Blackpoll Warbler Setophaga striata Scientific name definitions

William DeLuca, Rebecca Holberton, Pamela D. Hunt, and Bonita C. Eliason
Version: 1.0 — Published March 4, 2020
Text last updated June 4, 2013

Diet and Foraging


Main Foods Taken

Adult and larval insects and other arthropods predominate, with some fruit taken during fall migration (Bent 1953b, Tramer and Tramer 1977, BCE).

Microhabitats For Foraging

Breeding Season. In subalpine forests of New Hampshire, forages from 2 to 15 m, with most activity in the 5–10 m range (Morse 1979a, Sabo 1980, Sabo and Holmes 1983). Over half of foraging time spent in conifers (Sabo and Holmes 1983), where foraging activity is concentrated on inner portions on limbs (Morse 1979a). Regularly forages in dead or deciduous trees where activity is concentrated on outer parts of limbs (Morse 1979a). On Kent I., NB, 90% of foraging observations were in conifers, where individuals fed at mid-canopy in trees up to 10 m tall; often seen probing in closed buds at tips of branches. Conifers <2 m tall and <8 cm dbh are rarely used there (Eliason 1986b).

Migration. In spring in N. Carolina, forages from ground to top of canopy, with mean foraging height of 6 m (Parnell 1969). Spends 69% of time in low trees and 27% in canopy, and does most foraging in inner portions of these areas (Parnell 1969). In deciduous trees, foraging heights did not differ from foliage profile of canopy; mostly foraged in outer branches (Morse 1979a). In spring in Illinois, spent 58% of foraging time in shingle oaks (Quercus imbricaria), although this species made up only 14% of available substrate (Graber and Graber 1983). In this same study, used a wider variety of plant species than other warblers. Observed foraging on ground in May in the Bahamas (M. Baltz pers. comm.). During fall passage at Churchill, forages at all heights of spruce and tamarack trees up to 1-15 m in the taiga-boreal areas (RLH).

Winter. Few data. In w. Venezuela, most foraging in mid-to-upper canopy of taller trees in pastures and coffee plantations, where both live and dead leaves used as substrate (J. Jones pers. comm.). May retain tendency to forage in the inner portions of trees, such as tamarind (Tamarindus indicus; Sick 1971).

Food Capture And Consumption

Prey usually gleaned from foliage or twigs (Sabo 1980, Sabo and Holmes 1983), although some are captured by hawking or hovering maneuvers (Morse 1979a, M. Baltz pers. comm.). During spring migration in Illinois, spends 54% of time foraging, with average foraging bout lasting 7.4 min (Graber and Graber 1983). Consumption rate during this study was 0.04 g/min, for a total daily consumption of 21.3 g (15.8 g when corrected for feeding time). Forages throughout morning in spring migration through Illinois, and again between 15:00 and 17:00 (Graber and Graber 1983).


Major Food Items

Animal foods include spruce-gall lice, plant lice, migratory locusts, cankerworms, lepidopteran larvae, mosquitoes, fall webworms, ants, winged termites, gnats, aphids, spiders (including eggs), sawflies (Pteronus), Diptera, larvae of boring beetles (Psenocerus), and other Coleoptera (Bent 1953b, BCE). Known to feed on seeds and fruit, including honeysuckle (Lonicera sp.) and yew (Taxus sp.) during fall migration (Bent 1953b, Parrish 1997, Tramer and Tramer 1977). Common fruit remains in fecal samples in Rhode Island included pokeberry (Phytolacca americana) and arrow-wood (Viburnum dentatum), with single instances of chokecherry (Prunus melanocarpa) and bayberry (Myrica pennsylvanica, J. Parrish pers. comm.). Observed foraging on fruits of dilly (Manilkara zapota) and coco plum (Chrysobalanus icaco) in spring in Bahamas (M. Baltz pers. comm.). In winter in Venezuela, may consume nectar and/or pollen of Erythrina poeppigiana (J. Jones pers. comm.).

Quantitative Analysis

Little information. Of 18 fecal samples from fall migrants in Rhode Island, 72.2% contained fruit and 100% contained insects, with fruit constituting 41% of identifiable remains in the overall sample (Parrish 1997).

Food Selection and Storage

No information.

Nutrition and Energetics

Daily caloric intake estimated to be 17.9 kcal (Graber and Graber 1983). Lipid levels vary during the course of the breeding season. Arrives with lipids at 26% of dry weight, but this drops rapidly to 4% by late Jun, presumably owing to increased energetic needs during the early breeding season (Yarbrough 1970a). Apparently able to rapidly increase lipid levels during periods of favorable weather (4% to 19% in a week; Yarbrough 1970a). Levels increase in late Jul as birds prepare for fall migration (see Migration).

Metabolism and Temperature Regulation

Resting energy consumption of 0.045 kcal/g/h (Nisbet et al. 1963). By comparing body mass along the migration route, this study estimated energy consumption in flight of 0.054 kcal/g/h for a 19-g bird. Most-developed semiplumes and down plumules of any warbler, which, along with relatively large body size and a more favorable surface-to-volume ratio, may allow this species to survive in cold and wet subarctic and subalpine environments (Sabo 1980). However, lipid levels drop during inclement weather after arrival in Churchill, Manitoba, in Jun (Yarbrough 1970a).

Drinking, Pellet-Casting, and Defecation

Little information. In NH, drinks from standing or slow moving water in bogs, seeps, springs, and small streams as well as condensed water on spruce and fir needles (WVD).

Recommended Citation

DeLuca, W., R. Holberton, P. D. Hunt, and B. C. Eliason (2020). Blackpoll Warbler (Setophaga striata), version 1.0. In Birds of the World (A. F. Poole, Editor). Cornell Lab of Ornithology, Ithaca, NY, USA. https://doi.org/10.2173/bow.bkpwar.01