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

Tennessee Warbler, Oreothlypis peregrina

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.

Tennessee Warbler, Oreothlypis peregrina

The Tennessee warbler is a New World warbler that breeds in eastern North America and winters in southern Central America and northern South America.

The Tennessee warbler is 11.5 cm (4.5 in) long, has a 19.69 cm (7.75 in) wingspan, and weighs roughly 10 g (0.35 oz). The breeding male has olive back, shoulders, rump and vent. The flight feathers are brownish-black. It has a slate gray neck, crown and eyeline. The underside is a gray-white. The female is similar to the male, but is much duller and has a greener tinge to the underside. The Tennessee warbler has long wings, short tail and a thin, pointy bill. Juveniles and first-year birds are quite similar to the female.

Tennessee warblers resemble female black-throated blue warblers. The only difference is that the black-throated blue has a darker cheek and two white wing spots.

This bird can be confused with the red-eyed vireo, which is larger, moves more deliberately and sings almost constantly. The orange-crowned warbler can also look similar, but lacks the white eyebrow, is greyer-brown above and has yellow undertail coverts.

The song has three parts, which can be repeated endlessly: tecky tecky tecky tick tick tick tick tyew!tyew!tyew!tyew! It’s call is a sharp tyick. The flight call is a buzzy zzee.

It breeds from the Adirondack Mountains in New York through northern Vermont, New Hampshire, and Maine north and west throughout much of Canada. Also found breeding in northeast Minnesota and northern Upper Peninsula of Michigan. It is migratory, wintering in southern Central America and northern Colombia and Venezuela, with a few stragglers going as far south as Ecuador. It is a very rare vagrant to western Europe. This bird was named from a specimen collected in Tennessee where it may appear during migration.

The Tennessee warbler feeds mainly on insects and prefers the spruce budworm. This species fluctuates in population with the quantity of the worms. It also likes flower nectar, fruit and some seeds.

This warbler, like most others, is nervous and quick while foraging. It creeps along branches and is found at all levels. It is solitary while nesting, but forms mixed flocks after breeding.

The Tennessee warbler prefers coniferous forests, mixed conifer-deciduous forests, early successional woodlands and boreal bogs. They make a cup shaped nest made of dried grasses and moss lined with finer grasses, stems and hair. The nest can be placed on the ground or above a bog in moss or in the base of a shrub. The nest is built by the female and she lays 4–7 white eggs with brown splotches on them.

On to my photos:

Tennessee Warbler, Oreothlypis peregrina

Tennessee Warbler, Oreothlypis peregrina

Tennessee Warbler, Oreothlypis peregrina

Tennessee Warbler, Oreothlypis peregrina

Tennessee Warbler, Oreothlypis peregrina

Tennessee Warbler, Oreothlypis peregrina

Tennessee Warbler, Oreothlypis peregrina

Tennessee Warbler, Oreothlypis peregrina

Tennessee Warbler, Oreothlypis peregrina

Tennessee Warbler, Oreothlypis peregrina


This is number 178 in my photo life list, only 172 to go!

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



12 responses

  1. Nice catch! One of those tough to ID warblers.

    March 5, 2015 at 5:44 am

    • Thanks Bob! I cheated in learning to ID this warbler. One day at the Muskegon Lake Preserve, I was chatting with Brian Johnson, an ornithologist who bands birds there, and one of his captures was a Tennessee warbler, so I got a good look at one, plus tips on how to ID them. I could have really cheated and shot photos of the netted bird, but I didn’t.

      March 5, 2015 at 8:44 am

  2. That first shot looks just about perfect!

    March 5, 2015 at 8:31 am

    • Thanks Allen!

      March 5, 2015 at 8:41 am

  3. Good shots and good description! I love warblers but as Bob says I find them very hard to identify

    March 5, 2015 at 12:44 pm

    • Thank you Clare! One reason that I started this project is that the only way I can ID many birds is by studying the photos of them that I shoot. I can’t do it on the fly so to speak. 😉

      March 6, 2015 at 1:00 am

      • It’s only possible if they have distinctive songs or calls.

        March 6, 2015 at 7:41 am

  4. Interesting that its name has “peregrine” in it. Wonder why that is? (Or do I just have raptors on the brain…) 😉

    March 5, 2015 at 2:00 pm

    • Not knowing Latin, I can’t help you out as to why these warblers share a name with a falcon.

      March 6, 2015 at 12:58 am

      • One of those Latin jokes, no doubt. 😉

        March 7, 2015 at 7:14 am

      • Such tiny little differences between one breed and another. Thanks for sorting this all out for the rest of us.

        March 8, 2015 at 9:31 am

      • Thanks Judy! In some species, the difference comes down to the sounds they make, there’s no visual differences at all.

        March 9, 2015 at 7:59 am