McGILL BIRD OBSERVATORY

PHOTO LIBRARY

Blackpoll Warbler / Paruline rayée (Dendroica striata)

 NOTE: This species account has been moved to Piranga to allow for improved comparison among examples.  
The updated profile is located at:  http://www.natureinstruct.org/piranga/view.php/Canada/544A5E6BC69CEAAC 
 

QUICK TIPS:

1) In spring, examine the crown - it is solid black on ASY males, black with light mottling on SY males, olive-gray with distinct black streaks on ASY females, and olive-gray with indistinct dark streaks on SY females

2) In fall, consider the underparts - AHY males have distinct black streaks on a white background, sometimes with a yellow tinge; AHY females have moderately distinct dark streaks on a largely yellowish background; HY birds have indistinct streaking on a variably yellowish-white background

3) Look at the primary coverts - they are relatively narrow and pointed on HY/SY birds and distinctly paler than the greater coverts by spring, but relatively broad and rounded on AHY/ASY birds, and only moderately paler than the greater coverts

4) Examine the outer rectrices - they are brownish-gray and relatively narrow and pointed on HY/SY birds, and gray with a broader and more rounded tip on AHY/ASY birds

Note that both wing and tail criteria for Blackpoll Warbler are often subtle and there is considerable variation, therefore many individuals cannot be reliably aged and sexed in both spring and fall.

Species account updated May 2009

 Ageing and sexing guidelines:

January - July:

ASY - M
Black cap; blackish primary coverts not contrasting significantly with greater coverts; dark, broad and rounded rectrices

ASY - F
Crown olive with distinct black streaks; dark gray primary coverts not contrasting with greater coverts; broad and rounded rectrices
SY - M
Black cap; dark primary coverts paler than the greater coverts; narrow and tapered rectrices
SY - F
Crown olive with indistinct black streaks; brownish primary coverts paler than the greater coverts; narrow and tapered rectrices

-

July - December:

AHY - M
Belly whitish; primary coverts blackish; rectrices broad and rounded; often some black flecks on the throat
AHY - F
Belly yellowish; primary coverts blackish; rectrices broad and rounded
HY - M
Belly yellowish-white; primary coverts grayish and paler than greater coverts; rectrices often somewhat narrow and tapered; slightly darker than females but usually difficult to distinguish
HY - F
Belly yellowish; primary coverts grayish and paler than greater coverts; rectrices often somewhat narrow and tapered; slightly paler than males but usually difficult to distinguish
 

Ageing and sexing details:

JAN - JUL:  after-second-year male

After-second-year males have a solid black cap contrasting sharply with the white cheeks; wing and tail should be examined to ensure reliable separation from second-year males.


Photo by Barbara Frei, McGill Bird Observatory (QC), May 2007
 


There is often a slight contrast between the primary coverts and greater coverts, as some to all of the latter are replaced in the prealternate moult, but on the whole the wing is relatively uniformly dark, and usually in good condition.


Photo by Barbara Frei, McGill Bird Observatory (QC), May 2007


The outer rectrices are broad and rounded, and showing relatively wear.


Photo by Marcel Gahbauer, McGill Bird Observatory (QC), May 2005

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JAN - JUL:  after-second-year female

After-second-year females have an olive-gray crown with distinct black streaking; this alone is usually sufficient to distinguish them from second-year females, but the wing and tail should also be checked when possible.  


Photo by Marcel Gahbauer, McGill Bird Observatory (QC), May 2006


Photo by Marie-Anne Hudson, McGill Bird Observatory (QC), May 2007


The moult limit apparent in the example below (i.e. among the greater coverts and between the tertials and secondaries) reflects the extent of the prealternate moult.  Of greater significance is that the primary coverts are broad and rounded, and show no contrast with the unreplaced outer greater coverts.


Photo by Marie-Anne Hudson, McGill Bird Observatory (QC), May 2007


Photo by Marcel Gahbauer, McGill Bird Observatory (QC), May 2006
 


The outer rectrices tend to be quite broad and rounded.


Photo by Marie-Anne Hudson, McGill Bird Observatory (QC), May 2007


Photo by Marcel Gahbauer, McGill Bird Observatory (QC), May 2006

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JAN - JUL:  second-year male

Second-year males have a blackish crown and whitish cheeks, but one or both are often slightly mottled in appearance.  The third example below is a relatively rare case with yellowish plumage on the upper breast and throat.


Photo by Barbara Frei, McGill Bird Observatory (QC), May 2007


Photo by Marcel Gahbauer, McGill Bird Observatory (QC), May 2005


Photo by Barbara Frei, McGill Bird Observatory (QC), May 2008


On second-year Blackpoll Warblers, it is often possible to identify three generations of feathers on the wing, with a distinct moult limit between the juvenile primary coverts and formative outer greater coverts, as well as among the greater coverts, where the inner feathers have typically been replaced during the prealternate moult. 


Photo by Marie-Anne Hudson, McGill Bird Observatory (QC), May 2008


 Photo by Barbara Frei, McGill Bird Observatory (QC), May 2007


Second-year Blackpoll Warblers may have relatively narrow and tapered rectrices as in the first photo below, which are a good clue to age, but many have somewhat intermediately shaped rectrices as in the second photo, in which case ageing should be based on the wing and crown.


