Wild Profile: Meet the black-throated green warbler

black-throated green warbler on a twig By Paul Nicholson/Shutterstock

The black-throated green warbler is a little bird with a big voice. Or, at least, a recognizable voice: Trees, trees, murmuring trees. These tiny songsters—smaller than a chickadee—repeat their lyrical, easy-to-remember chant when they return to Canada every spring.

Males are bolder and chattier than some of the other three dozen wood warblers that spend the breeding season here in the Great White North. They’ll sing early in the morning, throughout the day, and at dusk, up to eight times per minute. This is a territorial call. Their love song—to attract mates—is different: Sweet, sweet, sweet, so sweet. (Aww, what a ballad.)

How well do you know your tunes? See our cheat sheet to bird song.

Black-throated green warblers sing their territorial “Trees” song all summer, even into August, and will perch out in the open to perform. That said, they can be tough to spot when they’re foraging. They’re not common feeder birds, and prefer to stick high in the forest canopy, where they’re constantly in motion, flitting among branches and twigs. When you do see them, they are, however, easy to ID (the males, at least), with a bright lemon-coloured head and black neck.

Why won’t warblers visit your backyard feeders? They eat insects almost exclusively (beetles, gnats, aphids, spiders), at least during the breeding season. But their favourite snack? Caterpillars, especially the ones that aren’t hairy. For obvious reasons, we assume.

If you love birds (we know that you do), check out our video trivia quiz on Canada’s provincial birds.

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