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Canada warbler

Wilsonia canadensis

What do they look like?

Canada warblers are brightly colored birds. Males have dark backs and vivid yellow from under their beak and all along the front of their bodies. They are nicknamed “the necklaced warbler” because they have a unique ring of very dark blue markings on their yellow breast and throat. Females are not as brightly colored, but still have a faint necklace marking. Markings on males may are brightest in the spring and summer. Juveniles have brown heads and upper bodies, and are lighter brown underneath. Canada warblers have a pale yellow ring around their eye that makes them look like they are wearing glasses, or like they are surprised. They have gray backs and matching wings that fade to black around the crown. Canada warblers are small for a warbler, weighing 9.5 to 12.5 g and measuring 12 to 15 cm long. Their wingspan is 20 to 22 cm. ("American Warblers : An Ecological and Behavioral Perspective", 1989; "Life Histories of North American Wood Warblers - Order Passeriformes", 1953; "Warblers of the Great Lakes Region & Eastern North America", 2003; "Wood Warblers' World", 1984; "BFL Species Account: Canada Warbler", 2009; Savignac, 2008)

Canada warblers are often confused with other wood warblers. They look similar to Kentucky warblers, which have a similar yellow and black body color pattern but no “necklace” markings. Magnolia warblers are have yellow breasts with black stripes, but have gray heads and less distinct coloring. ("American Warblers : An Ecological and Behavioral Perspective", 1989; "Life Histories of North American Wood Warblers - Order Passeriformes", 1953; "Warblers of the Great Lakes Region & Eastern North America", 2003; "Wood Warblers' World", 1984; "BFL Species Account: Canada Warbler", 2009; Savignac, 2008)

  • Sexual Dimorphism
  • sexes colored or patterned differently
  • male more colorful
  • Range mass
    9.5 to 12.5 g
    0.33 to 0.44 oz
  • Range length
    12 to 15 cm
    4.72 to 5.91 in
  • Range wingspan
    20 to 22 cm
    7.87 to 8.66 in

Where do they live?

Canada warblers live in North America in the summer and South America in the winter. In the summer, they breed in southern pine forests in North America and in a large portion of southeastern Canada. The area where they live stretches from the southeastern Yukon territory and northern British Columbia and Alberta, across southern Canada all the way to Nova Scotia, and down to Minnesota, New York and New England. Canada warblers also breed in the Great Lakes region, including Michigan. At high elevation like in the Appalachian Mountains, they go a little farther south as well. They spend the winter in South America in the Andes Mountains or farther east. On a couple occasions, they have been spotted in Greenland and Iceland. ("Life Histories of North American Wood Warblers - Order Passeriformes", 1953; "Wood Warblers' World", 1984; "Comprehensive Guide to selected species of: Birds of the Boreal Forest - Canada Warbler (Wilsonia canadensis)", 2007; "BFL Species Account: Canada Warbler", 2009; Savignac, 2008)

What kind of habitat do they need?

Canada warblers live in sunny open forests called woodlands, and prefer ones with leafy trees. They are often found at higher elevations near open water. At lower elevation, they choose wetlands, clearings, woodland edges, and areas where trees have been cut by humans. They are also found in forested slopes along rivers, in river ravines or canyons, and near moss-covered boulders. They nest in forests with wet floor-covering and shrubs, and especially like to nest in moss-covered stumps within 1 foot from water. Canada warblers choose very fine, delicate materials like moss to build their nest. Other times, their nests are in birch roots covered in moss and leaves, or next to streams. In the winter, they live in fully grown cloud rainforests and also on coffee farms. ("Life Histories of North American Wood Warblers - Order Passeriformes", 1953; "Wood Warblers' World", 1984; "Comprehensive Guide to selected species of: Birds of the Boreal Forest - Canada Warbler (Wilsonia canadensis)", 2007; "BFL Species Account: Canada Warbler", 2009; Hallworth, et al., 2008; Savignac, 2008)

  • Aquatic Biomes
  • lakes and ponds
  • rivers and streams
  • Range elevation
    457 to 2500 m
    1499.34 to 8202.10 ft
  • Average elevation
    1800-2000 m
    ft

How do they reproduce?

