Nashville Warbler (Vermivora ruficapilla)

Photo by Dennis Malueg Nashville Warbler by Dennis MaluegNashville Warbler distribution map


Population Information

Federal BBS information can be obtained at by clicking on Trend Estimates and selecting the species in question. All estimates are for 1966-2005.

*Note: There are important deficiencies with these data. These results may be compromised by small sample size, low relative abundance on survey route, imprecise trends, and/or missing data. Caution should be used when evaluating this trend.

Life History

Habitat Selection

Throughout its range, the Nashville Warbler prefers second growth, open deciduous or mixed-species forests (Williams 1996). In Wisconsin it occurs in these and a variety of other habitat types, including boreal forest stands (Mossman et al. 1990), jack pine forests (Hoffman and Mossman 1990, Robbins et al. 1996), wetland conifer forests, and pine barrens (Mossman and Epstein 1991) but is relatively uncommon in northern mesic forests (Hoffman 1989). In the Chequamegon-Nicolet National Forest, it prefers saw-sized jack pine, pole-sized jack pine and tamarack, regenerating jack pine and red pine, and alder (Danz et al. 2007). Within these habitats, a well-developed ground cover (Howe 2006) and a conifer component (Pearson and Niemi 2000) are important characteristics. Nests are built on or near the ground, concealed by leaves, grasses, or mosses, and often located along forest edges and other clearings (Williams 1996). 

Habitat Availability

Habitat is likely not limiting the Nashville Warbler in Wisconsin, which appears to be less vulnerable to habitat change than many other Neotropical migrants. It readily uses second-growth and cut-over areas (Williams 1996), which are prevalent in the logged northern region of the state. Furthermore, it is able to use a variety of forest types, many of which remain common on the landscape. Exceptions include white pine and boreal forest communities which have experienced significant loss within the past century (Mossman et al. 1990, WDNR 2005) and jack pine forests which currently face considerable threats. Jack pine forests continue to be replaced by red pine plantations in many areas of Wisconsin and face possible extirpation in less than 200 years according to some climate change models (Scheller and Mladenoff 2005).

Population Concerns

Breeding Bird Survey data suggest an annual increase in Wisconsin and range-wide, although neither are statistically significant trends (Sauer et al. 2005). Robbins (1991) considered the Nashville Warbler a common summer resident in northern Wisconsin and uncommon in the central region. Wisconsin Breeding Bird Atlas observers also documented higher concentrations in northern Wisconsin and confirmed breeding in 25% of the surveyed quads (Howe 2006). The Nashville Warbler’s ability to utilize second-growth forests and other edge habitats seems to ensure its continued stability in the state. However, its stability on the wintering grounds is not as certain and requires more study.

Recommended Management

The protection of lowland coniferous forests and muskegs should be a priority. Forest management practices that promote natural regeneration of jack pine and restoration/maintenance of hemlock, balsam fir, and other conifer species within northern forest ecosystems will benefit this species. This species will respond favorably to timber harvest provided a well-developed shrub layer is present (Schulte and Niemi 1998), thus maintaining structurally complex understories should be a priority. Conservation and management strategies for this species should be focused in the following Wisconsin ecological landscapes: Central Sand Plains, Forest Transition, Northeast Sands, North Central Forest, Northwest Sands, Northwest Lowlands, Superior Coastal Plain, and Northern Highland. On the wintering grounds, protection of tropical deciduous forests and cloud forest is important for this and a wide-range of other Neotropical migrants (Williams 1996).     

Research Needs

More research is needed on the breeding biology of the Nashville Warbler. Studies that measure reproductive success within different forest types and forest management regimes would further conservation efforts for this species. The impacts of Brown-headed Cowbird parasitism on Wisconsin population of Nashville Warblers needs more study. This species adapts well to habitat changes within its North American range, but the impacts of habitat alteration on the wintering grounds needs more study (Williams 1996).

Information Sources


Contact Information

Kreitinger, K., Y. Steele and A. Paulios, editors. 2013.
The Wisconsin All-bird Conservation Plan, Version 2.0. Wisconsin Bird Conservation Initiative.
Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources. Madison, WI.

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