Birds of North Carolina:
their Distribution and Abundance
Townsend's Warbler - Setophaga townsendi
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General Comments This close relative of the Black-throated Green Warbler breeds only from Alaska to the northwestern portion of the Lower 48 States; it winters along the Pacific Coast and southward into Mexico. Though it would seem an unlikely candidate to stray to the Eastern states, most such states do have records. Thankfully, as of 2023, North Carolina has about eight records, nearly all from the coast and one from the mountains.
Breeding Status Nonbreeder
NC BRC List Definitive
State Status
U.S. Status
State Rank SA
Global Rank G5
Coastal Plain Casual visitor, mainly in fall, with seven to eight published reports. Four have been reviewed and accepted by the NC BRC: one photographed on the northern dike of North Pond at Pea Island NWR (Dare) on 7 Nov 1992* [Chat 61:274-75 link]; one specimen salvaged from a boat offshore on 20 Sep 1999* [Chat 66:4 link]; one photographed at North River Preserve (Carteret) from 30 Sep - 3 Oct 2018* [Chat 83:36 link]; and one photographed in a yard in Hatteras (Dare) on 23-24 Sep 2020* [Chat 85:38 link]. There is also one un-reviewed report from the Elizabethan Gardens, Roanoke Island (Dare) on 27 Apr 2000 [Chat 64:157 link]. A recent report, not yet reviewed, was one photographed at Duck (Dare) on 28-29 Sep 2019 [Chat 84:27 link]. Though the report was made by an experienced observer, with probably little reason to doubt it, the report was not reviewed because no detailed description of the bird was ever made available to the NC BRC. Photos of the North River Preserve bird are on the Carolina Bird Club Photo Gallery. Lastly, one was photographed in Colington Harbour (Dare) on 22 Jan 2023 [Chat 87:44 link], for a first state winter record; and presumably this same bird was photographed there on 13 Mar 2023 [Chat 87:62 link], suggesting that it survived the winter. As with a few other reports listed above, this Colington Harbour bird has not yet been reviewed by the NC BRC.
Piedmont No records.
Mountains The only record is of a first-year female photographed at the Richland Balsam Overlook, along the Jackson/Haywood line, on 13 Sep 2014* [Chat 79:14 link], [Chat 79:53 link]. Photos are on the Carolina Bird Club Photo Gallery.
Finding Tips
Attribution LeGrand[2023-08-10], LeGrand[2023-05-19], LeGrand[2023-04-10]
NC Map
Map depicts all counties with a report (transient or resident) for the species.
Click on county for list of all known species.