Birds of North Carolina:
their Distribution and Abundance
Blackpoll Warbler - Setophaga striata
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General Comments The Blackpoll Warbler, at a glance at its breeding range, would seem to have a similar migration pattern through North Carolina as most other spruce-fir breeding warblers. However, it winters in eastern South America, and instead of flying around the western end of the Gulf of Mexico or across the Gulf, it migrates in spring northwestward through the West Indies and Florida, spreading out northward across all of the East. Thus, it is found over the state's Coastal Plain, as well as the other regions, in spring. But, in fall, the birds migrate almost east-southeastward to the Atlantic coast from Cape Hatteras northward, and then fly non-stop for several dozen hours across the Atlantic to reach the coast of South America! In fall in North Carolina, it is thus found mainly in the northeastern portion of the state, to include the northern mountains. In spring migration, its high "squeaking brake" song can be heard from the canopy of scattered hardwoods in cities and towns, parks, and other woodlots and forests. In fall, like other warblers, it is mostly silent and is easily overlooked in various types of wooded habitats. As with many other warblers, males in fall look nothing like they do in spring, and Blackpoll Warbler males resemble females at that season, when easily confused with Bay-breasted 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, uncommon to at times fairly common over most of the region, likely less numerous in the central and eastern portions. In fall, fairly common along the northern coast (Cape Hatteras northward), and uncommon in the Tidewater area; generally rare elsewhere, and very rare in the southern portion of the region. Mainly late Apr to late May, and late Sep to late Oct. An immature female at North River Farms (Carteret) on 2 Dec 2012 [Chat 77:63 link] was very late in departing. Two on Roanoke Island (Dare) on 10 Dec 2016 [Chat 81:56 link] were very late. Additional early winter records from 2020 were singles photographed on 5 Dec at River Park North (Pitt) and on 11 Dec in northeastern Craven; this latter record is the latest for the state. Peak counts: 200, Currituck Banks, 14 Oct 1989.
Piedmont Transient. Fairly common (formerly common) across the region in spring; in fall, generally uncommon in the northern portion, and rare in the southern portion. Mainly very late Apr to late May, and late Sep to mid-Oct. A report of two birds at Winston-Salem on 1 Dec 1973 is likely a mis-identification. However, one was photographed in Raleigh on 18 Dec 2021* [Chat 86:64 link]; the NC BRC has accepted this remarkably late-season report [Chat 87:25 link]. Peak counts: not available for spring (when more numerous than in fall), but 15 at Jordan Lake (Chatham) on 5 Nov 2023 is an excellent number for that month.
Mountains Transient. Fairly common in low to middle elevations in spring; rare at high elevations. In fall, generally rare over the region, more likely to occur in the northern counties. Mainly late Apr to late May, and late Sep to mid-Oct. Peak counts:
Finding Tips Normally not hard to find between 5-20 May, especially around 10-15 May, in many parks in the state. As with most migrants, numbers can be erratic from day to day.
Attribution LeGrand[2024-02-11], LeGrand[2023-05-16], LeGrand[2023-04-08]
NC Map
Map depicts all counties with a report (transient or resident) for the species.
Click on county for list of all known species.