Birds of North Carolina:
their Distribution and Abundance
Wilson's Warbler - Cardellina pusilla
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General Comments The Wilson's Warbler has a very wide breeding range, from Alaska to Newfoundland, and southward in most mountain ranges in the western United States. However, it does not nest southward into the Appalachians; thus, in North Carolina it can be found only in spring and fall migration, though there are quite a few records of wintering stragglers. It is a common bird in much of its breeding range, but the great majority of the birds migrate to the tropics around the western end of the Gulf of Mexico. Birders here must be afield often in spring and fall to see the species, though it is not truly a rare migrant through the state. The species is most often found in willow thickets, such as along the margins of lakes and ponds, but they are also found in various other deciduous trees, usually along wooded edges, especially in damp areas.
Breeding Status Nonbreeder
NC BRC List Definitive
State Status
U.S. Status
State Rank SZ
Global Rank G5
Coastal Plain Transient, and rare winter straggler. In spring, very rare in the western portions, and casual to very rare farther eastward to the coast. In fall, rare over the region, including the coast. Very rare straggler into winter, with a number of records, mainly along the coast and at Lake Mattamuskeet; seldom overwinters, though one presumably did at Airlie Gardens (New Hanover), seen all winter 2020-21. Mainly early to late May (dates range from 4-27 May), and early Sep to mid-Oct. Peak counts: 3, on a number of dates and sites.
Piedmont Transient, and very rare winter straggler. Rare to very uncommon in both spring and fall, generally over the entire region. Not obviously more numerous in one area than another; also, not obviously more numerous in fall than in spring. Mainly late Apr to mid-May, and very late Aug to mid-Oct. Many scattered winter records, but only into Jan, except for one lingering in Charlotte to 14 Feb. Peak counts:
Mountains Transient. Very rare to rare in spring, and rare in fall. Mainly early to mid-May, and early Sep to mid-Oct. There are also "out-of-season" reports for 4 Apr and 20 Nov. Three winter records: one at Jackson Park (Henderson), 21 Dec 1997; one at Beaver Lake Bird Sanctuary (Buncombe), 21 Oct - 5 Dec 2015; and one in northeastern Henderson, 1-26 Dec 2020. Peak counts:
Finding Tips There are no real hotspots for the species, but Jackson Park in Hendersonville may be the best bet, particularly in Sep. In spring, this site, or places such as around the margins of Jordan or Falls lakes, within a few days of 10 May, might produce a bird over a several-day period.
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Attribution LeGrand[2021-05-18], LeGrand[2018-02-01], LeGrand[2016-06-04]
NC Map
Map depicts all counties with a report (transient or resident) for the species.
Click on county for list of all known species.