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

Sounds and Vocal Behavior



No information.

Vocal Array

Little information. Basic pattern of song is a series of high-pitched staccato notes on the same pitch, usually growing louder in the middle and softer at the end, sometimes rendered as tsit tsit tsit tsit tsit tsit. A second song type, often described as a “rapid trill,” is similar to basic song but delivered more rapidly, with little or no pause between individual notes (Bent 1953b, Harrison 1984d). Rate varies from 5 to 12 notes/s (Dunn and Garrett 1997), and frequency averages 8,900 hz (range 8,050–10,225 hz; Brand 1938; Figure 3) These song types probably correspond to the two categories of song described by Spector (Spector 1992), but no detailed analysis has been done. No information on geographic variation. Male also makes a sharp call that sounds like “chip” and a loud squeaking call. Female does not sing, but makes various vocalizations, none of which have been subjected to spectrographic analysis. These include “chips,” which are brief, sharp calls. Female begs from males, uttering rapid chips. Both sexes occasionally make a noise that can best be described as a “cough” (BCE). Blackpoll flight calls, which are made only in the context of migratory flight, are characterized by 3-5 undulations of sound that span an approximate 1 kHz range around 8 kHz with a duration of 80-100 ms (Farnsworth 2005).


Little information. Male routinely sings during spring migration, but also rarely in fall (into mid-Sept, PDH). On breeding grounds, singing activity declines starting in late Jul but can continue through Aug. One male on Mt. Cardigan, NH, observed singing as late as 31 Aug, after most of Prebasic molt completed (PDH). One song is heard most often during migration and early in the breeding season. More work needed to determine if seasonal pattern of vocalizing fits that observed for other warblers (see Spector 1992).

Daily Pattern Of Vocalizing

More work needed to determine if Blackpoll fits typical Setophaga pattern. During the breeding season, male sings almost continuously during daylight hours, but no detailed data on song type available. Song rates up to 28 songs/5 min have been recorded during the peak of the breeding season (BCE, PDH).

Places Of Vocalizing

On breeding territory, male sings from prominent perches near the tops of conifers. Sometimes stationary for many minutes, singing incessantly. Can be observed singing from the same perches day after day (BCE, WVD). Also sings regularly from within the canopy or mid-canopy while foraging (WVD).

Repertoire And Delivery Of Songs

Little information. Two song types as described above. On Kent I., NB, the more commonly heard song is the high-pitched trill (Type 2, above). The other song may resemble first-category songs typical of other Setophaga species (see Spector 1992). It seems to be slower, may be of lower frequency, and is often delivered at lower volume. Males were observed singing this song type at low volumes when in close proximity to females (WVD). Some males on Kent I. were never heard to sing this second song type, but it is possible that it was overlooked. Switching between song categories was often accompanied by a change in position in a territory (BCE). More study needed to clarify use and context.

Social Context And Presumed Functions Of Vocalizations

Male sings from various locations in territory, often choosing prominent perches, which are visited repeatedly throughout the day. Female often observed in the vicinity of singing male. Singing is sometimes interspersed with chases and other non-song vocalizations, such as chips and bill snaps. High-pitched trill is most common song in male-male interactions on Kent I., NB (BCE), a pattern consistent with Category 2 song described by Spector (Spector 1992). Males with adjacent territories often heard singing in close proximity to one another. Songs delivered in rapid sequence, often alternating, but sometimes overlapping. Further exploration is needed to determine the nature and function of the two song types, and to determine if one is identical to the song sung by migrants. Both sexes chip loudly when the nest is approached by a human. Male often chips softly while following female early in the breeding season. Male squeaks, chips, and counter-sings in response to taped playback of conspecific song within territory (BCE, WVD).

Nonvocal Sounds

Bill snaps heard during intense physical interactions between 2 males (BCE, WVD).

Blackpoll Warbler Fig. 3. Songs of the Blackpoll Warbler, Churchill, Manitoba.
Fig. 3. Songs of the Blackpoll Warbler, Churchill, Manitoba.

A) 16 June 1996 (from the collection of the Borror Laboratory of Bioacoutics [BLB] no. 21230). B) 15 June 1996 (BLB no. 21223). Prepared by the staff of BLB, Ohio State University, using Kay Elemetrics DSP 5500 Sona-Graph (with an effective bandwidth of 300 Hz and a 200 pt. transform size).

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