The South is known for a lot of things – bluegrass music, country music, southern comfort foods, and horse racing just to name a few. There are also plenty of bird-watching opportunities that these southern states have to offer. Whether it’s birds of prey or songbirds that you’re interested in, you’ll find quite the variety. Today we’re going to go over all the different species of Warblers in Tennessee and Kentucky in particular, and when to find them.
36 Species of Warblers in Tennessee and Kentucky
There are many different species of Warblers that are found in Tennessee and Kentucky — 36 to be exact. However, they’re either found during breeding season, during the winter, or during migration. We broke this article up into three sections so you can find out exactly what time of year to look for warblers in the volunteer and bluegrass states.
Even though we’re focusing on the states of Tennessee and Kentucky in this article, the majority of these species of Warblers can be found throughout the Southeastern United States. Neighboring states such as Georgia, Mississippi, Alabama, Arkansas, Missouri, Virginia, and North Carolina and others will likely have these species as well. Cross-check with allaboutbirds.org for any species on this list to see if it found in your state.
14 Warblers Found in TN and KY During Breeding Season
Ovenbirds are on the larger side as far as warblers go — with greenish-brown plumage and a white belly with black spots. They’re likely to be found in a wide range of forests with thick canopies, foraging on the ground.
2. Worm-Eating Warbler
The Worm-eating Warbler gets it’s name for it’s tendency to consume lots of caterpillars. These small songbirds have olive colored plumage with dark stripes on their heads. They nest on the ground under the thick understories of trees.
3. Louisiana Waterthrush
Louisiana Waterthrushes are often found in woodlands near streams. They’re known to forage near the edge of the water, bobbing their rears up and down. These birds are so connected to the water that they serve as good indicators for the stream’s health.
4. Black-And-White Warbler
Like their name implies, these medium-sized warblers are covered in bold, black and white plumage. They forage in tree bark, checking for insects hiding in the wood underneath. Look for them in mixed and deciduous forests.
5. Prothonotary Warbler
Prothonotary Warblers are large warblers with heads and bills to match, though their tails and legs are smaller than other warblers. The bright yellow plumage of this bird easily stands out, contrasting with their gray wings. Prothonotary Warblers are known to forage near water in forests and wetlands.
6. Swainson’s Warbler
Swainson’s Warblers may be easy to hear, but finding them is often a different story. They have pale brown coloration throughout their bodies and like to remain hidden underneath the understories of forests. These warblers have a unique way of foraging — they use their long bills to flip over leaves on the ground.
7. Kentucky Warbler
These cheery yellow warblers are loud frequent callers, but can be hard to locate in nature. They spend a lot of their time on the ground in the thick undergrowth of forests and woodlands. Like Swainson’s Warblers, Kentucky Warblers like to forage through leaf litter for insects.
8. Common Yellowthroat
Common Yellowthroats are often found along the edges of wetlands such as marshes and swamps. Listen for their frequent ringing calls during the summer, and look for a small yellow bird with a black bandit mask marking on it’s face. These guys have a range all over North America.
9. Hooded Warbler
Hooded Warblers have the same bright yellow plumage as Kentucky and Prothonotary Warblers. Their heads are black except for a thick yellow band that runs across their faces. Find them along the understories of forests.
10. Northern Parula
These small warblers have a distinct color combination of yellow chests and chins set against greenish-gray uppers. Northern Parulas tend to flock to forests with sheets of lacy plants such as Spanish moss. They’re usually up high, in the tall canopies of trees.
11. Yellow Warbler
There are quite a few warblers that have yellow plumages, but none as colorful as the Yellow Warbler. These small warblers are synonymous with wetlands, and are frequently found in woodlands of the edges of streams and in willow trees and thickets. Yellow Warblers are another widespread species of warbler that can be found in all 50 states.
12. Pine Warbler
You may have guessed from their name that Pine Warblers tend to live in pine forests. They have dull, yellow bodies and tan wings. Listen for their trills and keep your eyes peeled towards the tall branches of pine trees where they often forage for seeds and insects. Their range is in the eastern and southeastern parts of the United States.
13. Yellow-Throated Warbler
Found primarily in the southeast, Yellow-throated Warblers are named for their bright yellow throats that stand out against their mostly gray bodies. It’s another bird that likes to hang out in the upper canopy of trees – there it forages for insects in bark as well as seed clusters.
14. Prairie Warbler
Unlike their name suggests, Prairie Warblers aren’t actually found in prairies, but rather in scrubby and overgrown fields and on the edges of forests. They have mostly yellow bodies with dark streaking on their wings.
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Warblers in Kentucky during winter
15. Yellow-Rumped Warbler
The Yellow-rumped Warbler is the only warbler in Kentucky, Tennessee, and other surrounding southeast states that migrates there for the winter. During this winter migration huge numbers of these warblers travel together and are easily spotted perched together in trees and shrubs.
Warblers in Kentucky during migration
The majority of these warblers are just passing through during migrations. They don’t stick around for long but they can be spotted in Tennessee, Kentucky, and other nearby states during their migrations.
