Preferred Foraging Levels of Warblers

Bill Young

Each species of warbler who visits Monticello Park during the spring has a preferred level at which it feeds. Ovenbirds usually feed on the ground, while Blackburnian Warblers usually forage in the canopy. Knowing at what level to look can help you to locate and identify warblers.

Below is a list with seven levels where warblers feed: ground; trunks and limbs; understory; understory and mid-story; mid-story; mid-story and canopy; and canopy. As you can see, some warblers feed at more than one level.

You sometimes will see a warbler at a level other than the one in which it is listed. Waterthrushes and Ovenbirds usually stay on the ground, but they sometimes perch on a branch and sing. During the spring, many warblers at Monticello drop down into the stream to bathe and drink, including the ones who spend most of their time in the canopy. The list is based on where they usually forage.

One clue about the level where a warbler is likely to be seen comes from its song. Warblers with loud, low-pitched songs, such as the Kentucky and Ovenbird, are likely to be found close to the ground where sound does not carry well. Warblers with high-pitched songs, such as the Cape May and Bay-breasted, are likely to be found closer to the canopy where sound carries well. By studying a warbler's song, you can learn clues about the level at which to look for it.

GROUND
Louisiana Waterthrush
Northern Waterthrush
Ovenbird

TRUNKS AND LIMBS
Black-and-white

UNDERSTORY
Common Yellowthroat
Hooded
Kentucky
Mourning
Palm
Wilson's

UNDERSTORY AND MID-STORY
Black-throated Blue
Blue-winged
Canada
Chestnut-sided
Golden-winged
Magnolia
Nashville
Orange-crowned
Prothonotary
Yellow
Yellow-breasted Chat

MID-STORY
American Redstart
Black-throated Green
Worm-eating
Yellow-rumped

MID-STORY AND CANOPY
Blackpoll
Northern Parula
Pine
Prairie
Tennessee
Yellow-throated

CANOPY
Bay-breasted
Blackburnian
Cape May
Cerulean