by Alexandra Forsythe

The Canada Warbler is one of the last types of warbler to arrive in spring. This photo was taken less than a week ago (on May 26) so it is quite possible to see these migrants long after the other warblers have moved on to their nesting grounds. It is also one of the first warblers to pass through in the fall.

The Wilsonia canadensis is named in honor of Alexander Wilson, the “father of ornithology”. It gained the “Canada” portion of the name because it was first seen in Canada by French ornithologist Brisson. Also called the “Necklaced Warbler” due to its markings, Canada Warblers have a yellow throat, chest and belly. They are slate gray above with white eye rings and white undertail coverts. The legs and feet are pink while the bill is gray. The male has a vivid necklace of dark streaks across its chest, while the necklace on the female is faint.

They consume a large number of insect pests including mosquitoes, flies, beetles and moths. They have sensitive bristles surrounding their beaks that help them detect flying insects. Since it catches insects on the wing more than most other types of warblers, the Canada Warbler was once believed to be a type of flycatcher. When John James Audubon first drew the bird, he called it a “Cypress Swamp Flycatcher”. He later called it the “Bonaparte’s Flycatcher”, then he changed the name to “Bonaparte’s Flycatching Warbler” in “Birds of America”.

They prefer wet forests and woodlands with a thick understory and thickets along watercourses. They are usually seen foraging in dense vegetation, and they are quite active, making them difficult to see at times. The bird in this picture certainly made it challenging for me to get a photograph!

Canada Warblers are believed to be monogamous and some pairs are believed to remain together even after breeding season. Some male and female pairs have been seen together during the winter months in the tropical forests of South America.

Banding studies show they can live 7 years in the wild. Unfortunately, the populations are declining in most of their range probably due to habitat loss.

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