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Montana Field Guide

Montana Field Guides

Tennessee Warbler - Leiothlypis peregrina

Potential Species of Concern
Native Species

Global Rank: G5
State Rank: S3S4B

Agency Status

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Copyright by Borror Laboratory of Bioacoustics, Department of Evolution, Ecology, and Organismal Biology, Ohio State University, Columbus, OH, all rights reserved.
General Description
Small to medium-sized warbler (10-13 cm in length). Male in alternate plumage is plain and lacks distinctive markings; the crown and nape are grayish, contrasting with bright olive green upperparts and whitish underparts. Distinct blackish eye-stripe and narrow white supercilium. Female in alternate plumage is similar but duller, with less contrast between the head and remaining upperparts, a less-defined eye-stripe and supercilium, and a yellowish wash across the breast and flanks. Basic-plumaged adults and immatures are similar: gray green above and underparts tinged yellow. Females are generally duller and more yellowish below than males. Immatures have more strongly washed yellow underparts than adults. (Rimmer and McFarland 2012)

For a comprehensive review of the conservation status, habitat use, and ecology of this and other Montana bird species, please see Marks et al. 2016, Birds of Montana.

Diagnostic Characteristics
Distinguished from all other warbler species except Orange-crowned Warbler by overall plain plumage characterized by unmarked white to yellowish underparts, unmarked olive green upperparts, lack of distinct wing-bars or tail-spots, and dark eye-stripe below yellowish to whitish supercilium. Distinguished from Orange-crowned Warbler by white rather than yellow undertail-coverts; by lack of faint, blurred streaks on sides of breast; by richer, brighter green on mantle and scapulars; and by significantly shorter tail and generally longer supercilium. (Rimmer and McFarland 2012)

Species Range
Montana Range Range Descriptions

All Ranges
(Click legend blocks to view individual ranges)

Western Hemisphere Range


Observations in Montana Natural Heritage Program Database
Number of Observations: 765

(Click on the following maps and charts to see full sized version) Map Help and Descriptions
Relative Density


SUMMER (Feb 16 - Dec 14)
Direct Evidence of Breeding

Indirect Evidence of Breeding

No Evidence of Breeding

WINTER (Dec 15 - Feb 15)
Regularly Observed

Not Regularly Observed


(Observations spanning multiple months or years are excluded from time charts)

Nocturnal long-distance migrant; generally joins mixed-species foraging flocks, especially in fall (Rimmer and McFarland 2012).

Breeds in the boreal zone in deciduous, mixed, and coniferous forests; found in a variety of successional stages. Associated with open areas with grasses, dense shrubs, and scattered clumps of young deciduous trees; strongly associated with shrubs. (Rimmer and McFarland 2012)

Ecological Systems Associated with this Species
  • Details on Creation and Suggested Uses and Limitations
    How Associations Were Made
    We associated the use and habitat quality (common or occasional) of each of the 82 ecological systems mapped in Montana for vertebrate animal species that regularly breed, overwinter, or migrate through the state by:
    1. Using personal observations and reviewing literature that summarize the breeding, overwintering, or migratory habitat requirements of each species (Dobkin 1992, Hart et al. 1998, Hutto and Young 1999, Maxell 2000, Foresman 2012, Adams 2003, and Werner et al. 2004);
    2. Evaluating structural characteristics and distribution of each ecological system relative to the species' range and habitat requirements;
    3. Examining the observation records for each species in the state-wide point observation database associated with each ecological system;
    4. Calculating the percentage of observations associated with each ecological system relative to the percent of Montana covered by each ecological system to get a measure of "observations versus availability of habitat".
    Species that breed in Montana were only evaluated for breeding habitat use, species that only overwinter in Montana were only evaluated for overwintering habitat use, and species that only migrate through Montana were only evaluated for migratory habitat use.  In general, species were listed as associated with an ecological system if structural characteristics of used habitat documented in the literature were present in the ecological system or large numbers of point observations were associated with the ecological system.  However, species were not listed as associated with an ecological system if there was no support in the literature for use of structural characteristics in an ecological system, even if point observations were associated with that system.  Common versus occasional association with an ecological system was assigned based on the degree to which the structural characteristics of an ecological system matched the preferred structural habitat characteristics for each species as represented in scientific literature.  The percentage of observations associated with each ecological system relative to the percent of Montana covered by each ecological system was also used to guide assignment of common versus occasional association.  If you have any questions or comments on species associations with ecological systems, please contact the Montana Natural Heritage Program's Senior Zoologist.

