Parulidae – New World Warblers

Mangrove Warbler Setophaga petechia ©Clayton Burne Website

The Parulidae or New World warblers (sometimes wood-warblers) are a family of small, often colourful, passerines, which are restricted to the New World. They are not closely related to Old World warblers or to Australian warblers. Most are arboreal, but some, like the ovenbird and the two waterthrushes, are primarily terrestrial. Most members of this family are insectivores.

It is likely that this group originated in northern Central America, where the greatest number of species and diversity between them is found. From there they spread north during the interglacial periods, mainly as migrants, returning to the ancestral region in winter. Two genera, Myioborus and Basileuterus seem to have colonised South America early, perhaps before the two continents were linked, and together constitute most warbler species of that region.

The scientific name for the family, Parulidae, originates from the fact that Linnaeus in 1758 named the Northern Parula as a tit,Parus americanus, and, as taxonomy developed, the genus name was modified first to Parulus and then to Parula. The family name derives from the name for the genus.

All the warblers are fairly small. The smallest species is Lucy’s Warbler Oreothlypis luciae, at about 6.5g and 10.6cm. The Parkesia waterthrushes, the Ovenbird, the Russet-crowned Warbler and Semper’s Warbler, all of which can exceed 15cm and 21g, might be considered the largest.

The migratory species tend to lay larger clutches of eggs, typically up to six, since the hazards of their journeys mean that many individuals will have only one chance to breed. In contrast, the laying of two eggs is typical for many tropical species, since the chicks can be provided with better care, and the adults are likely to have further opportunities for reproduction.

Many migratory species, particularly those which breed further north, have distinctive male plumage at least in the breeding season, since males need to reclaim territory and advertise for mates each year. This tendency is particularly marked in the large genus Setophaga. In contrast, resident tropical species, which pair for life, show little if any sexual dimorphism. There are exceptions. The Parkesia waterthrushes and Ovenbird are strongly migratory, but have identical male and female plumage, whereas the mainly tropical and sedentary yellowthroats are sexually dimorphic.

Species List

According to most authorities there are 119 species of New World Warbler in the family Parulidae; they are:

Ovenbird Seiurus aurocapilla

Worm-eating Warbler Helmitheros vermivorum

Louisiana Waterthrush Parkesia motacilla
Northern Waterthrush Parkesia noveboracensis

Bachman’s Warbler Vermivora bachmanii
Golden-winged Warbler Vermivora chrysoptera
Blue-winged Warbler Vermivora cyanoptera

Black-and-white Warbler Mniotilta varia

Prothonotary Warbler Protonotaria citrea

Swainson’s Warbler Limnothlypis swainsonii

Crescent-chested Warbler Oreothlypis superciliosa
Flame-throated Warbler Oreothlypis gutturalis

Tennessee Warbler Leiothlypis peregrina
Orange-crowned Warbler Leiothlypis celata
Colima Warbler Leiothlypis crissalis
Lucy’s Warbler Leiothlypis luciae
Nashville Warbler Leiothlypis ruficapilla
Virginia’s Warbler Leiothlypis virginiae

Semper’s Warbler Leucopeza semperi

Connecticut Warbler Oporornis agilis

Grey-crowned Yellowthroat Geothlypis poliocephala
Masked Yellowthroat Geothlypis aequinoctialis
Chiriqui Yellowthroat Geothlypis chiriquensis
Black-lored Yellowthroat Geothlypis auricularis
Southern Yellowthroat Geothlypis velata
MacGillivray’s Warbler Geothlypis tolmiei
Mourning Warbler Geothlypis philadelphia
Kentucky Warbler Geothlypis formosa
Olive-crowned Yellowthroat Geothlypis semiflava
Black-polled Yellowthroat Geothlypis speciosa
Belding’s Yellowthroat Geothlypis beldingi
Bahama Yellowthroat Geothlypis rostrata
Altamira Yellowthroat Geothlypis flavovelata
Common Yellowthroat Geothlypis trichas
Hooded Yellowthroat Geothlypis nelsoni

