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Bird Gallery

Black-and-white Warbler

Black-and-white Warbler
Black-and-white Warbler

© David McDonald

Mniotilta varia

Family: (Parulidae) Wood-Warblers

Preferred Habitat: Woodlands.

Seasonal Occurrence: Very common spring and fall. Uncommon in winter. Occasional nester.

Profile by Glenn Olsen: The Black-and-white Warbler is not as brightly colored as many other warblers, but the contrast of the black and white makes it distinctive and attractive. At first glance, the color pattern may bring to mind the similarly attractive Blackpoll Warbler. However, upon closer observation, the plumage pattern is quite different, with the male Blackpoll having a solid black crown and prominent white cheek compared to the male Black-and-white’s striped head and crown and dark cheek. Overall, the body of the Black-and-white actually looks striped. A behavioral clue that really points to a Black-and-white is the rapid, constant movements and nuthatch-like clinging to the tree limbs; this is unlike other warblers. As a general rule, warblers are active, but the Black-and-white is a warbler in overdrive! It hops, flits, turns, and bounces around as it works its way up, over, and under tree limbs, tree trunks and on to other trees. It is in constant motion in search of insects and their eggs. A Blackpoll’s movement is sluggish in comparison.

Black-and-whites are an early migrant; they begin to arrive in noticeable numbers in mid-March and are abundant until mid-May. In the fall we see them most frequently from mid-August to mid-October. We even occasionally have a few overwinter on the Gulf Coast. Their breeding grounds include most of Canada and the eastern half of the U.S., including areas of east Texas. This little bundle of energy is a real joy to observe. I encourage you to take a walk in your neighborhood, a local park or a trip to a Houston Audubon sanctuary to find one of these little warblers as they come streaking through in migration.

Comments by Don Verser: Black-and-white Warblers are very early fall migrants and have been observed on the coast as early as the last week of June. By mid July they are very common. Occasionally overwinters. This is perhaps the only warbler that can be observed near the coast every month of the year. Often gives a thin zeet call in flight.

Black-and-white Warbler
Black-and-white Warbler

© Greg Lavaty