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Magnolia Warbler

(Dendroica magnolia)
Banded October 8, 1997 Carmel, Indiana

General Information

The Magnolia Warbler was originally named the Black and Yellow Warbler by Alexander Wilson when in 1810 he shot a specimen out of a Magnolia Tree somewhere south of Nachez, MS on his way to New Orleans. (Mearns and Mearns 1992.)


Magnolia Warbler in the Fall.

Magnolia Warbler in the Fall
Figure 1 - Magnolia Warbler in the Fall


Magnolia Warbler in the Fall
Figure 2 - Magnolia Warbler in the Fall

This bird makes its home in the lowlands, forest edges and coastal regions of Central America and the West Indies. In the spring, it makes its way north to Florida and the Gulf Coast, then heads through the Mississippi Valley and eastern USA to the coniferous forests of Northeastern USA and much of Canada.


In its fall or basic plumage, it is a drab bird indeed compared to its spectacular and brightly colored breeding plumage (see Spring Warbler Collage, Fig. 4 on this web site). The head is duller, the streaking on the flanks is less pronounced, and the darker areas on the back are more gray.


Magnolia Warbler in the Fall
Figure 3 - Magnolia Warbler in the Fall

Upper Wing Coverts
Figure 4 - Upper Wing Coverts


The white wing bars are still visible in basic plumage. Plumages in this species are highly variable with much overlap. For this reason, many individuals cannot safely be aged or sexed.

Flight feather and contour molt is usually complete by late fall when this bird was captured. The primary flight feathers on this adult bird are new and are essentially in mint condition.

Primary Flight Feathers
Figure 5 - Primary Flight Feathers


Underwing Coverts
Figure 6 - Underwing Coverts


The white underwing coverts contrast with the bright yellow of the flanks.

The tail feathers of the Magnolia Warbler have distinctive white patches at their centers. These form a broad white band across the tail. These patches are more developed in the adult male than in the female and juvenile birds. The relative size and shape of these patches, especially on rectrix 2 (fifth from the right in this photo) is a useful indicator of the age and sex these birds in the hand.


Tail Feathers
Figure 7 - Tail Feathers

Undertail Coverts
Figure 8 - Undertail Coverts


Undertail coverts are white, contrasting with the bright yellow of the throat, flanks and belly.


Nesting Behavior

Magnolia Warblers prefer to breed in lowlands, bogs, and old clearings where conifers abound. The cup nest of small twigs and grasses is usually located close to the ground up to 15 feet. Three to 5 eggs are laid. The young are tended by both parents and leave the nest in 8 - 10 days.

Banding Recoveries

According to records at the Bird Banding Laboratory in Laurel, MD, a total of 200,263 Magnolia Warblers have been banded since 1955. Of these, 58 have been recovered, a recovery rate of 0.029%.

Conservation Status

Magnolia Warblers feed mainly on insects and spiders. Breeding Bird Survey data indicate populations are increasing in some regions, especially the west. In the east, however, populations have declined.

Literature Cited

Mearns, B. and R. Mearns. 1992. Audubon to Xántus. The lives of those commemorated in the North American bird names. Academic Press, New York. 588 Pp.

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