A small bird with overall dull gray-green coloring on head and back, yellowish to whitish on throat and breast, with white undertail and a pale eyebrow. Immature individuals may have two faint wingbars. This description fits the nonbreeding plumage, which is what we generally see as the bird migrates through Pennsylvania on its way to or from its breeding grounds.
This unassuming bird mainly consumes invertebrates during migration, but may avail itself of fruit and even nectar (though it often “robs” nectar without pollinating). It breeds far north in the boreal Canadian forest and its populations fluctuate along with the spruce budworm, a cornerstone in its summer diet. It winters in the Caribbean and Central America and often frequents coffee plantations there – a good reason we should buy shade-grown, bird-friendly coffee here in Pennsylvania!
What brings it to the SBG?
Food and cover. The SBG offers insects and shelter in plenty as it migrates.
When can I see it?
Spring and fall only. This little warbler’s only association with Tennessee is that it passes through as it migrates between its far-flung summer and winter homes. (It was first described in the early 1800s by ornithologist Alexander Wilson, who saw it in Tennessee.) Similarly, Pennsylvania is just a waystation.