Black-and-white Warbler

Belonging to New World Warbler species, Black-and-white Warbler also shares the unique quality of being the only species from its genus. The genus it belongs to is Mniotilta.

About Black-and-white Warblers

The species mainly stays and breeds in the north and east of North America. They spend the winters in places like Florida, West Indies, Central America, and from there, to Peru. Western Europe sees a glimpse of this species sometimes.

As you would suspect from the name, Black-and-white Warblers are exactly of black and white colors, which is very prominent on the male ones. The female Black-and-white Warbler possesses a duller shade of the same with a little difference in the black and white patterns on their plumage.

The thing to precisely note about these Black-and-white Warblers is that their songs don’t last long compared to other Warblers. While the shrill voice is ever-present, how long they can hold a note certainly differs. Today, we will learn all there is to know about these New World Warblers. These include:

  • Black-and-white Warbler color patterns, identification, and size
  • Black-and-white Warbler behavior, habitat, and range
  • Black-and-white Warbler nesting and migration

Black-and-white Warbler Color Pattern

Black-and-white Warbler has a thin bill that’s slightly curved. The color of the bill, though, is black, like most warblers. This black color seems to be the most pressing and noticeable color pattern in the Black-and-white Warbler body, though the white is there too, sometimes brighter, sometimes duller. The black color is a deep, dark shade.

For male Black-and-white Warbler, their entire plumage is a stripe of black and white, a bit of chocolate color at the end of the tail feathers. The face of the male Black-and-white Warbler is also black and white striped. The ear patch is black-colored though.

For the female Black-and-white Warbler, the black and white stripes are present. However, the deepness of the shade pales considerably. The black ear patch takes on a more grayish color. The flanks have some beige kind of shade to them sometimes.

Description and Identification

The easiest way of identifying a Black-and-white Warbler is by looking at its plumage. Just like the impression the name would give, Black-and-white Warblers have attractive black and white stripes all over their body.

In the case of male Black-and-white Warbler, the black portion is more distinctive and intense, though the white is ever-present. Female Black-and-white Warbler also has black and white colors all over its plumage, but the white seems to be more visible than the black.

The faces of both male and female Black-and-white Warbler have the same color scheme as the plumage. However, female warblers seem to have a grayish-white rather than a deep one.

Both the female and male warbler have a bit of brown color present on the otherwise mostly black and a little white tail feather. Another thing is their bill, which is longer than most warblers and curved downward instead of the usual straight line.

The songs and calls of a Black-and-white Warbler are another way of identifying them. The male Warblers sing in a very high-pitched manner, with the voice having an overly shrill quality. They can hold a note for about 3 seconds, with a sound that seems they are saying “weesy weesy.”

If they are on their breeding turf, the song can take on an even higher note. The notes may take longer to finish with a faster frequency and can have more variety in pitch. The calls of female and male Black-and-white Warbler are more chip or pit and have a sharp tone to them.

Funnily enough, when it is time to court a female warbler or make their nest, the male Warblers seem to have a softer tone to their song. It doesn’t sound as shrilly to the ear. Regardless, those high-pitched notes should make you aware there is a warbler in the neighborhood.

Once you see them, if you know the color pattern well, you should be able to identify them. If you combine the song with the colors and the anatomy of Black-and-white Warbler, you should be able to spot them any time you want.

Black-and-white Warbler Song

The song sung by male Black-and-white Warbler is high pitched, to say the least. The voice is on the thin, shrilly side. This song continues for 3 seconds at most. If they are in their breeding ground, the pitch of the notes rises even more.

The songs also happen more frequently, at a fast pace, and the time they would hold the note might increase.

The male Warblers show entirely different behavior when they are courting the female or building nests. Suddenly, the songs are much softer and pleasing to listen to human ears.

The male and female Black-and-white Warbler both have a call. It sounds somewhat like a chip, though the variation can hugely differ depending on who is listening. Female Warblers might call their partners when they are stuck in the nest and need their mates. Male warblers seem to call for the simple purpose of staying in contact.

Black-and-white Warbler Size

Black-and-white Warblers are songbirds and are considered middle-sized than most Warblers. In length, they are about 11-13 centimeters. They weigh 8-15 grams.

The wingspan is particularly attractive, as it ranges from 18-22 centimeters. To understand better, let’s just say these warblers are smaller than White-breasted Nuthatch. The closest they are in size to are Black-capped Chickadees.

Black-and-white Warbler Behavior

The behavior of Black-and-white Warbler seems to resemble Nuthatches instead of Warblers. They thoroughly investigate trees, moving up and down and all-around a branch.

The trunks are not exempt from inspection either. They do so to find insects hidden in the entire body of the trees. Sometimes, when they spot flying insects, they aren’t hesitant about flying after them. They would do anything to get their food.

While their foraging habits seem to resemble Nuthatches, their nesting habit is that of Warblers. They make their nest on the ground, hidden at the tree base.

They are known to be quite combative, especially considering the reputation of warblers. They have no qualms about getting into a fight with other species of birds. The moment one of them enters their territory, they turn aggressive.

They carry this aggression onto the wintering grounds, where they defend their territory with all their might. If they are in a mixed flock, they will fight other Black-and-white Warblers.

