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Orange-crowned Warbler

(Vermivora celata)
Banded October 10, 1997 - Carmel, Indiana

General Information

The Orange Crowned Warbler is a resident of Central America, extreme southeastern North America and coastal western North America. It's most distinguishing field mark is its lack of distinguishing field marks! It is more commonly seen in the western than in eastern North America. It's breeding range extends across Canada, Alaska and the western USA. Each year in central Indiana, we see a few or these as they migrate between their breeding and wintering grounds.


Both the male and female are dull grayish olive with few identifying marks. Four races of this species are recognized. the individual shown here, captured in central Indiana, is V.c. celata, the race that breed across Canada and winters in the southeastern USA. the other three races. V.c. orestera, V.c. lutescens, and V.c. sordida, breed in western regions and winter in western USA and in Central America, and are generally more yellowish.


Orange-crowned Warbler
Figure 1 - Orange-crowned Warbler


Orange-crowned Warbler
Figure 2 - Orange-crowned Warbler


A light eye stripe and supercilium are about the only features on the face. The dark eye stripe gives the eye ring a split appearance.

These birds breed in brushy habitats and open shrubby mixed woodlands.

 Orange-crowned Warbler
Figure 3 - Orange-crowned Warbler


Crown Patch
Figure 4 - Crown Patch


The other identifying feature is the orange crown patch, usually only visible when the crown feathers are raised. A bit of the orange in the crown can be seen in this photo. Males have a larger crown patch than females or immatures.

No particular identifying characteristics appear on the upper wing.

Upperwing Coverts
Figure 5 - Upperwing Coverts


Primary Flight Feathers
Figure 6 - Primary Flight Feathers


These warblers have 9 primary flight feathers. Some of the primary flight feathers show emargination on the leading edges.

A view of the drab underwing coverts and flank show no particular distinguishing features. The alula feather, also called the bastard wing, can be seen at the top center of the photo. This feather acts much like the leading edge flap on the wing of an airplane. It controls airflow over the top of the wing surface. The bird extends this feather when necessary to prevent stalling when landing and when flying at slow speeds.


 Underwing Coverts
Figure 7 - Underwing Coverts

Figure 8 - Orange-crowned
Warbler Tail Feathers


Retrices are darker than the rest of the bird. The inner edges of the outer tail feathers have whitish edges.

The yellow undertail coverts shown here are a useful field mark to distinguish the Orange-crowned Warbler from the similar Tennessee Warbler, which has white undertail coverts.

Undertail Coverts
Figure 9 - Undertail Coverts

Nesting Behavior

These birds breed in brushy habitats and open shrubby mixed woodlands. The nest, built by the female, is usually located on or close to the ground. From 4 to 6 eggs are incubated by the female for up to two weeks. Both parents care for the young, who leave the nest in just under two weeks.

Banding Recoveries

According to records at the U. S. G. S. Bird Banding Laboratory, a total of 72,947 Orange-crowned Warblers have been banded since 1955. Of these, only 79 have been recovered. This is a recovery rate of 0.108%.

Conservation Status

Orange-crowned Warblers perform an important role in our ecosystem by gleaning insects from leaves and foliage. They also eat spiders and berries, and sometimes visit bird feeders. Annual Breeding Bird Census data indicates that populations of Orange-crowned Warblers are increasing in some areas in the west, but declining in others. No doubt the preference of this species for brushy and successional habitat has an important impact on its population distribution.

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