Whistling Warbler Catharopeza bishopi

Plumbeous Warbler Setophaga plumbea
Elfin Woods Warbler Setophaga angelae
Arrowhead Warbler Setophaga pharetra
Hooded Warbler Setophaga citrina
American Redstart Setophaga ruticilla
Kirtland’s Warbler Setophaga kirtlandii
Cape May Warbler Setophaga tigrina
Cerulean Warbler Setophaga cerulea
Northern Parula Setophaga americana
Tropical Parula Setophaga pitiayumi
Magnolia Warbler Setophaga magnolia
Bay-breasted Warbler Setophaga castanea
Blackburnian Warbler Setophaga fusca
American Yellow Warbler Setophaga aestiva
Mangrove Warbler Setophaga petechia
Chestnut-sided Warbler Setophaga pensylvanica
Blackpoll Warbler Setophaga striata
Black-throated Blue Warbler Setophaga caerulescens
Palm Warbler Setophaga palmarum
Olive-capped Warbler Setophaga pityophila
Pine Warbler Setophaga pinus
Myrtle Warbler Setophaga coronata
Audubon’s Warbler Setophaga auduboni
Goldman’s Warbler Setophaga goldmani
Yellow-throated Warbler Setophaga dominica
Bahama Warbler Setophaga flavescens
Vitelline Warbler Setophaga vitellina
Prairie Warbler Setophaga discolor
Adelaide’s Warbler Setophaga adelaidae
Barbuda Warbler Setophaga subita
St. Lucia Warbler Setophaga delicata
Grace’s Warbler Setophaga graciae
Black-throated Grey Warbler Setophaga nigrescens
Townsend’s Warbler Setophaga townsendi
Hermit Warbler Setophaga occidentalis
Golden-cheeked Warbler Setophaga chrysoparia
Black-throated Green Warbler Setophaga virens

Citrine Warbler Myiothlypis luteoviridis
Santa Marta Warbler Myiothlypis basilica
White-striped Warbler Myiothlypis leucophrys
Flavescent Warbler Myiothlypis flaveola
White-rimmed Warbler Myiothlypis leucoblephara
Pale-legged Warbler Myiothlypis signata
Black-crested Warbler Myiothlypis nigrocristata
Buff-rumped Warbler Myiothlypis fulvicauda
Riverbank Warbler Myiothlypis rivularis
Two-banded Warbler Myiothlypis bivittata
Roraiman Warbler Myiothlypis roraimae
Cuzco Warbler Myiothlypis chrysogaster
Choco Warbler Myiothlypis chlorophrys
White-lored Warbler Myiothlypis conspicillata
Grey-throated Warbler Myiothlypis cinereicollis
Grey-and-gold Warbler Myiothlypis fraseri
Russet-crowned Warbler Myiothlypis coronata
Grey-headed Warbler Myiothlypis griseiceps

Fan-tailed Warbler Basileuterus lachrymosus
Rufous-capped Warbler Basileuterus rufifrons
Black-cheeked Warbler Basileuterus melanogenys
Pirre Warbler Basileuterus ignotus
Golden-browed Warbler Basileuterus belli
Golden-crowned Warbler Basileuterus culicivorus
Black-eared Warbler Basileuterus melanotis
Tacarcuna Warbler Basileuterus tacarcunae
Three-banded Warbler Basileuterus trifasciatus
Yungas Warbler Basileuterus punctipectus
Three-striped Warbler Basileuterus tristriatus

Canada Warbler Cardellina canadensis
Wilson’s Warbler Cardellina pusilla
Red-faced Warbler Cardellina rubrifrons
Red Warbler Cardellina rubra
Pink-headed Warbler Cardellina versicolor

Painted Whitestart Myioborus pictus
Slate-throated Whitestart Myioborus miniatus
Brown-capped Whitestart Myioborus brunniceps
Yellow-crowned Whitestart Myioborus flavivertex
White-fronted Whitestart Myioborus albifrons
Golden-fronted Whitestart Myioborus ornatus
Spectacled Whitestart Myioborus melanocephalus
Collared Whitestart Myioborus torquatus
Paria Whitestart Myioborus pariae
White-faced Whitestart Myioborus albifacies
Guaiquinima Whitestart Myioborus cardonai
Tepui Whitestart Myioborus castaneocapilla

Species Links
  • Black-and-White Warbler Mniotilta varia

    Species Account
    Sound archive and distribution map.
  • Black-and-White Warbler Mniotilta varia

    Cornell Species Account
    One of the earliest-arriving migrant warblers, the Black-and-white Warbler’s thin, squeaky song is one of the first signs that spring birding has sprung.
  • Black-and-White Warbler Mniotilta varia

    Species Account
    The black-and-white warbler (Mniotilta varia) is a species of New World warbler, the only member of its genus, Mniotilta.
  • Blackpoll Warbler Dendroica striata

