Birds of North Carolina:
their Distribution and Abundance
Bay-breasted Warbler - Setophaga castanea
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General Comments The Bay-breasted Warbler has a similar breeding range to that of the Cape May Warbler and the Tennessee Warbler, and these (along with the Blackburnian and Blackpoll warblers) are called "spruce budworm" species, as their populations rise and fall following outbreaks of their favored food -- caterpillars of the spruce budworm. Bay-breasted Warblers winter in the tropics, and migrate mainly through the mountains and Piedmont, and the Coastal Plain in fall. While in North Carolina, migrants are often in mixed flocks with other birds in the hardwood canopy of forests and woodlands; they do occur in conifers to a lesser extent. Male Bay-breasteds have an unusual color combination, but sadly this is molted prior to them reaching the state in fall. At that season, the species can be confused with both Blackpoll and Pine warblers.
Breeding Status Nonbreeder
NC BRC List Definitive
State Status
U.S. Status
State Rank SZ
Global Rank G5
Coastal Plain Transient. In spring, very rare along the western edge, and very rare to rare near and along the coast; casual over most of the province. In fall, uncommon over most of the region, even along the coast. Primarily mid- and late May, and mid-Sep to mid-Oct. Peak counts:
Piedmont Transient. In spring, rare to uncommon in the western half, and rare in the eastern half of the region. In fall, generally uncommon, though can be fairly common in the western portion after cold fronts. Seldom common in fall. Mainly early and mid-May, and early Sep to late Oct. Peak counts:
Mountains Transient. In spring, rare to uncommon in the lower elevations, and rare at middle elevations. In fall, fairly common to often common (a day or two after a cold front); sizable numbers can be seen along the Blue Ridge Parkway in fall. Mainly early to late May, and late Aug to mid-Oct. Peak counts: 275, Balsam Gap along the Blue Ridge Parkway (Buncombe), 24 Sep 2023.
Finding Tips You should be able to see the species in fall in late Sep or early Oct along the Blue Ridge Parkway and other mountain sites, at least after a cold front.
Attribution LeGrand[2024-02-11], LeGrand[2023-04-07], LeGrand[2018-02-01]
NC Map
Map depicts all counties with a report (transient or resident) for the species.
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