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

Cape May Warbler, Setophaga tigrina

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.

Cape May Warbler, Setophaga tigrina

The Cape May warbler (Setophaga tigrina) is a species of New World warbler. It breeds in northern North America. Its breeding range spans all but the westernmost parts of southern Canada, the Great Lakes region, and New England. It is migratory, wintering in the West Indies. The English name refers to Cape May, New Jersey, where George Ord collected the specimen later described by Alexander Wilson. This species was not recorded again in Cape May for another 100 years, although it is now known as an uncommon migrant there.

This bird is a small passerine and mid-sized New World warbler. Length can vary from 12 to 14 cm (4.7 to 5.5 in), wingspan is 19–22 cm (7.5–8.7 in), and body mass can range from 9 to 17.3 g (0.32 to 0.61 oz). Among standard measurements, the wing chord is 6.1 to 7.3 cm (2.4 to 2.9 in), the tail is 4.3 to 5 cm (1.7 to 2.0 in), the bill is 0.9 to 1.2 cm (0.35 to 0.47 in) and the tarsus is 1.7 to 1.9 cm (0.67 to 0.75 in). The summer male Cape May warbler has a brown back, yellowish rump and dark brown crown. The underparts are yellow, streaked black, giving rise to the bird’s scientific name. The throat and nape are bright yellow and the face is striking chestnut with a black eyestripe. There is a narrow white wing bar.

Other plumages resemble washed-out versions of the alternate-plumaged male’s, lacking the strong head pattern. The yellowish rump and at least indications of the white wing bar are always present.

This species is insectivorous and lays larger clutches in years when Spruce Budworm is abundant. It picks insects from the tips of conifer branches or flies out to catch insects. The Cape May warbler also feeds on berry juice and nectar in winter, and has, uniquely for a warbler, a tubular tongue to facilitate this behavior.

The breeding habitat of this bird is the edges of coniferous woodland. Cape May warblers nest in dense foliage near the trunk of the tree, commonly a Black Spruce, and lay 4–9 eggs in a cup nest. This species can lay the largest clutch of any New World warbler, probably in response to increases in the numbers of Spruce Budworm during outbreaks.

The song of the Cape May warbler is a simple repetition of high tsi notes. The call is a thin sip. This bird usually sings from high perches.

On to my photos:

Cape May Warbler, Setophaga tigrina

Cape May Warbler, Setophaga tigrina

Cape May Warbler, Setophaga tigrina

Cape May Warbler, Setophaga tigrina

Cape May Warbler, Setophaga tigrina

Cape May Warbler, Setophaga tigrina

Cape May Warbler, Setophaga tigrina

Cape May Warbler, Setophaga tigrina

Cape May Warbler, Setophaga tigrina

Cape May Warbler, Setophaga tigrina

Cape May Warbler, Setophaga tigrina

Cape May Warbler, Setophaga tigrina

This is number 166 in my photo life list, only 184 to go!

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



8 responses

  1. Enjoyed both information and pictures of the Cape May Warbler, thank you.

    August 7, 2014 at 10:37 am

    • Thanks Susan! I cheat and use information from Wikipedia and other sources, but the photos are mine.

      August 7, 2014 at 1:38 pm

  2. He’s a chubby little thing that looks like he’s been finding plenty to eat. Nice shots!

    August 7, 2014 at 3:32 pm

    • Thanks Allen, he was a healthy subject for sure!

      August 8, 2014 at 1:17 am

  3. Beautiful photos!

    August 10, 2014 at 8:30 pm

    • Thank you very much!

      August 10, 2014 at 11:23 pm

  4. Somehow I missed reading this post last week. This is such a pretty little bird – I love its colours and the stripey pattern on its chest.

    August 15, 2014 at 3:34 pm

    • Thank you Clare, I’m glad you liked them!

      August 16, 2014 at 3:23 am