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Despite its relatively tiny distribution in central and southern Costa Rica and western Panama, three subspecies of Black-cheeked Warbler are currently recognized. Overall, the species is characterized by its rufous crown, long white supercilium contrasting with the black cheeks and chin, pale throat, and gray green upperparts; the different subspecies principally differ in the coloration of the underparts, although the variation is not especially marked. Black-cheeked Warbler occurs in montane oak forests with a dense bamboo understory between 1600 and 2500 m, and during the nonbreeding season the birds frequently join mixed species flocks, especially those led by Sooty-capped Chlorospingus (Chlorospingus pileatus).