Canada warblers form a pair bond for the breeding season. They arrive at their summer location already paired, or find partners shortly after they arrive. Some of the pairs stay together year-round and for multiple years, but others don't. Either way, they usually come back to the same spot every year to nest. ("BFL Species Account: Canada Warbler", 2009; Savignac, 2008)

Canada warblers usually have two sets of chicks in the same year. They build nests shaped like cups that can be made of a lot of different things. Nest materials include grass, bark, leaves, moss, pine needles, twigs and animal hair. It takes 3 to 5 days to build a nest of dried leaves and grass that is close to the ground and next to a tree stump or in a clump of ferns. Nests are about 2 inches wide and 1.5 inches deep. The like to nest in places with lots of shrubs for cover and protection. ("Life Histories of North American Wood Warblers - Order Passeriformes", 1953; "Comprehensive Guide to selected species of: Birds of the Boreal Forest - Canada Warbler (Wilsonia canadensis)", 2007; "BFL Species Account: Canada Warbler", 2009; "Development of a Baby Bird - Quick Reference", 1997; Savignac, 2008)

Females usually lay 4 to 5 creamy white eggs speckled with brown dots that are a bit glossy. The eggs weigh around 1.56 g and are 17.33 mm long. They take about 12 days to hatch, and usually all hatch within the same day. When the chicks are born, the have no feathers and their eyes are closed. They can't move much, but are able to lift their heads for food. By day 5, they have visible feathers, and might start to stand and stretch their legs. Sometimes one chick is twice as big as another. They leave the nest when they are about 10 days old, and the parents still feed them for 2 to 3 weeks after they leave the nest. ("Life Histories of North American Wood Warblers - Order Passeriformes", 1953; "Comprehensive Guide to selected species of: Birds of the Boreal Forest - Canada Warbler (Wilsonia canadensis)", 2007; "BFL Species Account: Canada Warbler", 2009; "Development of a Baby Bird - Quick Reference", 1997; Savignac, 2008)

  • How often does reproduction occur?
    Canada warblers produce one clutch of eggs per year.
  • Breeding season
    Canada warblers breed from May through August.
  • Average eggs per season
    4 to 5
  • Average time to hatching
    12 days
  • Average fledging age
    10 days
  • Average time to independence
    2 to 3 weeks

Both Canada warbler parents work together to raise their young. They both work on building the nest. Females keep the eggs warm for most of the time until they hatch, except if intruders are nearby. Both parents clean eggshells and body waste out the nest after the chicks hatch. Females remove insects from the nest as well. Males protect the nesting mother and chicks from close range. Males feed the chicks often, sometimes twice as often as females. They are fed very often, which could be one time per minute or one time in every 20 minutes. ("Life Histories of North American Wood Warblers - Order Passeriformes", 1953; "Wood Warblers' World", 1984; "BFL Species Account: Canada Warbler", 2009; Savignac, 2008)

  • Parental Investment
  • altricial
  • male parental care
  • female parental care
  • pre-fertilization
    • provisioning
    • protecting
      • female
  • pre-hatching/birth
    • provisioning
      • female
    • protecting
      • male
      • female
  • pre-weaning/fledging
    • provisioning
      • male
      • female
    • protecting
      • male
      • female
  • pre-independence
    • provisioning
      • male
      • female

How long do they live?

The maximum recorded age for a Canada warbler is 7 years and 11 months old. Their estimated lifespan is 8 years. (Savignac, 2008)

  • Range lifespan
    Status: wild
    7.92 (high) years
  • Typical lifespan
    Status: wild
    8 (high) years

How do they behave?

Canada warblers are very active and alert birds. They hop along low branches and are excellent flyers, able to maneuver through lots of trees. They are more shy than many kinds of wood warblers, and are very territorial. They space out their nests about 30 m apart from each other. They protect their nests, especially from humans. If a human comes near, they will chirp up to 96 times in the same minute in protest. ("Life Histories of North American Wood Warblers - Order Passeriformes", 1953; "Warblers of the Great Lakes Region & Eastern North America", 2003; "Wood Warblers' World", 1984; "BFL Species Account: Canada Warbler", 2009; Savignac, 2008)

Canada warblers are very efficient at traveling between their summer and winter locations. Flying at night, they travel about 30 miles per day. They migrate along bodies of water, and often collide with lighthouses. In spring, they travel through wet, swampy wooded areas. They are usually the last birds to arrive in their summer location but also the last to leave. ("Life Histories of North American Wood Warblers - Order Passeriformes", 1953; "Warblers of the Great Lakes Region & Eastern North America", 2003; "Wood Warblers' World", 1984; "BFL Species Account: Canada Warbler", 2009; Savignac, 2008)

Canada warblers travel in pairs, or in flocks with other birds. The other birds they migrate with are tufted titmice, American redstarts, and other warblers such as magnolia warblers, black-throated green warblers, blackburnian warblers, black-and-white warblers, bay-breasted warblers, and chestnut-sided warblers. ("Life Histories of North American Wood Warblers - Order Passeriformes", 1953; "Warblers of the Great Lakes Region & Eastern North America", 2003; "Wood Warblers' World", 1984; "BFL Species Account: Canada Warbler", 2009; Savignac, 2008)

  • Average territory size
    0.02 km^2

Home Range

Canada warblers usually travel and find food within an area that is 2 hectares in size. (Savignac, 2008)

How do they communicate with each other?

