Monday, August 27, 2012

Warbler Identification: Blackpoll vs. Bay-breasted Warblers

When worrying about fall warbler identification, most birders think about the Blackpoll vs. Bay-breasted challenge.  This is for good reason; these two species can be very difficult to identify, if you don't know what to look for.  I won't discuss the identification of the adults, as that is fairly straight forward.  The first fall birds are the real challenge.

What to Look For

Blackpoll Warbler
-yellow/orange feet
-distinct streaking on sides, breast, and flanks
-white undertail coverts
-cold, yellow coloration overall
-wing bars bold, but not usually as bold as Bay-breasted
-head and body coloration do not contrast

Blackpoll Warbler (immature)
First Fall Blackpoll Warbler
To see the photographer's photostream go to: 
Blackpoll Warbler
To see the photographer's photostream go to: 
Bay-breasted Warbler
-black feet
-buffy sides, usually showing a tinge of bay 
-streaking (if present) blurry and indistinct
-buffy to off-white undertail coverts
-greenish head contrasts with warmer coloration of chest, sides, and belly
Bay-breasted Warbler
To see the photographer's photostream go to: 
To see the photographer's photostream go to:
Now that wasn't too difficult, was it?  Most of the other warbler identification challenges are created by the sheer number of species of warblers that are possible.  With a little study, warbler identification will become much easier.

For a great warbler identification guide, buy the Peterson Field Guide to Warblers.  



Julie Brown said...

Hi Rob and Eric,

I have posted a link to this article on my photoblog regarding Bay-breasted vs Blackpoll warblers shot at Eagle Creek Park in 2012 and 2011. If that is not OK with you, I will remove the link. If you have time, feel free to view the image and correct my ID if I am wrong.



Eric Ripma said...

Hey Julie,

We like when people link to our articles/posts, so it is definitely ok.