    Cornell Species Account
    One of the most common birds of the northern boreal forest, the Blackpoll Warbler flies all the way to South America to spend the winter…
  • Blackpoll Warbler Dendroica striata

    Species Account
    Sound archive and distribution map.
  • Blackpoll Warbler Dendroica striata

    Species Account
    The blackpoll warbler (Setophaga striata) is a New World warbler. Breeding males are mostly black and white.
  • Brown-capped Whitestart Myioborus brunniceps

    Species Account
    Sound archive and distribution map.
  • Brown-capped Whitestart Myioborus brunniceps

    Species Account
    The brown-capped whitestart (Myioborus brunniceps), or, less accurately, the brown-capped redstart, is a species of bird in the Parulidae family. It is found in humid Andean forests and woodlands in Bolivia and north-western Argentina. It sometimes includes the tepui whitestart as a subspecies.
  • Brown-capped Whitestart Myioborus brunniceps

    Cornell Species Account
    Up until recently this species included the Tepui Redstart (Myioborus castaneocapillus) due to rather similar plumage patterns, although their distributions are quite distant from each other.
  • Cape May Warbler Dendroica tigrina

    Species Account
    The Cape May warbler (Setophaga tigrina) is a species of New World warbler. It breeds in northern North America.
  • Cape May Warbler Dendroica tigrina

    IUCN Species Status
  • Cape May Warbler Dendroica tigrina

    Species Account
    Sound archive and distribution map.
  • Cape May Warbler Dendroica tigrina

    Cornell Species Account
    The Cape May Warbler breeds across the boreal forest of Canada and the northern United States, where the fortunes of its populations are largely tied to the availability of spruce budworms, its preferred food…
  • Myrtle Warbler Dendroica coronata

    Species Account
    Four closely related North American bird forms—the eastern Myrtle Warbler (ssp coronata), its western counterpart, Audubon's Warbler (ssp group auduboni), the Northwest Mexican Black-fronted Warbler (ssp nigrifrons), and the Guatemalan Goldman's Warbler (ssp goldmani)—are periodically lumped as the Yellow-rumped Warbler (Dendroica coronata)…
  • Palm Warbler Dendroica petechia

    Cornell Species Account
    Cornell species account...
  • Wilson's Warbler Cardellina pusilla

    Species Account
    Sound archive and distribution map.
  • Wilson's Warbler Cardellina pusilla

    Species Account
    The Wilson's warbler (Cardellina pusilla) is a small New World warbler. It is greenish above and yellow below, with rounded wings and a long, slim tail.
  • Wilson's Warbler Cardellina pusilla

    Cornell Species Account
    A common warbler of willow thickets in the West and across Canada, the Wilson's Warbler is easily identified by its yellow underparts and black cap.
  • Yellow Warbler Dendroica petechia

    Species account
Number of Species
  • Number of bird species: 119

Useful Reading
  • Peterson Field Guide to the Warblers of North America

    | By Jon L Dunn & Kimball L Garrett | Houghton Mifflin | 1997 | Paperback | 656 pages, Colour photos & illustrations, maps| ISBN: 9780395783214 Buy this book from
  • The Warbler Guide

    | By Tom Stephenson & Scott Whittle | Princeton University Press | 2013 | Paperback | 560 pages | 1000+ colour photos | 50 maps | ISBN: 9780691154824 Buy this book from
Other Links
  • Daniel Edelstein - Warblerwatch

    As a Consulting Biologist (and as a birding guide since 1981), Daniel Edelstein works full-time in the environmental consulting field. Concurrently, he often leads San Francisco Bay Area birding tours and California bird watching trips. Daniel teaches diverse college-level bird classes — “Fundamentals of Ornithology,” “Bird Song Ecology/Birding By Ear, (see his “Top Ten Tips For Improving Your Birding By Ear,”) “Waterbirds,” “Raptors,” “Wood-Warblers on the West Coast (& Midwest/East Coast),” and “The Miracle of Migration: The Amazing Nomadic Lives of Birds & Other Animals” at Merritt College (where he is an Adjunct Faculty member in its Biology Dept.) and at other adult education settings…
  • Visualizing Western Warbler Songs

    Those of you who began birding before 1980 will probably remember that the field guide of choice was A Guide to the Field Identification of Birds of North America now usually referred to as the Golden Guide. Produced by Golden Press, it was the best comprehensive guide to North American Birds at the time. It was among the first field guides to place illustrations next to text and include range maps in the margins. It was one of the first pocket sized field guides to illustrate birds in natural and varied settings. And then there were those wonderful sonograms…

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