How to Identify a Tennessee Warbler

Learn the key field marks to identify a Tennessee warbler, and where to look for these birds during spring and fall migration.

Tennessee warbler

Courtesy Joyce Sorensen

“This bird flew into my window one afternoon and was dazed. It sat for a bit before flying away. What species is it?” asks Joyce Sorensen of Clear Lake, Iowa. We are happy to clear up the mystery. Your surprised visitor is a male Tennessee warbler.

This species is not as distinctive as the Wilson’s warbler or black-and-white warbler, but tere are a few keys to recognizing it. The very thin, pointed bill places it in the warbler family, and the male Tennessee warbler has the same pattern as yours: blue-gray cap, white eyebrow, dark line through the eye, white throat and an olive green back that contrasts with the gray head. Females and juveniles are more yellow but appear duller.

Check out 10 spring warblers you should know.

Like the Nashville warbler, despite the name, this warbler doesn’t have any special connection to the state of Tennessee. This species spends summers mostly in Canada and flying to the tropics of Central America for the winter. It is a migratory bird that passes through Tennessee (and through your area of Iowa) only during its travels in spring and fall.

Many migrants, like warblers or kinglets, bypass feeders on their journeys north. To find these spring specialties, head to a wooded area or body of water where birds are likely to stop and rest before continuing on to their breeding grounds. Learn more birding tips for warbler migration and the top warbler hotspots to visit in spring.

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