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Photo Credit: Dave Cagnolatti & Weeks Bay Reserve Foundation
Scientific Name: Wilsonia citrina
Description: The hooded warbler is a small bird, five and a half inches in length, but it is very striking in appearance. It is olive above and yellow underneath. The male has a yellow face and a starkly contrasting black hood and throat. It almost seems to glow in color when seen within the shady brush habitats it prefers. Females usually do not have the black hood and throat, though some do to varied extent. The bird’s scientific name, “citrina”, refers to its dazzling yellow color. The male’s song is a loud, penetrating, and musical “weeta weeta weet-tee-oh”.
Distribution: The hooded warbler breeds in eastern North America from Wisconsin, southern Ontario, and across to Connecticut, south to east Texas and northern Florida. It winters in southern Mexico, Central America, and the Caribbean.
Habitat: The hooded warbler is a member of the family Parulidae, the wood warblers. They breed in deciduous woodlands with dense undergrowth. In the north, they are found in mixed hardwoods, and in the south in moist, deciduous woods, swamps, and margins of streams with brushy undergrowth. Their territories usually include small clearings or gaps where thick brush provides nest sites.
Feeding Habits: The hooded warbler feeds primarily on small insects that it catches by hovering and leaf gleaning.
Life History: Hooded warblers nest within the shrub layer of forest patches and often near brushy edges. The female chooses a nest site and constructs the nest, which is an open cup of woven plant parts. The outside of the nest may be wrapped with dead leaves and gives the appearance of a clump of dead leaves. The female lays three or four creamy-white, brown-spotted eggs, which she incubates for about 12 days. The male defends the nesting territory, but extra-pair matings are common. About one-third of females produce offspring by a neighboring male. On their winter range, individuals are strongly territorial and segregate by sex. Males are usually in mature forest, and females are in scrub-shrub habitats.
Robbins, C. S., B. Bruun, and H. S. Zim. Birds of North America. Golden Press, New York, N.Y., 340pp.
Author: Stanley D. Stewart, Wildlife Biologist, Alabama Division of Wildlife and Freshwater Fisheries. January 2009