Dendroica pinuspine warbler

Last updated:

Geographic Range

Pine warblers, Dendroica pinus, range throughout most of eastern North America. Their northern range extends to the most southern portions of Manitoba, Ontario, and Quebec in Canada. The southern extent of their range extends from Florida, to the southern tip of Texas. The eastern border of the range is the Atlantic coast of the United States (US) and Canada, while its western range runs through the US states of Minnesota, Wisconsin, Illinois, Missouri, Arkansas, and Texas. The breeding range of pine warblers covers much of their general range with the exception of parts of southern Texas and Louisiana. Despite the large breeding range, it is worth noting that breeding populations are often quite isolated in the central parts of their range. The winter range of pine warblers includes much of the southern portion of their breeding range which is unusual for a wood warbler. Their winter range extends as far north as mid-Arkansas, southern Tennessee, as well as southern Virginia. (Chapman, 1907; Dunne, 2006; Harrison, 1984; Rodewald, et al., 2011; Sibley, 2003)

Habitat

Pine warblers can be found almost exclusively in pine forests except during migration, when they may be found in habitats with few or no conifers, in addition to pine forests. There appears to be a preference for open pine forests; however they have been found in dense conifer stands or in small pockets of pines in a predominately deciduous forest. (Chapman, 1907; Dunne, 2006; Ehrlich, et al., 1988; Harrison, 1984; Sibley, 2003)

Physical Description

Pine warblers are larger wood warblers with an average wingspan of 22 cm and average length of 14 cm. The average mass of pine warblers is around 12 g, however, individuals have been recorded with body masses ranging from 9.4 to 15.1 g. The average metabolic rate for pine warblers is 30.6 cm^3 oxygen per hour. (Baicich and Harrison, 2005; Chapman, 1907; Dunne, 2006; Sibley, 2003)

There is no data about sexual dimorphism in size for pine warblers however their sexual dimorphism in plumage is well known. Pine warblers exhibit much more subdued tones than many other warblers. Male breeding plumage includes an olive to yellow crown with this same coloration shared by the auriculars and the mantle. In contrast to the slightly drab crown there will be yellow orbital feathers and yellow lores, malar, and throat. The breast is yellow with olive streaking that fades into a white belly with some continuation of the olive streaks. The coverts, primaries, secondaries, tertials, and tail are grayish in coloration with some faint wing-bars. The legs, feet, and beak are dark in coloration. (Baicich and Harrison, 2005; Chapman, 1907; Dunne, 2006; Sibley, 2003)

Non-breeding males and females tend to be somewhat similar in plumage which is similar in pattern to the female breeding plumage except more subdued in coloration with more olive and brown tones. First year females are very subdued in coloration although they maintain the same characteristic markings. Newborn pine warblers are altricial and eventually develop dark brown, downy feathers. (Baicich and Harrison, 2005; Chapman, 1907; Dunne, 2006; Sibley, 2003)

  • Sexual Dimorphism
  • sexes colored or patterned differently
  • male more colorful
  • Range mass
    9.4 to 15.1 g
    0.33 to 0.53 oz
  • Average mass
    11.9 g
    0.42 oz
  • Average length
    14 cm
    5.51 in
  • Average wingspan
    22 cm
    8.66 in
  • Average basal metabolic rate
    30.6 cm3.O2/g/hr

Reproduction

Little is known about the courtship behaviors of pine warblers. There is some evidence to suggest that mate guarding takes place and males have been observed to be antagonistic towards other males. It is believed that they are monogamous throughout the breeding season with no extra pair copulations being recorded. It is unknown if pairs remain coupled for more than one breeding season. (Morse, 1989; Rodewald, et al., 2011)

Pine warblers normally begin nest building in late March to early June in the north. Nests are almost always built in one of 15 species in the genus Pinus. Nests are constructed normally between 8 and 12 meters off the ground although finding a nest between 3 and 35 meters high is not that uncommon and there is one report of ground nesting. Nests are built almost exclusively on horizontal branches, often at a fork which gives a sturdy base to build a nest. Their compact cup nests are constructed from strips of bark, plant stems, pine twigs, and leaves bound with silk form caterpillar cocoons or spider’s webs. Nests are then lined with feathers, hair, and soft plant material. Nest building is done almost exclusively by females, however males often accompany their mates while singing frequently. (Baicich and Harrison, 2005; Chapman, 1907; Dunne, 2006; Ehrlich, et al., 1988; Harrison, 1984; Reed, 1965)

A clutch of 4 white spotted eggs are laid, although in rare cases 3 or 5 are laid. The eggs are incubated almost exclusively by females, but males are known to feed mates during egg incubation which lasts for a period of 12 to 13 days. Newborns are ready to leave the nest after about 10 days. A pair of pine warblers may have 1 to 3 clutches per year. It is believed that individuals are sexually mature after one year however there is no direct evidence to support this. (Baicich and Harrison, 2005; Chapman, 1907; Dunne, 2006; Ehrlich, et al., 1988; Harrison, 1984; Reed, 1965)