Black-and-white Warbler Diet

Like all Black-and-white Warbler, insects seem to be the primary source of food. They have a special place in their heart for caterpillars, eating all kinds of variety of it. Even moths aren’t exempted from this list.

Beetles appear to be a popular choice as well, especially wood borers and bark beetles. Bugs, flies, ants, leafhoppers, and plenty of other insects include in their diet. Of course, spiders have always been popular with Black-and-white warblers.

Black-and-white Warbler Habitat

For summer, Black-and-white Warblers prefer the deciduous forests for their living. Mixed forests are also well appreciated. It is best if the forest has trees of varying ages. This way, they can forage deeper into the barks and tree trunks.

During migration, their habitat changes to a woodlot or any forest that they come across on the way. The winter grounds for them are Florida and places like Columbia. Here, they are seen lurking in the woods and even on the forests’ edges in some cases.

Range and Migration

It is estimated that the total range of Black-and-white Warbler is somewhere around 11,500,000 km2. Their exact breeding range is north and east of North America. It starts from the Northwest and ends somewhere in the southwest, around Texas. Migratory in nature, their routes include Central America, Florida, parts of Northern South America to somewhere in Peru.

Migration in spring begins relatively early for them. The migration time is divided between spring and fall, taking a good chunk of time for both seasons. In the west, some strays may appear regardless of the season. They are also night flyers. Their preferred time for migrating is at night.

This species is seen in places like the UK, Iceland, and Ireland as well. However, they are a rare species in those parts. Mostly, they seem to travel there accidentally rather than intentional flight.

Black-and-white Warbler Lifecycle

First, male Warblers chase after female Warblers. They sing and flutter their wings to impress them. Once they have mated, they usually lay their broods in 5 batches. Sometimes, the number could be 4. Other times, the number could be 6. Mostly though, it is always 5.

The eggs have a creamy white color. The ends have brown specks to them. The female Black-and-white Warbler incubates the eggs, and they do so for ten to twelve days. The Cowbirds might be a parasite to their nest, which is a big problem.

Once the eggs hatch, the youngins are fed by both parents. It takes another 8 to 12 days before they can leave behind their nest. Usually, the amount of days they have to stay before they get prepared for the world of foraging and hunting depends on their developmental states and how fast they are doing so.


The male Black-and-white Warbler arrives on the breeding ground first. They do so in late April. The female Warblers arrive shortly after and place their nest on the ground. At most, the nest might be 2′ higher from the ground.

The places they build nests are usually fallen tree barks, shrubs, rocks, or hid their nests in between the leaves. In the case of a stump, they construct the nest in the cavity. Or they might find holes in the ground to keep in the nest.

The nests they make are cup-shaped and open. The nest comprises leaves, pine needles, strips of bark, stems from coarse grass. They make the lining with hair or fine grass.

Anatomy of a Black-and-white Warbler

Black-and-white Warblers are about 13 centimeters in length. A slightly smaller one would be about 11 centimeters. They are considered middle-sized Warblers. Compared to other Warblers, their bill is longer and takes a downward turn.

Their bills are also definitely sturdy and well-built. The neck is short and almost non-existent. The head is small too and even has a flat appearance. It seems to miss the roundness that is visible in most Black-and-white Warbler’s heads.

Their tail is short compared to other Warblers. On the other hand, their wing is massive and spans out quite a bit. They have a proportionate body for the most part, with the stomach area being somewhat flat.

Their legs are thin and short. The foot is equally skinny. The last thing you would notice in a Black-and-white Warbler would be their leg.

Final Thoughts

In some ways, Black-and-white Warblers are some of the easiest to find Warblers. They are common in North America and often seen on tree limbs, foraging. There is no shyness about them. If you have a binocular or a camera with you, you can observe them up close or even click some pictures.

You don’t have to worry about them flying away at the slightest sounds. Tall trees with large branches are their favorite creeping spot, so that’s where you need to set your eyesight from the start. Their nests are close to the ground and close to the trees. So keep your eyes trained on the grounds. A cluster of leaves is a great spot to find them.

It helps that they are a vocal species. Their squeaky voice penetrates through the air, and it is impossible to ignore them when they sing. During migration season, you will most definitely catch some of them in the forests nearest to you as they arrive with other species of Warblers.


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Bird Watching Binoculars for Identifying Black-and-white Warblers

The most common types of bird watching binoculars for viewing Black-and-white Warblers are 8×21 binoculars and 10×42 binoculars. Bird Watching Academy & Camp sells really nice 8×21 binoculars and 10×42 binoculars. You can view and purchase them here.

Black-and-white Warbler Stickers

Stickers are a great way for you to display your love for bird watching and the Black-and-white Warbler. We sell a monthly subscription sticker pack. The sticker packs have 12 bird stickers. These sticker packs will help your kids learn new birds every month.

Bird Feeders For Black-and-white Warblers

There are many types of bird feeders. Bird feeders are a great addition to your backyard. Bird feeders will increase the chances of attracting birds drastically. Both kids and adults will have a great time watching birds eat at these bird feeders. There are a wide variety of bird feeders on the market and it is important to find the best fit for you and your backyard.

Bird Houses For Black-and-white Warblers

There are many types of bird houses. Building a bird house is always fun but can be frustrating. Getting a bird house for kids to watch birds grow is always fun. If you spend a little extra money on bird houses, it will be well worth every penny and they’ll look great.

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