16. Golden-Winged Warbler
The Golden-winged Warbler is easy to identify thanks to it’s distinct gray plumage with bright yellow markings on the head and wings. They breed in northern states such as Minnesota, but migrate south in the fall to Central America.
17. Blue-Winged Warbler
Blue-winged Warblers are named for their blueish-gray wings and tail. Their heads and bellies boast a lovely canary-yellow coloration.
18. Tennessee Warbler
Tennessee Warblers are typically found in the boreal forests of Canada, where they breed. They aren’t as brightly colored as other warblers and feature mostly a greenish-gray coloration throughout their plumage.
19. Orange-Crowned Warbler
Orange-crowned Warblers are another dull-colored species of warbler. Though their name implies that they feature some sort of orange coloration on their heads, in reality their orange crown is only really visible when they get excited and perk up their feathers.
20. Nashville Warbler
Most of the plumage of a Nashville Warbler is a vibrant yellow. They have white circles around their eyes that also gives them the expression of having big, round eyes. The Nashville Warbler was originally spotted by Alexander Wilson, a Scottish-American poet, ornithologist, naturalist, and illustrator referred to by many as the father of American Ornithology. He first spotted the bird in 1811 in… you guessed it, Nashville, Tennessee. It has a migratory range throughout TN and KY as well as many other SE states.
21. Connecticut Warbler
Good luck finding this warbler. Not only is it only found in Kentucky and Tennessee during migration times, but the Connecticut Warbler is known to be notoriously difficult to spot. They tend to stay close to the ground and thick underbrush to forage.
22. Mourning Warbler
Mourning Warblers are pretty common, but like Connecticut Warblers, they’re often hard to find. During migration and winter they are very quiet, but males like to sing early in the morning during breeding season.
23. American Redstart
Male American Redstarts have striking black and orange colorations. They are energetic birds that are often spotted flashing from branch to branch, chasing after insects.
24. Kirtland’s Warbler
Kirtland’s Warblers are rare birds to spot. They’re only found in the eastern portions of Kentucky and Tennessee during migration. Otherwise, they require specific habitats of pine forests and open areas in burned forests. This species has a very small distribution and aside from TN and KY is only found in a handful of eastern states.
25. Cape May Warbler
Cape May Warblers have one of the most interesting plumages around. Their bodies are mostly a bright yellow, but their chests feature black tiger stripes and their eyes are surrounded with orange markings.
26. Cerulean Warbler
Cerulean Warblers named for their beautiful, sky-blue coloration. They spend their time close to the sky, too, in the upper levels of tree canopies. In the winter they’re found in South America, often in mixed-species flocks.
27. Magnolia Warbler
Magnolia Warblers are usually found in coniferous forests during the breeding season, but are found in all kinds of forests when they migrate. Look for their bright yellow bellies with black streaking.
28. Bay-Breasted Warbler
Bay-breasted Warblers are unique in the way they change colors during different seasons. It’s mostly gray with some reddish coloration in the summer, but in the fall their plumage transforms to green and white.
29. Blackburnian Warbler
Blackburnian Warblers feature a very distinct plumage — black and white on the uppers and striking orange faces marked with black. Most of the time they’re found in the upper levels of the forest, but during migration they’re frequently seen at lower elevations. The majority of their range in KY and TN are migration only, but there is a small breeding population in the easternmost parts of these states.
30. Chestnut-Sided Warbler
The Chestnut-sided Warbler gets it’s name because of the chestnut-brown streaks running along the sides of it’s belly. It spends the winters in Central America, meeting up with the same mixed-species flock it foraged with the year before.
31. Blackpoll Warbler
The distinct black and white streaking that makes up the Blackpoll Warbler’s plumage makes it easy to identify them. They’re long distance travelers during migration, and even use different routes for spring and fall migrations.
32. Black-Throated Blue Warbler
Black-throated Blue Warblers have similar colorations to Cerulean Warblers, but with a solid white belly and dark faces and necks. Females lack any blue coloration and are mostly an olive color throughout. Males and females look so different they were once considered separate species. You’ll find that some breed in eastern KY and TN, but most just pass through the states for migrations.
33. Palm Warbler
Don’t except to find a Palm Warbler in the trees, they tend to spend their time on the ground to forage. They have an odd behavior of wagging their tail as they walk along the ground.
34. Black-Throated Green Warbler
Black-throated Green Warblers are quite the singers — a single male may even sing hundreds an hour. They have a distinct call that almost sounds like “trees trees, I love trees.” Like the Black-throated-Blue Warblers, some breed in eastern KY and TN.
35. Canada Warbler
The Canada Warbler doesn’t actually spend a lot of it’s time in Canada. Though it breeds there, it tends to arrive late and leave early to spend winters in South America. There is however a tiny pocket of breeding Canada Warblers near the mountains of eastern Tennessee.
36. Wilson’s Warbler
Wilson’s Warblers are one of the easier warblers to recognize thanks to their sunny, yellow bodies and distinct black cap on their heads. Good luck spotting one though, as these energetic birds tend to flit back and forth quickly from tree to tree.