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Blackpoll Warbler, Christian Artuso
Photo © Christian Artuso

Photo: Christian Artuso
Breeding evidence - Blackpoll Warbler
Breeding evidence
Probability of observation - Blackpoll Warbler
Probability of observation
Elevation plot - Blackpoll Warbler
Elevation plot

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Blackpoll Warbler
Setophaga striata
Landscape associations:

Click on plot to view table of mean abundance
Elevation range:
42 - 1694 m
Conserv. status:
Not at risk
Global importance
of B.C. population:
Number of squares
ConfirmedProbablePossiblePoint counts
35 52 354 229
Long-term BBS trends
RegionYearsTrend (conf. interv.) Reliab.
Brit. Col.1970 - 2012 -0.938 (-4.37 - 3.09)Low
Canada1970 - 2012 -5.16 (-9.09 - -1.13)Low

Mean abundance by region

Bird Conservation Regions [plot]
NW Interior ForestBoreal Taiga PlainsGreat BasinNorthern RockiesN. Pacific Rainforest
0.20.03  0.12 0.12
Ecoprovinces [plot]
N. Boreal Mountains Taiga Plains Boreal Plains Georgia Depression Sub-Boreal Interior
0.20.03 0.03  0.12
S. Interior Mountains Central Interior Southern Interior S. Alaska Mountains Coast & Mountains
0.140.14    0.12

Mean abundance by habitat [plot]

Boreal Altai Fescue AlpineBoreal White and Black SpruceBunchgrassCoastal Douglas-fir
Coastal Mountain-heather AlpineCoastal Western HemlockEngelmann Spruce -- Subalpine FirInterior Cedar -- Hemlock
Interior Douglas-firInterior Mountain-heather AlpineMontane SpruceMountain Hemlock
Ponderosa PineSpruce -- Willow -- BirchSub-Boreal Pine -- SpruceSub-Boreal Spruce

Characteristics and Range "Can you hear it?" is a question asked by bird-watchers with acute hearing who encounter singing male Blackpoll Warblers on their breeding grounds. This delightful songster has one of the highest frequency songs known among birds (DeLuca et al. 2013). It tests birders' hearing abilities across the species' range from coast to coast, in North America's boreal, taiga, and northern coniferous forests. This black-and-white warbler with bright orange-yellow legs can also be a challenge to see: pinpointing its location is difficult as it forages in the branches of spruce trees. Birds breeding in Alaska and northern British Columbia undertake the longest migration of any North American warbler, heading east to Atlantic Canada and then south over the Atlantic Ocean to the wintering grounds in South America, a journey of up to 8,000 km (DeLuca et al. 2015).

Distribution, Abundance, and Habitat The Blackpoll Warbler is widely distributed across central and northern British Columbia, with southern extensions to that distribution along the Rocky and Coast mountains. Compared to The Birds of British Columbia published in 2001, the Atlas greatly increased the number of observations in northern and central British Columbia, filling gaps in known distribution, yet the overall provincial range remains the same.

This warbler is found throughout coniferous forests, with the majority of observations and highest abundance between 750 and 1,250 m. Highest abundance and Probability of Observation values coincided with northern spruce (Picea) forests of the Spruce - Willow - Birch biogeoclimatic zone in the Northern Boreal Mountains, Engelmann Spruce -Subalpine Fir and Sub-Boreal Spruce biogeoclimatic zones of the Sub-Boreal Interior, and locally in the western Chilcotin Plateau (Central Interior) and Cariboo Mountains (Southern Interior Mountains) ecoprovinces. In these broad climate-vegetation types, it occupies spruce - alder (Alnus) - willow (Salix) thickets (DeLuca et al. 2013), and is considered a characteristic species of White Spruce (Picea glauca) and Black Spruce (Picea mariana) in the western Boreal Forest (Campbell et al. 2001). DeLuca et al. (2013) also note that it is found in Tamarack (Larix laricina).

Conservation and Recommendations Up to 75% of Blackpoll Warblers spend the breeding season in Canada (DeLuca et al. 2013). Yet, despite being one the most common birds in its breeding range, little is known about its breeding ecology or population trends. Breeding Bird Survey trends across Canada and British Columbia show long-term declines but the trends have low reliability (Environment Canada 2014) due to the majority of routes being conducted south of the species' core breeding range. Increasing timber, oil, and natural gas extraction is impacting some Boreal Forest bird populations, contributing to long-term declines of Blackpoll Warblers (NABCI-U.S. 2014).

Christopher Di Corrado

Recommended citation: Di Corrado, C. 2015. Blackpoll Warbler in Davidson, P.J.A., R.J. Cannings, A.R. Couturier, D. Lepage, and C.M. Di Corrado (eds.). The Atlas of the Breeding Birds of British Columbia, 2008-2012. Bird Studies Canada. Delta, B.C. [04 Mar 2024]

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