Tennessee Warbler (Vermivora peregrina)
The Tennessee warbler does not actually spend much time in Tennessee; it breeds in the northern United States and Canada and only passes through Tennessee while migrating south over 1,440 miles from Mexico to northwestern South America for the winter. These small songbirds measure 4 - 5 inches and have a wingspan that stretches eight inches wide. The plumage of the Tennessee warbler is dull shades of gray, green and yellow. The top of its head is gray, its back is green and its underparts are lighter with a white and yellow tinge. Above its dark brown eyes there is a white line. Females and males look much alike except the females are less brightly colored and have more yellow on their chest. The Tennessee warbler lays three to eight eggs with reddish-brown speckles in nests hidden on the ground in moss or at the base of a tree.
Tennessee warblers breed in Canada and northern United States in boreal forests and migrate south to Mexico, Central America, and the northwestern South America where they live in second growth forests like shade coffee farms.
These small songbirds feast on insects, moth caterpillars, fruit and nectar. They are known to steal nectar from flowers without by pecking a hole at the base of the flower to drink the nectar. While they may avoid getting bothersome pollen on their faces, they also get out of doing their part to help pollinate the plants!
Because Tennessee warblers can live in open areas containing grasses, dense shrubs, and young deciduous trees, as well as on shade coffee farms, the species is not on the endangered list. Its population varies depending on increases and decreases in the population of one of its favorite foods, the spruce budworm. But, as trees are cut down all the way from the boreal forests of Canada to the shaded coffee farms of Latin America, the survival of this migratory small songbird is threatened.
- Jukofsky, Diane. Encyclopedia of Rainforests. Connecticut: Oryx Press, 2002.
- Cornell University Laboratory of Ornithology: www.birds.cornell.edu/AllAboutBirds/BirdGuide/Tennessee_Warbler_dtl.html
- United States Geological Survey: www.mbr-pwrc.usgs.gov/id/framlst/i6470id.html
- Inset photo by Ann Cook