Golden-winged Warbler

Warblers tend to have a striking appearance. This is more so the case for a Golden-winged Warbler, where the unusual patterns on their plumage are contrasted by the places they chose to frequent, such as the swampy dumps and leafy areas going through their second growth.

 The kind of color patterns Golden-winged Warblers have isn’t remotely shared by any of the other warbler species. The flashes of gold found on their wings and tails are nicely balanced with silver and gray on the rest of their plumage. They are a species you won’t have a hard time identifying as long as you know the color patterns and their songs and calls. 

In the northeast, they used to be a common sight. Recently, the south of their breeding range has seen less and less of them. The decline of Golden-winged Warblers has led to a rise in sightings of Blue-winged Warblers. 

Initially, it may appear the Blue-winged Warblers have driven their relatives out of their habitat, but the truth is that there have been many cases of interbreeding among the two species. They are parents of Hybrids, such as Brewster’s Warblers. When we look at their interesting history, it is natural that birdwatchers want to know all they can about this warbler species. So, why don’t we find out more today? We will learn about: 

  • Golden-winged Warbler Photos, Color Pattern, Song
  • Golden-winged Warbler Size, Eating behavior, Habitat
  • Golden-winged Warbler Range and Migration, Nesting


Golden-winged Warblers Color Pattern

As adult males, Golden-winged Warblers are mostly silver in color. To be more precise, their plumage takes on a silver-grey shade. Their chest and belly area have a mixture of colors that is more white and silver. 

Their wings and back are more silver and gray. There is a bit of brown and black on their wings, but it is visible on the lower side of their wings when it is  kept close to their body. A bit of the golden color is also spotted on the upper side of the wings. 

This flash of gold is also spotted on the head, where their crown feathers happen to be. On their face, there is a flash of white surrounding their eyes and cheeks. Further, there is a black mask on their head and neck. 

The chest and belly area of female Golden-winged Warblers are more white. Their crown and the splash of color on their wings are also more yellowish. Otherwise, they have what one might call gray color all over their plumage. Even the mask on their face and neck is gray. The whitish area on their face still remains at this stage. 

Description And Identification

Identifying a Golden-Winged Warbler is easy, finding them is the hard part. Their declining population means you have to visit specific areas to find them. Once you do find them, though, identifying them is easy, even for an amateur birder. After all, not many of the warbler species have such unique patterns of color. 

While we all agree that a variety in color is present in Warblers, the color combination for Golden-winged Warblers is unique to them. For one, the gold on their wings gives them away when you note the silver-gray on the rest of their body. The gold color is also present on the top of their head. 

Another way to identify them is by their songs. Suppose you happen to come across them during the breeding season. In that case, you will notice that male Golden-winged Warblers are unwilling to stop singing until they have chased away every rival male and secured the attention of a female partner. To do so, their songs come out in buzzy trills, with the pitch usually starting off high. Towards the end, they switch to a lower note. These are all helpful sounds you should learn before you look for them. 

Golden-winged Warbler Song

For male Golden-winged Warblers, their primary song comes out in the form of a buzzy trill, a thrilling two-parter. First, a long note is produced on a high range, and then it is followed up by lower notes, about 3-6. They have a secondary song, something which seems to come out in the designated time before dawn falls on earth. It is a series of stutters in fast succession followed by a buzzy sound on the lower range. One assumes this song is sung as a way of marking their territory. 

During courtship between male and female Golden-winged Warblers, their call turns into a tzip sound. As the youngins prepare to leave the nest, adult Golden-winged Warblers communicate with them with a zeee sound. They also use this note during the period followed by fledglings. 

Golden-winged Warbler Size

As songbirds, they belong to the small category. As Warblers, they are average-sized. They have a slim build and a short tail. Their bill is thin and pointy, not to mention a straight one. Their friend, Black-capped Chickadees, are bigger than them. 

In length, they are known to be about 13 cm. When it comes to their weight, they can be as slim as 8 g or a fluffier 11 g. Their wingspan is unknown, which is a shame, for they have beautiful wings. 

Golden-winged Warbler Behavior

In May, male Golden-winged Warblers appear on the breeding ground. They do so some days before the females of the species arrive. The males attempt to defend their territory the way most warblers do, by singing. They take increasingly aggressive stances, with the feathers on their crowns raised upward and tail spread. They have a good chance of getting into flight with other warblers and chasing them away. 

As discussed before, there are two song types sung by them. One is for when they want to defend the territory, and the other is for when they want to attract a potential mate. 

Part of the courtship involves chasing the female Golden-winged Warbler around and raising the crown feathers. Then, they slow down the beat of their wings as they fly away from the female Golden-winged Warbler and then do a gliding flight when they fly back to the female. Once they have established their territories and found a mate, though, they become quite secretive. 

The nesting and raising of the young are done without the exuberant singing. The male Golden-winged Warblers have also been reported to be monogamous, though some reports are available of having more than one mate. 

In summer, they are seen foraging in the upper areas of trees and various shrubs. Their feeding patterns include probing the foliage to find insects or hanging their head upside down from the barks to see if they can find any insect hidden on the underside. They have a good sense of finding leaves that are curled and can unfurl them to see if insects are resting there. 

During breeding season and migration, they might go about this task with Black-capped Chickadees. During the winter season, they stay in the lower parts of the trees, mixing in with other flocks. 

