Spotlight On Ohio Birds

Pine Warbler (Setophaga pinus)

Family:  Parulidae

Order:  Passeriformes

Description:  51/2 ” (14cm) ADULT MALE Has mostly olive-yellow upperparts with darker wings that show pale feather edges and two white wing bars. On the head, note the broken yellow eyering and yellow loral spot. Throat, breast, and flanks are yellowish, grading to white on belly and undertail coverts; shows faint dark streaks on side of breast. ADULT FEMALE Similar, but paler and less colorful overall, with less distinct streaks on flanks. IMMATURE Duller and less colorful than respective-sex adult, immature female being gray-buff overall.

Voice:  Male Pine Warblers sing a fast trill of 10–30 notes usually on one pitch, lasting a couple of seconds. The Pine Warbler is one of few North American songbirds that may sing at any time of year, including while migrating. The male usually sings while foraging or, during breeding season, from high branch tips of pines. The song is very similar to both Chipping Sparrow and Dark-eyed Junco songs, but tends to be a bit slower and more musical.

Males and females make sharp, short call notes. The males, and possibly the females as well, use a rattle call for territorial defense and other aggressive encounters.

Habitat:  Pine Warblers live in pine or mixed pine-deciduous forest, and you’ll rarely see them out of a pine tree. They’re not particularly specific about which species of pines they’ll use, and the list includes jack, pitch, red, white, Virginia, loblolly, shortleaf, slash, sand, and pond pines. Their wintering habitat is similar to their breeding habitat. Migrating Pine Warblers sometimes use shrubs and deciduous trees.

Nesting: The nest is a cup with an interior space about 1.5 inches across and equally deep. The female gathers most of the nest material, including grass, plant stems and fibers, bark strips, pine needles, twigs, and fine roots, binding them together with spider or caterpillar silk and lining the nest with feathers, hair, and plant down. In good weather she can finish the nest and begin laying eggs in 14 days. The male often escorts the female as she gathers materials, and occasionally helps build.




  • The Pine Warbler is the only warbler that eats large quantities of seeds, primarily those of pines. This seed-eating ability means Pine Warblers sometimes visit bird feeders, unlike almost all other warblers.
  • Most warblers leave the continental U.S. for winter, but the Pine Warbler stays in the Southeast and is one of the first to return northward in spring. It arrives as early as February in areas just north of the wintering range and may begin breeding by late April.
  • The Pine Warbler’s closest relative seems to be the Olive-capped Warbler, which lives in pine forests of the West Indies. One of its next closest relatives is the ubiquitous Yellow-rumped Warbler, even though the two don’t superficially look much alike.
  • Migrant Pine Warblers from the northern part of the range join resident Pine Warblers in the southern United States in winter. Sometimes they form large flocks of 50 to 100 or more.
  • Individual Pine Warblers can show physical differences according to their diets: birds that were experimentally fed with mostly seeds developed larger gizzards (the organ that crushes food into pieces) and longer digestion times, while birds that ate fruit had longer intestines and shorter digestion times.
  • The oldest recorded Pine Warbler was a 6-year old bird captured in Massachusetts in 1932.

Resource material provided by:

The Cornell Lab of Ornithology/


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