to have pink legs and feet, while those that inhabit the treetops usually have black legs and feet. North American males are typically brightly colored, many with patches of yellow. Most North American warblers do not molt into a drab fall/winter plumage; the challenge posed to those trying to identify warblers in the fall results from looking at mostly juvenile birds. Their songs are generally dry, unmusical, often complex whistles (“warbles”). Warblers that live high in the treetops generally have higher-pitched songs than those that live in the understory. Warblers eat insects gleaned from foliage or captured in the air. Many supplement their insect diet with some seeds and fruit, primarily in fall and winter, and some also eat nectar. Most are monogamous. The female usually builds the nest and incubates four to five eggs for up to two weeks. Both members of the pair feed the young.

    General Description

    In all plumages the back is olive, the underparts are yellow, and the tail has large white spots. The adult male’s black cap, collar, and throat form a complete “hood” around the yellow forehead and face, against which the large, dark eye stands out. The amount of black varies in other plumages, from quite extensive in many adult females to none at all in first-fall females. Some individuals may look rather like Wilson’s Warbler. However, Wilson’s is noticeably smaller—half an inch shorter, one-third lighter in weight, shorter-billed—and has no white in the tail. The songs are completely dissimilar as well.

    The Hooded Warbler nests in moist deciduous and mixed forests from the lower Midwest and southern New England to the Gulf Coast. It is a trans-Gulf migrant, wintering mostly in southeastern Mexico and on the Caribbean slope of northern Central America. It is a casual vagrant in the Pacific Northwest. Washington’s first record was an adult male that wintered at Discovery Park, Seattle (King County), December 1975–April 1976. Three later records occurred at Kamiak Butte (Whitman County) in June 1986, Pullman (Whitman County) in December 1989, and Sun Lakes (Grant County) in June 2004. British Columbia has one record in December and another in June, both from the southeast. Idaho has six reports of Hooded Warbler, only one of which has been reviewed by the state bird records committee. Five are from October–November and the sixth is from June. Oregon has nine records, both spring and fall.

    Revised November 2007

    North American Range Map

    North America map legend

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