Canada Warbler Cardellina canadensis

Len R. Reitsma, Michael T. Hallworth, Marissa McMahon, and Courtney J. Conway
Version: 2.0 — Published May 7, 2020


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Breeding Range

Range description based on Dunn and Garrett (8) and other references as noted. Breeds across most of the boreal forest, and across much of southeastern Canada, northeastern United States, the Great Lakes region, and south (at higher elevations) along the Appalachian Mountains to northeastern Georgia.

Breeds north to southwestern Northwest Territories (Liard Valley; 39), northern Alberta (40), north-central Saskatchewan (41), central Manitoba, north-central Ontario (42), south-central Quebec (but not reported on Magdalen Islands or Anticosti Island in second breeding bird atlas in Quebec; 43), northern New Brunswick, Prince Edward Island, and northern Nova Scotia (44).

Range extends west to northeastern British Columbia, primarily within the Peace River lowlands in the Boreal Plains, Fort Nelson River lowlands within the Taiga Plains ecoprovinces, and low-elevation valleys that drain Rocky Mountain foothills (45), and extreme southeastern Yukon (46). Breeds south to south-central Alberta (40), south-central and southeastern Saskatchewan (41), southern Manitoba, northeastern Minnesota, central Wisconsin (47), the western and northern Lower Peninsula of Michigan, southern Ontario (42), central Pennsylvania (48), northwestern New Jersey (49), southern Connecticut (50), southern Rhode Island (51), and southeastern Massachusetts (52). Range extends further south through the Appalachian Mountains of southwestern Pennsylvania (48) to include extreme western Maryland (53), east-central West Virginia (54), western Virginia, extreme southeastern Kentucky (55), westernmost North Carolina, easternmost Tennessee (56), and extreme northeastern Georgia (57). Small numbers also breed south locally to southern Wisconsin (47), northeastern and south-central Ohio (58), northern Illinois, and extreme northern Indiana. Found nesting up to 1,680 m elevation. Possibly breeds in northwestern South Carolina and probably breeds irregularly in northeastern North Dakota (Pembina Hills) and northeastern Iowa (8). See also Figure 2.

Overwintering Range

From Andes of northern Venezuela and Colombia south through eastern Ecuador to southern Peru (59); mostly in and east of Andes. A few records from Amazon region of Venezuela and Brazil (59). Rare winter records from foothills of Panama (60, 5) and casually north to Costa Rica (8). Winter records from Mexico (61) considered questionable (5), and those from Honduras (62) and Belize (63) may pertain to fall stragglers (8).

Reportedly reaches greatest abundance in eastern Colombia, and northern Andes of Peru and southern Ecuador (14, 59), also supported by recent tracking data from across the breeding range (Roberto-Charron, unpublished data). Most common between 1,000 and 1,800 m elevation. Occurs in primary and secondary forest, edges of pastures and agricultural fields, and young successional fields of former agricultural patches.

Two summer records (July and 9 August) from Peru and Ecuador, suggest birds that failed to migrate (59).

Other Records

Irregular migrant in Colorado, New Mexico, Arizona, western Montana, Oregon, Utah, Wyoming, and southwestern British Columbia (64, 65, 66, 67, 8, 68). Two accidental records from northern coast (Beaufort Sea area) in Alaska (69, 70). Casual in Bahamas, Bermuda, Cuba, Jamaica, Hispaniola, St. Croix, Guadeloupe, Puerto Rico, Netherland Antilles, Trinidad, Virgin Islands, St. Martin, Barbados, La Guadeloupe, and St. Lucia (71, 72, 73, 74, 75, 76, 77, 78, 79, 80, 8182). It is rare, but regular on Bermuda in fall migration (25 August–24 October; 83, eBird).

Accidental records from Greenland (84), Iceland (male on 29 September 1973; 4), Ireland (October 2006; 85), and Corvo Island, Azores (7 October 2016; photos in eBird).

Historical Changes to the Distribution

The historical distribution of the Canada Warbler was reduced somewhat in southwestern Ontario because of land cleared for farming (86, 87), whereas elimination of original pine forest and subsequent replacement by mixed forest may have allowed distribution to expand in south-central Ontario (86). More recently, and despite declines in Canada Warbler abundance, there was no change in overall distribution between the first (1981–1985) and second breeding bird atlas (2001–2005) projects in Ontario (42). Similarly, although there were declines in probability of observation, there was no change in overall distribution between first (1984–1989) and second breeding bird atlas (2010–2014) projects in Quebec (43), and no change in distribution between first (1986–1990) and second atlas (2006–2010) projects in the Maritime Provinces (44). Canada Warbler has expanded into northeastern British Columbia, where the first record was in 1974; it is now now found primarily within the Peace River lowlands in the Boreal Plains and the Fort Nelson River lowlands within the Taiga Plains ecoprovinces, and low-elevation valleys that drain the Rocky Mountain foothills (45). There is anecdotal evidence of a northward spread into Northwest Territories (A. Roberto-Charron, personal communication).

Within the United States, there was no change in overall distribution between first (1983–1989) and second breeding bird atlas (2004–2009) projects in Pennsylvania, though only 45% of the atlas blocks occupied in 1983–1989 were occupied in 2004–2009; such high turnover suggests that some populations are ephemeral, which may be related to changes in forest structure (48). There was no change in overall distribution between first (1980–1985) and second breeding bird atlas (2000–2005) projects in New York (88), and no change in distribution between first (1977–1981) and second atlas (2003–2007) projects in Vermont (89), although there were strong declines in block occupancy in both states. Canada Warbler may have disappeared from the lower peninsula of Michigan in late 1800s and early 1900s because of forest clearing, but has reoccupied some of this area as isolated forest patches have regenerated (90).

Distribution of the Canada Warbler
  • Year-round
  • Migration
  • Breeding
  • Non-Breeding
Distribution of the Canada Warbler
Canada Warbler, Abundance map
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Data provided by eBird

Canada Warbler

Cardellina canadensis


This map depicts the seasonally-averaged estimated relative abundance, defined as the expected count on an eBird Traveling Count starting at the optimal time of day with the optimal search duration and distance that maximizes detection of that species in a region.  Learn more

Relative abundance
Breeding season
Jun 14 - Jul 20
Non-breeding season
Nov 2 - Mar 15
Pre-breeding migratory season
Mar 22 - Jun 7
Post-breeding migratory season
Jul 27 - Oct 26
Note: Seasonal ranges overlap and are stacked in the order above; view full range in season maps.
Seasons timeline
Learn more

Recommended Citation

Reitsma, L. R., M. T. Hallworth, M. McMahon, and C. J. Conway (2020). Canada Warbler (Cardellina canadensis), version 2.0. In Birds of the World (P. G. Rodewald and B. K. Keeney, Editors). Cornell Lab of Ornithology, Ithaca, NY, USA. https://doi.org/10.2173/bow.canwar.02