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


Geographic Variation

Plumage variation is slight, but breeders from w. Alaska to James Bay may average a darker and more finely streaked dorsum (Dunn and Garrett 1997). Body size averages larger in western populations (see Ridgway 1902:596). Slight differences in phenotype aside, the genotype does not vary appreciably across the species' breeding range (Ralston and Kirchman 2012).


No subspecies, following Parkes (1954), who could not diagnose a difference between northeastern breeders and those farther west, which were named S. s. lurida (Burleigh and Peters, 1948). Parkes' conclusion is perhaps supported by a lack of genetic structuring across the species' breeding range (J. Ralston pers. comm.). Also note that S. atricapilla (Landbeck, 1864) is a junior synonym of S. striata (Forster, 1772) and that Dendroica breviunguis (Spix, 1824), a name used occasionally in the past for this species (e.g., Hellmayr 1935, Oberholser 1974), is taxonomically invalid (Banks and Browning 1995).

Related Species

The American wood-warblers (Parulidae) are a key component in a broad and, in geological terms, recent radiation of passerines with nine primaries that also includes the families Emberizidae, Cardinalidae, Thraupidae, and Icteridae (Klicka et al. 2007). Within the Parulidae, Lovette et al.'s (2010) comprehensive genetic study shook up generic relationships. A key finding was the genus Dendroica, in which S. striata was placed, was paraphyletic with Wilsonia citrina (the Hooded Warbler) and S. ruticilla (the American Redstart). As a result, all species of Dendroica warblers, as well as W. citrina, were merged into the genus Setophaga (Chesser et al. 2011), the oldest name and a genus that for many decades was thought to be monotypic. Hence, Setophaga went from being a monotypic genus to, with 34 species, the most speciose genus in the family, easily edging the Neotropical genus Basileuterus (26 species).

Within the broad genus Setophaga, S. striata has long been considered a sister species of S. castanea, the Bay-breasted Warbler (see Hubbard 1969). These two species are virtually identical structurally (a rarity in bird species), have strikingly similar songs and calls, and, apart from spring males, their various plumages are similar. Nonetheless, Lovette et al. (2010) reported that S. castanea was sister to S. fusca (the Blackburnian Warbler), whereas S. striata grouped with S. pensylvanica (the Chestnut-sided Warbler) and S. petechia (the Yellow Warbler), although all five of these species are in the same subclade. Given the markedly structural and vocal similarity between S. striata and S. castanea, as well as between S. pensylvanica and S. petechia, it seems likely that the molecular hypothesis is questionable at the finer scale of this subclade.

On the basis of specimens, these species have hybridized on at least three occasions: a male was collected in Michigan 19 May 1920, a female in Ontario 25 May 1970, and a male in Texas 9 June 1969 (Brodkorb 1934, Graves 1996). A reported hybrid with Parkesia noveboracensis, the Northern Waterthrush (Short and Robbins 1967), was more likely a cross between P. noveboracensis and S. tigrina, the Cape May Warbler (Parkes 1995). Likewise, the "Carbonated Warbler," one of Audubon's many (in)famously undiagnosable birds, was postulated to be hybrid S. striata and S. tigrina (Cockrum 1952), but Parkes (1985) argued convincingly that the "Carbonated Warbler" was no more than first-spring male S. tigrina and not a hybrid at all.

Fossil History

No information.

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