    Suggested Uses and Limitations
    Species associations with ecological systems should be used to generate potential lists of species that may occupy broader landscapes for the purposes of landscape-level planning.  These potential lists of species should not be used in place of documented occurrences of species (this information can be requested at: or systematic surveys for species and evaluations of habitat at a local site level by trained biologists.  Users of this information should be aware that the land cover data used to generate species associations is based on imagery from the late 1990s and early 2000s and was only intended to be used at broader landscape scales.  Land cover mapping accuracy is particularly problematic when the systems occur as small patches or where the land cover types have been altered over the past decade.  Thus, particular caution should be used when using the associations in assessments of smaller areas (e.g., evaluations of public land survey sections).  Finally, although a species may be associated with a particular ecological system within its known geographic range, portions of that ecological system may occur outside of the species' known geographic range.

    Literature Cited
    • Adams, R.A.  2003.  Bats of the Rocky Mountain West; natural history, ecology, and conservation.  Boulder, CO: University Press of Colorado.  289 p.
    • Dobkin, D. S.  1992.  Neotropical migrant land birds in the Northern Rockies and Great Plains. USDA Forest Service, Northern Region. Publication No. R1-93-34.  Missoula, MT.
    • Foresman, K.R.  2012.  Mammals of Montana.  Second edition.  Mountain Press Publishing, Missoula, Montana.  429 pp.
    • Hart, M.M., W.A. Williams, P.C. Thornton, K.P. McLaughlin, C.M. Tobalske, B.A. Maxell, D.P. Hendricks, C.R. Peterson, and R.L. Redmond. 1998.  Montana atlas of terrestrial vertebrates.  Montana Cooperative Wildlife Research Unit, University of Montana, Missoula, MT.  1302 p.
    • Hutto, R.L. and J.S. Young.  1999.  Habitat relationships of landbirds in the Northern Region, USDA Forest Service, Rocky Mountain Research Station RMRS-GTR-32.  72 p.
    • Maxell, B.A.  2000.  Management of Montana's amphibians: a review of factors that may present a risk to population viability and accounts on the identification, distribution, taxonomy, habitat use, natural history, and the status and conservation of individual species.  Report to U.S. Forest Service Region 1.  Missoula, MT: Wildlife Biology Program, University of Montana.  161 p.
    • Werner, J.K., B.A. Maxell, P. Hendricks, and D. Flath.  2004.  Amphibians and reptiles of Montana.  Missoula, MT: Mountain Press Publishing Company. 262 p.

Food Habits
Diet consists mainly of invertebrates; during the breeding season, lepidopteran caterpillars constitute the bulk of food volume. Well-documented specialist on spruce budworm caterpillars. (Rimmer and McFarland 2012)

Species exploits outbreaks of spruce budworm, and breeding densities fluctuate accordingly (Rimmer and McFarland 2012).

Reproductive Characteristics
Nests are well hidden on the ground. Usually single-brooded, with 5-6 eggs per clutch. Little information, but incubation period about 11-12 days, at which time young leave the nest. (Rimmer and McFarland 2012)

There is no evidence that breeding habitat has been severely impacted, nor is there information on area sensitivity or fragmentation effects (Rimmer and McFarland 2012).

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Citation for data on this website:
Tennessee Warbler — Leiothlypis peregrina.  Montana Field Guide.  .  Retrieved on , from