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Black-and-White Warblers Raising Young

6-14-19 black-and-white warbler nest 0U1A0066One of the first warblers to return to its northern nesting grounds, the (female) Black-and-White Warbler has already built a nest, laid and incubated 4-6 speckled eggs and is now brooding and feeding nestlings.

Finding a Black-and-White Warbler nest can be challenging – these bark-foraging insect eaters usually build their well-hidden nest on the ground at the base of a tree, rock, stump or fallen log. Tucked into vegetation with the rim often at ground level, their 5-inch diameter nest blends into its surroundings. Bark strips, grass, dry leaves and pine needles are used to construct the nest which is lined with moss, horsehair and dried grasses.

The male helps the female feed the nestlings and defend the nest. Female Black-and-White Warblers have been observed performing “rodent run” distraction displays, in which the bird assumes a hunched posture and drags its tail, luring potential predators away from the nest.

The Brown-headed Cowbird is a major threat to Black-and-White Warblers as it frequently parasitizes their nests. One documented Black-and-White Warbler nest in Michigan contained 10 eggs, eight of which were laid by cowbirds. (Thanks to Susan and Dean Greenberg for photo opportunity.)

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6 responses

  1. Bill On The Hill

    …Fascinating Mary, it is tucked in rather nicely at the base of a yellow birch apparently. You have saved me from breaking out the bird book as I’ve seen these around the house all spring now & have been wondering what they actually are!
    Once again I have a nest full of baby flycatchers ( phoebes ) in the garage as each time I back the tractor in they sound off expecting to get fed!
    Thanks Mary,
    Bill… :~)

    June 14, 2019 at 7:32 am

  2. Mary, Thank you so much for posting this! In our County here in the Province of Ontario, Canada we like so many places are facing environmental issues. I thought I would print up a list of Woodland and Passerine’s that nest on or near the ground, so people could understand that not all birds nest way up in trees, many Warblers and Sparrows are ground nesters. So, I started with the Sparrows. My ‘partial’ list came to a total of 49 birds. It is so nice to the Black and White Warbler nesting on the ground as she should be. Thank you for your work.

    June 14, 2019 at 7:41 am

  3. Alice Pratt

    Atleast the baby birds can’t fall out of the nest! I wonder why Cowbirds don,t like to raise their own young.

    June 14, 2019 at 9:08 am

    • Tom Ryan

      I’ve been told (warrants a fact check) that cowbirds co-evolved with Bison on the plains, following the herd and eating associated insects. With the herd constantly on the move, this didn’t bode well for building a nest, so at some point they figured out how to have other birds do the work for them….kinda like Lazy Mayzie and Horton. Maybe the cowbirds would have more respect if they had evolved to make a saddle nest?

      June 21, 2019 at 10:03 am

      • Love your reference to Mayzie and Horton!

        June 21, 2019 at 2:53 pm

  4. Pamela Durrant

    Did you know?

    Sent from my iPhone


    June 30, 2019 at 5:41 am

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