  • Breeding interval
    Pine warblers will brood 1 or 3 clutches per year.
  • Breeding season
    The breeding season for pine warblers takes place from late March to early June.
  • Range eggs per season
    3 to 5
  • Range time to hatching
    12 to 13 days
  • Average fledging age
    10 days
  • Average age at sexual or reproductive maturity (female)
    1 years
  • Average age at sexual or reproductive maturity (male)
    1 years

Females both construct nests and perform all incubation duties. During these periods, males will occasionally bring food to their mates as well as sing to defend the territory. The chicks are born altricial and are fed by both parents until they are ready to leave the nest. Time to independence is currently unknown, but parents likely continue to care for their brood for several days post-fledging. (Baicich and Harrison, 2005; Ehrlich, et al., 1988; Rodewald, et al., 2011)

  • Parental Investment
  • altricial
  • male parental care
  • female parental care
  • pre-fertilization
    • provisioning
    • protecting
      • female
  • pre-hatching/birth
    • provisioning
      • female
    • protecting
      • male
      • female
  • pre-weaning/fledging
    • provisioning
      • male
      • female
    • protecting
      • male
      • female

Lifespan/Longevity

Little is known about the lifespan of pine warblers, but the oldest recorded banded individual was 6 years old when it was recaptured for the second time. ("Longevity Records Of North American Birds", 2011; Rodewald, et al., 2011)

  • Range lifespan
    Status: wild
    6 (low) years

Behavior

Pine warblers will hop both on substrate and on trees. They will also climb and descend tree trunks to get from branch to branch. Pine warblers will regularly preen themselves for up to 15 minutes. Individuals will display occasional tail pumping. Pine warblers have flight that is fairly typical for warblers with irregular wing beats. This is a migratory species that relocates to spend a different portion of the year in two different regions. Some southern populations may remain in relatively the same area year-round. Pine warblers complete most activities during the day, but will migrate nocturnally. This species is most active at dawn during the breeding season when males sing vigorously from treetops within their territories. (Baicich and Harrison, 2005; Chapman, 1907; Rodewald, et al., 2011)

  • Range territory size
    1,000 to 10,000 m^2

Home Range

Little is known about the territory size maintained by pine warblers. The largest recorded territory was 1 hectare while the smallest was 0.1 hectare. It is believed that habitat quality greatly affects territory size. (Rodewald, et al., 2011)

Communication and Perception

Like most warblers, only male pine warblers sing. Unlike most other warblers, males can be heard singing throughout the year, though there is a noticeable increase in the frequency of their songs during the early part of the breeding season. Songs are short, and typically only last a second or two. Their song is characterized as a short rapid trill that can have a fair amount of improvisation. Notes are often similar in pitch and slightly slurred. Both sexes also make contact calls, which are high chirps of short duration. Rarely, they make a flight call that sounds like “seet”, but this call is often very weak and therefore rarely heard. (Chapman, 1907; Dunne, 2006; Rodewald, et al., 2011; Sibley, 2003)

Food Habits

Like almost all warblers, the diet of pine warblers consists mostly of insects and spiders. Most foraging is done in the mid to upper regions of pines and occasionally in deciduous trees. When arthropods are scarce, they are able to have more varied diets that include pine seeds, fruit, and berries. During the winter, they have been recorded eating corn, sunflower seeds, and suet from feeders. Pine warblers likely get all the water they need from their food because there are no reports of individuals drinking and they are often found nesting far from any water source. (Ehrlich, et al., 1988; Harrison, 1984; Rodewald, et al., 2011)

  • Animal Foods
  • insects
  • terrestrial non-insect arthropods
  • Plant Foods
  • seeds, grains, and nuts
  • fruit

Predation

Little information exists about predation on pine warblers, but there is least one account of egg predation by blue jays. (Beane and Alford, 1990; Ehrlich, et al., 1988; Harrison, 1984; Rodewald, et al., 2011)

Ecosystem Roles

Pine warblers have been known to join mixed-species flocks during migration which contain both warblers and other passerines. Pine warblers are also uncommon hosts for brown-headed cowbirds. Female brown-headed cowbirds may remove the existing warbler eggs or simply add their own. In response to this, some pine warblers have been noted to bury the foreign eggs within in the bottom of the nest. Pine warblers are known hosts of endoparasites from the genera Plasmodium (causing malaria), Leucocytozoon, and Haemoproteus. Pine warblers are also known hosts of the rabbit ticks, louse flies, flies, and deer ticks. (Beane and Alford, 1990; Dunne, 2006; Ehrlich, et al., 1988; Harrison, 1984; Rodewald, et al., 2011)

Commensal/Parasitic Species

Economic Importance for Humans: Positive

Pine warblers may generate a small amount of ecotourism from birders. They may also benefit people by consuming insects which are pests to humans. (Rodewald, et al., 2011)

  • Positive Impacts
  • ecotourism
  • controls pest population

Economic Importance for Humans: Negative

There are no known negative economic impacts from pine warblers. (Rodewald, et al., 2011)

Conservation Status

Pine warblers are currently listed as a species of least concern. This species occupies a large range throughout most of the eastern United States, however its range is threatened by logging and development causing habitat loss and fragmentation. Future studies should focus on the impacts of this habitat loss and ensure that populations are large enough to persist. (Dunne, 2006; Rodewald, et al., 2011)

Contributors

Jacob Keck (author), Northern Michigan University, Mary Martin (editor), Northern Michigan University, Rachelle Sterling (editor), Special Projects, Catherine Kent (editor), Special Projects.