Canada warblers have a very unique song that doesn't follow rules, changes in pitch, and is fast and sputtering. It sounds like “chip-chupety swee-ditchety”, or “te-widdle-te-widdle-te-widdle-te-wip”. The song of this species is different from other warblers because it doesn't have buzzing noises or husky sounds. Males and females call “chyup” to each other, and their alarm call is “check” or “chip” in a loud, sharp tone. ("Life Histories of North American Wood Warblers - Order Passeriformes", 1953; "Wood Warblers' World", 1984; "Comprehensive Guide to selected species of: Birds of the Boreal Forest - Canada Warbler (Wilsonia canadensis)", 2007; "BFL Species Account: Canada Warbler", 2009)

Canada warblers, like most birds, communicate through their feathers. Patterns and colors change during the summer breeding season. Males, females, and juveniles all have slightly different colors, which is useful for forming pairs to breed. ("Life Histories of North American Wood Warblers - Order Passeriformes", 1953; "Wood Warblers' World", 1984; "Comprehensive Guide to selected species of: Birds of the Boreal Forest - Canada Warbler (Wilsonia canadensis)", 2007; "BFL Species Account: Canada Warbler", 2009)

What do they eat?

Canada warblers eat many kinds of flying insects which may include mosquitoes, flies, moths and beetles. They may also eat small caterpillars, spiders, or insect larvae. They are excellent at finding and catching flying insects. They search for food in shrubs and tree branches, and occasionally on the ground. They often feed on insects in red-osier dogwoods and young birch trees. While flying, they use a tactic called gleaning, which means they move their beaks quickly along the surface of leaves to catch prey. Sensitive bristles around their beak help them sense and catch flying insects. Once purple martins catch their prey, they sometimes hold the insect in their beak or toss it against a tree branch before being eating it. Canada warblers get water from bogs, rivers, streams or puddles. ("American Warblers : An Ecological and Behavioral Perspective", 1989; "Life Histories of North American Wood Warblers - Order Passeriformes", 1953; "Comprehensive Guide to selected species of: Birds of the Boreal Forest - Canada Warbler (Wilsonia canadensis)", 2007; "BFL Species Account: Canada Warbler", 2009; Savignac, 2008; Sleep, et al., 2009)

  • Animal Foods
  • insects
  • terrestrial non-insect arthropods

What eats them and how do they avoid being eaten?

Canada warbler nests are preyed upon by blue jays. Chicks that are just beginning to fly are eaten by milk snakes. Females stay on the nest to camouflage it until a predator descends. Then, she lays on the ground and fakes injury, fluttering around with ruffled wings. Males do this as well. They also pretend to be their own chicks while they are on the ground to distract them from the real chicks in the nest. ("Wood Warblers' World", 1984; "BFL Species Account: Canada Warbler", 2009)

What roles do they have in the ecosystem?

When migrating or wintering, Canada warblers can be found in small groups of mixed bird species. In winter, Canada warblers living on coffee farms may help protect crops by consuming pest insects. ("BFL Species Account: Canada Warbler", 2009; Savignac, 2008)

Brown-headed cowbirds <<Molothrus ater>>, which are parasitic birds, frequently lay their eggs Canada warbler nests in places they both live. This includes Saskatchewan, Ontario, New Brunswick, New York, Indiana, Michigan, and Minnesota. Brown-headed cowbirds will sometimes remove Canada warbler eggs from their nest to reduce competition. Chicks are very large, so they get most of the food and cause the other chicks to starve. Some female Canada warblers hatch brown-headed cowbird eggs. ("BFL Species Account: Canada Warbler", 2009; Savignac, 2008)

Commensal or parasitic species (or larger taxonomic groups) that use this species as a host

Do they cause problems?

There are no known adverse effects of Canada warblers on humans.

How do they interact with us?

