Wild Profile: Meet the chestnut-sided warbler

An adult male chestnut-sided warbler in spring By Agami Photo Agency/Shutterstock

The chestnut-sided warbler is an easy warbler to identify—despite the fact that North America is home to more than 50 species of the bird. At least, this guy is easy to ID if you know what to spot. In the spring and summer, when they’ve returned home to their cottage-country haunts after the winter in warmer parts of the world, both breeding males and females have a flashy chestnut stripe on their flanks. Chestnut-sided! Isn’t it helpful when a bird’s name just makes sense?

What does the chestnut-sided warbler sound like? 

If you can’t recognize this bird by its looks, you might recognize it by its calls. Beginning in May, males start belting out their love song from open, sunny spots. It sounds like “Pleased, pleased, pleased to meet-cha!” They’ll sing up to 4,000 times per day. Holy dedication—can you imagine doing anything 4,000 times per day? Once they’ve attracted the attention of a female chestnut-sided warbler, they’ll sing a different tune (literally): a territorial chant meant to tell other males to stay away from their home and their future wife.

Is the chestnut-sided warbler rare? 

Although this warbler’s numbers probably have declined in recent years—the same is true for many birds—chestnut-sided warblers are actually more common than they were in the 19th century. Because they prefer open areas, they actually benefitted from human practices such as logging. In some cases, their territories now nearly overlap with the yellow warbler (the two species are closely related). Yellow warblers look different, but their love songs are similar to a chestnut-sided warbler’s: “Sweet, sweet, I’m so sweet.” Family ties and all that.

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