My adventures in the woods, streams, rivers, fields, and lakes of Michigan

Black-throated Blue Warbler, Setophaga caerulescens

Note: this post, while published, is a work in progress, as are all posts in this series, My Photo Life List. My goal is to photograph every species of bird that is seen on a regular basis here in Michigan, working from a list compiled by the Michigan chapter of the Audubon Society. This will be a lifelong project, that I began in January of 2013, and as I shoot better photos of this, or any other species, I will update the post for that species with better photos when I can. While this series is not intended to be a field guide per se, my minimum standard for the photos in this series is that one has to be able to make a positive identification of the species in my photos. The information posted here is from either my observations or the Wikipedia, the online free encyclopedia, however, I have personally shot all the photos appearing in this series.

Black-throated Blue Warbler, Setophaga caerulescens

The Black-throated Blue Warbler (Setophaga caerulescens) is a small passerine bird of the New World warbler family. Its breeding ranges are located in the interior of deciduous and mixed forests in eastern North America. Over the cooler months, it migrates to islands in the Caribbean and Central America. The Black-throated Blue Warbler is sexually dimorphic, the adult male has a black face and cheeks, deep blue upper-parts and white under-parts, while the adult female is olive-brown above and light yellow below.

Predominantly insectivorous, the Black-throated Blue Warbler supplements its diet with berries and seeds in winter. It builds its nests in thick shrubs and the closeness of its nesting sites to the ground make it a favored species for the study of warbler behavior in the wild. The Black-throated Blue Warbler defends its territory against other birds of the same species for both nesting and winter habitats. As the Black-throated Blue Warbler requires large, unbroken forest areas for nesting, its numbers are declining.

The Black-throated Blue Warbler measures 13 cm (5.1 in) in length and weighs 8.4–12.4 g (0.3–0.45 oz). The adult male has white underparts with a black throat, face and flanks. The upper-parts are deep blue. The immature male is similar, but with greener upper-parts. The female has olive-brown upper-parts and light yellow underparts with darker wings and tail, gray crown and brown patches on the cheek. Both sexes have a thin pointed bill and small white wing patches which are not always visible. Like many other warbler species, it has colorful plumage during the spring and summer. However, outside the breeding season its plumage is drab and less distinctive. In the fall, the Black-throated Blue Warbler can be distinguished by its small white wing patches. Juveniles have brown upper-parts with a creamy supercilium and brownish spots on the throat, the breast and the belly.

The bird’s song can be described as a buzzed zee-zee-zeeee with an upward inflection. Its call is a flat ctuk.

The Black-throated Blue Warbler is a migratory species. It breeds in temperate mature deciduous forests or mixed coniferous-deciduous forest with a thick understory. The species is often found in hilly and mountainous regions in the northeastern United States and southeastern Canada. In late summer, it migrates to the tropical wooded and scrub habitats in the Greater Antilles for wintering. Along the migration route, the Black-throated Blue Warbler can be observed in habitats such as parks and gardens. Its nesting site is more important than its foraging site in playing a role in determining the habitat of the Black-throated Blue Warbler. Black-throated Blue Warbler is an open-nesting species, that nests very close to the ground so it has to choose a protected nesting site where the risk of predation is relatively low.

The Black-throated Blue Warbler forages actively in low vegetation, sometimes hovering or catching insects in flight. It often forages in one area for a while before moving on to the next. It mainly eats insects such as caterpillars, crane flies, and spiders. It may supplement its diet with seeds, berries, and fruit in the winter.

Males and females prefer different foraging sites. While males usually hover among the higher shrub foliage between 3 and 9 m (10–30 ft), females tend to forage at lower strata. The time within a breeding season influences where the males forage. When it is time to feed the fledglings, males come down to the same foraging strata as females. The black-throated blue warbler mostly forages in the understory instead of the canopy. The large leaves and long branches in the understory affect its foraging behaviors. Black-throated blue warbler more often hovers rather than gleans its prey because it is more difficult to glean among thick understory foliage.

On to my photos:

I only have photos of a male of this species right now, and this series of photos isn’t very good. But, it does show my determination to get a good photo of a new species. I followed this male around for some time, but it was in very thick brush, so it was hard to get a clear shot of him. He moved deeper into the shade where it was so dark that I could hardly see him. Out of desperation, I removed the hood from my lens and used the flash on my camera for a few of these photos.

Black-throated Blue Warbler, Setophaga caerulescens

Black-throated Blue Warbler, Setophaga caerulescens

Black-throated Blue Warbler, Setophaga caerulescens

Black-throated Blue Warbler, Setophaga caerulescens

Black-throated Blue Warbler, Setophaga caerulescens

Black-throated Blue Warbler, Setophaga caerulescens

Black-throated Blue Warbler, Setophaga caerulescens

Black-throated Blue Warbler, Setophaga caerulescens

Black-throated Blue Warbler, Setophaga caerulescens

Black-throated Blue Warbler, Setophaga caerulescens

Black-throated Blue Warbler, Setophaga caerulescens

Black-throated Blue Warbler, Setophaga caerulescens

This is number 140 in my photo life list, only 210 to go!

That’s it for this one, thanks for stopping by!



9 responses

  1. Enjoyed your post! We were fortunate enough to get a few pics of the Black-throated Blue Warbler at Magee Marsh last spring.

    January 8, 2014 at 10:26 am

    • Thanks, they are cute little birds, hopefully I’ll get better photos this year.

      January 8, 2014 at 1:03 pm

  2. That’s a cute little bird!

    January 8, 2014 at 10:35 am

    • Thanks Allen!

      January 8, 2014 at 1:04 pm

  3. Beautiful pictures, I enjoyed all of them. We don’t have the Black-throated Blue Warbler here on the east coast.

    Stay warm, 😉

    January 8, 2014 at 3:58 pm

    • Thank you, I hope to do much better the next time I see one.

      January 9, 2014 at 3:11 am

  4. I have never seen one of these warblers before, and so I enjoyed this post. But, what REALLY made my day was visiting your site this morning and seeing your countdown to spring graphic!! Thanks, I needed that after all this insane cold.

    January 10, 2014 at 10:35 pm

    • Thank you! The new widget on my blog makes it easier for me to count down the days till spring, rather than do it the old fashioned way on a calendar.

      January 11, 2014 at 8:29 am

      • You’re welcome, it is quite a morale booster!!

        January 11, 2014 at 9:19 am