Glossary

Nearctic

living in the Nearctic biogeographic province, the northern part of the New World. This includes Greenland, the Canadian Arctic islands, and all of the North American as far south as the highlands of central Mexico.

World Map

acoustic

uses sound to communicate

altricial

young are born in a relatively underdeveloped state; they are unable to feed or care for themselves or locomote independently for a period of time after birth/hatching. In birds, naked and helpless after hatching.

arboreal

Referring to an animal that lives in trees; tree-climbing.

bilateral symmetry

having body symmetry such that the animal can be divided in one plane into two mirror-image halves. Animals with bilateral symmetry have dorsal and ventral sides, as well as anterior and posterior ends. Synapomorphy of the Bilateria.

carnivore

an animal that mainly eats meat

chemical

uses smells or other chemicals to communicate

diurnal
  1. active during the day, 2. lasting for one day.
ecotourism

humans benefit economically by promoting tourism that focuses on the appreciation of natural areas or animals. Ecotourism implies that there are existing programs that profit from the appreciation of natural areas or animals.

endothermic

animals that use metabolically generated heat to regulate body temperature independently of ambient temperature. Endothermy is a synapomorphy of the Mammalia, although it may have arisen in a (now extinct) synapsid ancestor; the fossil record does not distinguish these possibilities. Convergent in birds.

female parental care

parental care is carried out by females

forest

forest biomes are dominated by trees, otherwise forest biomes can vary widely in amount of precipitation and seasonality.

insectivore

An animal that eats mainly insects or spiders.

iteroparous

offspring are produced in more than one group (litters, clutches, etc.) and across multiple seasons (or other periods hospitable to reproduction). Iteroparous animals must, by definition, survive over multiple seasons (or periodic condition changes).

male parental care

parental care is carried out by males

migratory

makes seasonal movements between breeding and wintering grounds

monogamous

Having one mate at a time.

motile

having the capacity to move from one place to another.

native range

the area in which the animal is naturally found, the region in which it is endemic.

oviparous

reproduction in which eggs are released by the female; development of offspring occurs outside the mother's body.

seasonal breeding

breeding is confined to a particular season

sexual

reproduction that includes combining the genetic contribution of two individuals, a male and a female

tactile

uses touch to communicate

taiga

Coniferous or boreal forest, located in a band across northern North America, Europe, and Asia. This terrestrial biome also occurs at high elevations. Long, cold winters and short, wet summers. Few species of trees are present; these are primarily conifers that grow in dense stands with little undergrowth. Some deciduous trees also may be present.

temperate

that region of the Earth between 23.5 degrees North and 60 degrees North (between the Tropic of Cancer and the Arctic Circle) and between 23.5 degrees South and 60 degrees South (between the Tropic of Capricorn and the Antarctic Circle).

terrestrial

Living on the ground.

territorial

defends an area within the home range, occupied by a single animals or group of animals of the same species and held through overt defense, display, or advertisement

visual

uses sight to communicate

References

United States Geological Survey. Longevity Records Of North American Birds. 6710. Washington D.C.: United States Geological Survey. 2011. Accessed April 15, 2011 at http://www.pwrc.usgs.gov/BBL/homepage/long5930.cfm.

Baicich, P., C. Harrison. 2005. Nests, Eggs, and Nestlings of North American Birds. Princeton: Princeton University Press.

Beane, J., S. Alford. 1990. Destruction of a Pine Warbler brood by an adult cowbird. Chat, 54: 85-87.

Chapman, F. 1907. The Warblers of North America. New York: D. Appleton & Company.

Dunne, P. 2006. Essential Feild Guide Companion. New York: Houghton Mifflin Company.

Ehrlich, P., D. Dobkin, D. Wheye. 1988. The Birders handbook. New York: Simon and Schuster.

Harrison, H. 1984. Wood Warblers' World. New York: Simon and Schuster.

Morse, D. 1989. American Warblers. Cambridge: Harvard University Press.

Reed, C. 1965. North American Bird Eggs. New York: Dover Publications.

Rodewald, P., J. Withgott, K. Smith. 2011. "Pine Warbler" (On-line). The Birds of North America. Accessed April 15, 2011 at http://bna.birds.cornell.edu/bna/species/438/articles/introduction.

Sibley, D. 2003. Sibley Feild guide to Birds. New York: Alfred A. Knopf Inc.