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Pink-headed Warbler

Cardellina versicolor

The Pink-headed Warbler, Cardellina versicolor, is a small, vibrant passerine bird, primarily red with a distinctive silvery-pink head and chest. This species exhibits sexual monomorphism, meaning both sexes share a similar plumage, though females may appear slightly duller. Adults measure between 12.5–13.5 cm in length and weigh around 10 grams. They possess dark red upperparts, a silvery-pink chest, and pinkish-red underparts. The head is silvery-pink with a reddish forehead and dusky lores, while the irises are dark brown. The bill is blackish with potential horn coloration on the lower mandible, and the legs are flesh-colored.

Identification Tips

When identifying the Pink-headed Warbler, look for its unique coloration—a silvery-pink head and chest set against dark red upperparts and pinkish-red underparts. The bird's small size, dark brown irises, and flesh-colored legs are also key characteristics. Juveniles are rich brown with paler underparts but soon molt to resemble adults.


This warbler favors humid to semi-humid pine-oak, pine-evergreen, and evergreen forests with dense, undisturbed understory. It can also be found in disturbed forests, although these are considered suboptimal habitats.


Endemic to the highlands of central and eastern Chiapas, Mexico, and western Guatemala, the Pink-headed Warbler is a fairly common resident at altitudes of 1,800–3,500 meters above sea level.


Typically found in pairs that remain together year-round, the Pink-headed Warbler is not often seen in groups larger than two, except when feeding fledged young.

Song & Calls

The call of the Pink-headed Warbler is a high, thin, metallic sound, transcribed as tsiu, ssing, or tseeip. It also emits a low, weak chip for communication with its mate. The male's song consists of short trills and chips, clear and cheery, reminiscent of the Yellow Warbler's song but slower and less varied. Singing occurs mainly from February to May, with a silent period during the rainy month of June.


Breeding season sees the male singing from early February, with the female constructing a globular nest on the ground using pine needles, soft fibrous materials, and moss. The female lays 2–4 eggs, which are white with pale brown spots. Incubation lasts for 16 days, and the nestlings fledge after 10–12 days.

Similar Species

The Pink-headed Warbler forms a superspecies with the Red Warbler, which shares a similar range but has different plumage. They have sometimes been considered conspecific due to their close relationship.

Diet and Feeding

An insectivore, the Pink-headed Warbler gleans insects and other invertebrates from vegetation, primarily in dense understory, and occasionally makes aerial sallies after flying prey. It forages between 2–5 meters off the ground and may join mixed-species flocks.

Conservation status

While the Pink-headed Warbler is currently classified as Least Concern by the IUCN, its numbers are in decline due to habitat fragmentation. In Mexico, it is listed as endangered.

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Pink-headed Warblers on Birda

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Zac Peterson
03 Aug 2023 - 9:08am

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