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Bay-breasted Warbler

by Jacob Crider
The vibrant and multi-colored (Setophaga castanea) is an uncommon species of warbler that can be seen in Kentucky during spring and fall migrations. This species merely passes through our state on its way to Eastern Canada and the NE United States where Spruce forests are their principal habitat for nesting and feeding. Males have a rusty-red colored cap, chest, and flanks and a black mask. The females have yellow heads and white-gray underparts and closely resemble pine warblers. Both sexes possess white wing bars.
Bay-breasted warblers are slow and deliberate feeders as they flutter around in trees and undergrowth. They have an affinity towards conifers, and their primary foods are insects, caterpillars, berries and their favorite, the Spruce Budworm. They rarely feed mid-air, and mostly feed along the branches and leaves of trees. Populations of these birds can fluctuate with the rise of fall of Spruce budworms in their breeding range. They have a quiet song that can be characterized by a series of high-pitched notes.
At CMNP, Bay-breasted Warblers are found in and around conifers such as Eastern Redcedars, spruces and pines. Listen for their high-pitched calls and look along the thin branches of trees to see them foraging along. These are one of the more difficult birds to spot at CMNP and will soon be leaving south to Central and South America to their wintering grounds.

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