There are no known positive effects of Canada warblers on humans. However, they are beautiful birds that many bird-watchers enjoy seeing.

Are they endangered?

Canada warblers are listed as "least concern" on the IUCN Red List, but have been listed as "threatened" in Canada since 1998. This means they may become endangered if they continue to lose habitat to deforestation and spread of human development. Canada warblers were once the most commonly observed warbler in West Virginia above 3000 ft in elevation and were found all over the mountains of West Virginia. Their survival rates have declined as well. Canada warblers have been designated as a Highest Priority Landbird under the North American Bird Conservation Initiative, and Partners in Flight have listed them as important to the continent. They are not protected in Michigan. ("American Warblers : An Ecological and Behavioral Perspective", 1989; "Life Histories of North American Wood Warblers - Order Passeriformes", 1953; "BFL Species Account: Canada Warbler", 2009; Savignac, 2008; Sleep, et al., 2009)

Some more information...

Canada warblers got their name because one was first seen in Canada by French ornithologist Brisson. In French, they are called Paruline du Canada. They are sometimes called Canada flycatchers because of how they catch insects. They are most closely related to hooded warblers. ("Life Histories of North American Wood Warblers - Order Passeriformes", 1953; "Warblers of the Great Lakes Region & Eastern North America", 2003; "BFL Species Account: Canada Warbler", 2009; Savignac, 2008)

Contributors

Shelby Sherwick (author), University of Alberta, Augustana Campus, Doris Audet (editor), University of Alberta, Augustana Campus, Rachelle Sterling (editor), Special Projects.

References

1989. American Warblers : An Ecological and Behavioral Perspective. Cambridge, Massachusetts and London, England: Harvard University Press.

1953. Life Histories of North American Wood Warblers - Order Passeriformes. Washington, US: US Government Printing Office.

2003. Warblers of the Great Lakes Region & Eastern North America. Buffalo, NY: Firefly Books Ltd..

1984. Wood Warblers' World. New York, New York: Simon and Schuster.

Cornell Lab of Ornithology. 2009. "BFL Species Account: Canada Warbler" (On-line). Birds in Forested Landscapes Cornell Lab of Ornithology. Accessed October 10, 2010 at http://www.birds.cornell.edu/bfl/speciesaccts/canwar.html.

Boreal Songbird Initiative. 2007. "Comprehensive Guide to selected species of: Birds of the Boreal Forest - Canada Warbler (Wilsonia canadensis)" (On-line). Boreal Songbird Initiative. Accessed November 10, 2011 at http://www.borealbirds.org/guide/guide_detail.php?curr_rec=1&view=imagelist&guideid=1&groupid=1&familyid=&term=Canada%20Warbler&process=1&sort=&from=0.

Messinger Woods Wildlife Care & Education Center, Inc. 1997. "Development of a Baby Bird - Quick Reference" (On-line). Messinger Woods Wildlife Care & Education Center, Inc.. Accessed October 11, 2010 at http://www.messingerwoods.org/quickreference.htm.

Hallworth, M., A. Ueland, E. Anderson, J. Lambert, L. Reitsma. 2008. Habitat Selection and Site Fidelity of Canada Warblers (Wilsonia Canadensis) in Central New Hampshire. The Auk, 125(4): 880-888. Accessed September 21, 2010 at http://www.bioone.org.login.ezproxy.library.ualberta.ca/doi/full/10.1525/auk.2008.07115.

Savignac, C. 2008. "COSEWIC assessment and status report on the Canada warbler, Wilsonia canadensis, in Canada" (On-line). Library and Archives Canada Electronic Collection. Accessed September 21, 2010 at http://epe.lac-bac.gc.ca/100/200/301/environment_can/cws-scf/cosewic-cosepac/canada_warbler-e/CW69-14-548-2008E.pdf.

Sleep, D., M. Drever, K. Szuba. 2009. Potential Role of Spruce Budworm in Range-Wide Decline. The Journal of wildlife management, Volume 73 no.4: 546-555.

 
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Sherwick, S. 2012. "Wilsonia canadensis" (On-line), Animal Diversity Web. Accessed December 18, 2014 at http://www.biokids.umich.edu/accounts/Wilsonia_canadensis/

BioKIDS is sponsored in part by the Interagency Education Research Initiative. It is a partnership of the University of Michigan School of Education, University of Michigan Museum of Zoology, and the Detroit Public Schools. This material is based upon work supported by the National Science Foundation under Grant DRL-0628151.
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