Golden-winged Warbler Diet

The love for insects is carried down to the Golden-winged Warblers as well. While not much detail is gathered about their diet plans, it appears they like caterpillars and moths a lot. Tortricid moths appear to be an unexpected favorite. They are not shy about consuming other kinds of insects and spiders, though. 

Golden-winged Warbler Habitat

For breeding, Golden-winged Warblers choose shrubby areas where tamarack bogs, wet thickets, etc., are present. You are more likely to see them in wetland areas than their relatives. Post-fledgling, they waste no time in moving to mature forests. So, it is shrubby areas when they are in the middle of nesting. For raising their fledglings, they inhabit the mature forests where they can protect them from becoming prey due to the cover of the forest. 

Their habitat used to be more varied during the early 20th century where they had more forest area to cover. Now, the clearing that occurred has led their population to dwindle quite tragically. 

Range and Migration

It is assumed Golden-winged Warblers are night migrants. The time they choose to migrate is usually either early May or late April. Some might travel during September. 

Their breeding grounds are usually wet, shrubby areas, such as the Appalachians and the upper Midwest. Their winters are spent in open lands of woods and among coffee plantations. The entirety of their range has declined over the years due to competition from Blue-winged Warblers. Still, the main part of their range appears to be the northeast and, in winter, open woodlands. 

Golden-winged Warbler Lifecycle

In general, Golden-winged Warblers give birth to a batch of 5 eggs. This number can be a solid 4 or a large 7. The eggs are usually pale cream or slightly pink in color with shades of lilac and brown. The female Golden-winged Warbler incubates it for 10 to 11 days. They have to deal with cowbird parasitism a lot, and it has been noted that even 30 percent of the nest could actually have cowbird eggs. 

When Cowbird eggs are in the nest, it is not easy for Warbler eggs to hatch. However, once out, there is no guarantee that Cowbird youngins will survive better than Warbler youngins. 

After 8 to 9 days, the youngins are considered mature enough to leave the nest behind. Even after they leave the nest, their parents feed them for another month. The fledglings might get divided into two groups by the parents. In a year, they usually have one brood.


Among the warblers, this one has a unique hybridizing with Blue-winged Warblers. As for the nest, they built it on the ground. It is usually close to the shrub base or a grassy area where your eyes won’t be easily drawn. However, if you are trying to spot the nest actively, you might come across them. It doesn’t help as they don’t nest up high, making it far more difficult to find their nests. 

Their nests are cup-shaped, and grass strips, grapevine bark, and leaves are used for its construction. For lining, plant materials of various kinds are used. 

Anatomy of a Golden-winged Warbler

Golden-winged Warblers are short, slim birds. Their bills are pointy and thin and straight with no curve to them. Their eyes are also large, though appropriate for their head size. They have a short tail, and their wings are about average-sized. Their legs are thin, thinner than their bills with equally thin claws. Overall, they have a fluffy appearance due to all the feathers on their body, but they are not that big overall in size. 

Final Thoughts

You have the closest chance of coming across this species by wandering around out in the open shrubby areas where you have enough information to ascertain that breeding birds visit regularly. Minnesota is an excellent guess in this case for this dwindling population. It will make more sense if you visit somewhere from May to June. Male Golden-winged Warblers get vocal during this time. 

They engage in long and complicated flight patterns and perch on top of saplings to let everyone hear their voice as they sing. In the shrubs, you will find male and female Golden-winged Warblers searching for food thoroughly. 

During migration season, that is the end of April and the start of May, you might find them in woodlots. In general, they seem to visit any area where migratory songbirds are known to visit. 

It is a shame that due to the clearing of forests during the 1800s, the species came to favor forests with second-growth habitats. Right now, they are experiencing a serious decline in numbers in the southern part of their breeding range. This is attributed to the competition they have with Blue-winged Warbler for space, and part of the blame falls on parasitism by Cowbirds. If you want to go birdwatching for this species, you might want to do it as soon as possible. 


Bird Watching Academy & Camp Subscription Boxes

At the Bird Watching Academy & Camp we help kids, youth, and adults get excited and involved in bird watching. We have several monthly subscription boxes that you can subscribe to. Our monthly subscription boxes help kids, youth, and adults learn about birds, bird watching, and bird conservation.

Bird Watching Binoculars for Identifying Golden-winged Warblers

The most common types of bird-watching binoculars for viewing Golden-winged 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.

Golden-winged Warbler Iron On Patches 

Kids, Youth, and Adults love to collect our Bird Watching Academy & Camp iron-on patches. Our bird-watching patches help you keep track of the birds you have seen and identified. You can also display the patches on our Bird Watching Academy & Camp banners.

The Golden-winged Warbler is a great iron-on patch to start your collection with. The patches are durable and can be sewn on or ironed on to just about anything.

Golden-winged Warbler Stickers

Stickers are a great way for you to display your love for bird watching and the Golden-winged Warbler. Here is the sticker pack we sell with a Golden-winged Warbler sticker.

Bird Feeders For Golden-winged 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.

Best Bird Houses For Golden-winged Warblers

There are many types of bird houses. Building a bird house is always fun but can be frustrating. These 4 bird houses have become our favorites. Getting a bird house for kids to watch birds grow is always fun. We spent a little extra money on these bird houses but they have been worth the higher price and look great.

Please Share to Help Us Get Kids Bird Watching