Photo by Marie-Anne Hudson, McGill Bird Observatory (QC), May 2007


Photo by Marie-Anne Hudson, McGill Bird Observatory (QC), May 2008

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JAN - JUL:  second-year female

Second-year females are often recognizable by their olive-gray crowns with minimal dark streaking, but the wing and tail should be checked to help confirm age.


Photo by Marie-Anne Hudson, McGill Bird Observatory (QC), May 2007


Photo by Barbara Frei, McGill Bird Observatory (QC), May 2007

 


Second-year Blackpoll Warblers often show moult limits between the primary coverts and outer greater coverts, as well as within the greater coverts.  Note also that the primaries and secondaries may appear particularly pale brown by spring, contrasting sharply with the greater coverts, as in the photo below.


Photo by Barbara Frei, McGill Bird Observatory (QC), May 2007


Photo by Marcel Gahbauer, May 2006
 


The shape of the rectrices varies considerably in Blackpoll Warblers, but in cases such as the examples below where they are narrow and pointed, they are a good indicator of a second-year bird.


Photo by Marie-Anne Hudson, McGill Bird Observatory (QC), May 2007


Photo by Marcel Gahbauer, McGill Bird Observatory (QC), May 2006

RETURN TO AGE/SEX OVERVIEW

JUL - DEC:  after-hatch-year male

After-hatch-year males may retain some black in the throat or crown, which other age/sex classes lack, but in the absence of this may be more difficult to identify.  They also tend to have more whitish underparts, but the wing and tail should also be considered whenever possible.


Photo by Marcel Gahbauer, McGill Bird Observatory (QC), September 2005
 


In all age/sex classes, the primary coverts appear at least slightly paler than the greater coverts, but for after-hatch-year males the entire wing is dark, with relatively subtle internal variation in colour.


Photo by Marcel Gahbauer, McGill Bird Observatory (QC), September 2005
 


The rectrices on after-hatch-year Blackpoll Warblers are quite broad and rounded at the tip.


Photo by Marcel Gahbauer, McGill Bird Observatory (QC), September 2005

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JUL - DEC:  after-hatch-year female

After-hatch-year females are quite greenish-yellow all over; some hatch-year Blackpoll Warblers may have a similar overall appearance, therefore wing and tail need to be examined to determine age.


Photo by Mar
ie-Anne Hudson, McGill Bird Observatory (QC), August 2007


Photo by Marcel Gahbauer, McGill Bird Observatory (QC), September 2005
 


The wing of after-hatch-year females is quite uniform in appearance; note the distinct greenish edging to the feathers.


Photo by Marie-Anne Hudson, McGill Bird Observatory (QC), August 2007


Photo by Marcel Gahbauer, McGill Bird Observatory (QC), September 2005
 


Outer rectrices of after-hatch-year Blackpoll Warblers are quite broad and rounded at the tip.


Photo by Mar
ie-Anne Hudson, McGill Bird Observatory (QC), August 2007


Photo by Marcel Gahbauer, McGill Bird Observatory (QC), September 2005

RETURN TO AGE/SEX OVERVIEW

 

JUL - DEC:  hatch-year male

Hatch-year Blackpoll Warblers may appear similar to after-hatch-year females, and examination of the wing and tail is often required to determine age with confidence.  In most cases, sex of hatch-year Blackpoll Warblers cannot be determined, but there are some extremes of plumage and size (as measured by wing chord) that can probably be identified reliably.


Photo by Marcel Gahbauer, McGill Bird Observatory (QC), August 2005
 


There is a distinct moult limit between the primary coverts and greater coverts, indicating this to be a hatch-year bird.  However, the wing is overall very dark, and in combination with a large wing chord (>76 mm) this was determined to be a male.


Photo by Marcel Gahbauer, McGill Bird Observatory (QC), August 2005
 


Hatch-year Blackpoll Warblers tend to have somewhat narrower and more pointed rectrices than after-hatch-year birds, but the distinction may be subtle. While the extent of white on the outer rectrices shows less distinct variation among age/sex classes than in other Dendroica warblers, the amount in the photo is particularly extensive, supporting the classification of this individual as a male.


Photo by Marcel Gahbauer, McGill Bird Observatory (QC), August 2005

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JUL - DEC:  hatch-year female

Hatch-year Blackpoll Warblers may appear similar to after-hatch-year females, and examination of the wing and tail is often required to determine age with confidence.  In most cases, sex of hatch-year Blackpoll Warblers cannot be determined, but there are some extremes of plumage and size (as measured by wing chord) that can probably be identified reliably.


Photo by Marcel Gahbauer, McGill Bird Observatory (QC), September 2005
 


The distinct moult limits (between primary coverts and greater coverts) on the wings below identifies these individuals as hatch-year Blackpoll Warblers, while the overall brown (vs. grayish-black) tone of the wing suggests they are females.  


Photo by Marcel Gahbauer, McGill Bird Observatory (QC), August 2008


Photo by Marcel Gahbauer, McGill Bird Observatory (QC), August 2008


Rectrix shape can be quite variable for Blackpoll Warbler.  Individuals with rectrices as narrow and pointed as the first example below are very likely to be hatch-year birds, while in the case of the second example, clues from the wing should override what is suggested by the tail.


Photo by Marcel Gahbauer, McGill Bird Observatory (QC), August 2008


Photo by Marcel Gahbauer, McGill Bird Observatory (QC), September 2005

RETURN TO AGE/SEX OVERVIEW 

2002- The Migration Research Foundation Inc.