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A photo of a Golden-winged Warbler (Vermivora chrysoptera), male
Golden-winged Warbler, Male

Golden-winged Warbler

Vermivora chrysoptera

The Golden-winged Warbler, Vermivora chrysoptera, is a diminutive and striking New World warbler. Males are adorned with a black throat, a distinctive black ear patch framed in white, a vibrant yellow crown, and a yellow wing patch. Females share a similar pattern but with a more subdued palette, featuring a light gray throat and ear patches. Both sexes boast a conspicuous white flash on their tails when viewed from below, grayish white underparts, and a slender bill. This species measures approximately 11.6 cm in length, weighs between 8 and 10 grams, and spans about 20 cm across the wings.

Identification Tips

When identifying the Golden-winged Warbler, look for the male's black throat and ear patch, yellow crown, and wing patch. Females will have similar markings but in lighter shades. The extensive white on the tail is a key feature visible from below in both sexes. The bill is notably long and slender.


Golden-winged Warblers breed in open, scrubby areas, including wetlands and mature forests adjacent to these habitats. They show a preference for early-successional plant communities that arise following disturbances.


This warbler breeds in southeastern and south-central Canada and the Appalachian Mountains in the northeastern to north-central United States. A significant portion of the global population, around 70%, is found breeding in Wisconsin, Minnesota, and Manitoba. The species is also known to winter in southern Central America and parts of Colombia, Venezuela, and Ecuador.


Golden-winged Warblers are migratory birds, displaying remarkable feats such as avoiding tornadic storms by migrating hundreds of miles south. Males signal habitat quality through their plumage, with more ornate individuals typically holding higher quality territories. Interestingly, less colorful males may compensate with increased aggression.

Song & Calls

The song of the Golden-winged Warbler is often described as a trilled "bzzzzzzz buzz buzz buzz," while its call is a buzzy "chip" or "zip."


During the breeding season, these warblers lay 3 to 6 eggs, often 5, in a well-concealed cup nest on the ground or low in a bush.

Similar Species

Hybridization with the closely related Blue-winged Warbler produces hybrids such as the Brewster's and Lawrence's Warblers, which can be identified by variations in plumage and song.

Diet and Feeding

The diet consists primarily of insects, spiders, and caterpillars. Golden-winged Warblers have strong gaping musculature, which aids in uncovering hidden caterpillars.

Conservation status

The Golden-winged Warbler is currently listed as Near Threatened due to habitat loss and competition with the Blue-winged Warbler. The Appalachian population has seen a dramatic decline of 98% since the 1960s. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is considering listing the species under the Endangered Species Act following a positive finding that such a listing may be warranted.

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