Status: Rare regular spring migrant east, rare casual elsewhere. Rare casual summer visitor east and central. Rare casual fall migrant statewide.
Documentation: Specimen: UNSM ZM10813, 15 May 1888 Peru, Nemaha Co.
Taxonomy: No subspecies are recognized (Pyle 1997).
For a discussion of hybridization of this species and Golden-winged Warbler, see the Golden-winged x Blue-winged Warbler (hybrid) species account.
Spring: May 5, 6, 8 <<<>>> May 21, 22, 22
A later date away from likely breeding locations is 4 Jun 2005 Scotts Bluff Co.
Most of the 50 or so spring reports are from the east in late Apr-early Jun, although documented records limit the dates to those cited above, which are not known to be related to later summer occurrences of perhaps the same individuals. For such reports and for other later reports, see Summer.
There are four reports from the Panhandle, 6 May 2000 Carter Canyon, Scotts Bluff Co (Jorgensen 2002), two photographed on 8 May 2007 Scotts Bluff Co (the initial report of two birds was not accepted by NOURC, but a female photographed in the area the same day was (Brogie 2008)), 20 May 1982 Sioux Co, and 4 Jun 2005, a female, Gering Cemetery, Scotts Bluff Co. There are few other reports away from the east, most westerly of these 19 May 1993, a female netted in Keith Co (Brown et al 1996), a singing male at Lake Ogallala, Keith Co 15 May 2004, 15 May 1982 Keya Paha Co (Brogie and Mossman 1983), 17-18 May 1980 Thomas Co (Bray 1994), and 22 May 1971 Brown Co.
Considered “possibly the best total for one season”, six were reported in Sarpy Co 5-24 May 1995. Other good counts were the four on 30 Apr-21 May 2011, four on 11-30 May 2014 in the east, and four in 2015. However, sightings have declined in recent years as Golden-winged Warbler sightings have increased; no Blue-winged Warblers were reported in spring 2020 or 2021. Two were reported in 2022 and only one in 2023.
Summer: Nebraska is at the extreme western edge of the breeding range with no confirmed breeding records for over 100 years. The only evidence for breeding is a set of eggs ascribed to this species collected in Sarpy Co 8 Jun 1901 (Ducey 1988, Mollhoff 2022) and a possible replacement clutch there 18 Jun 1901 (Mollhoff 2022). According to Bruner et al (1904), it was a “rather common summer resident and breeder in the wooded Missouri bottoms,” said to be “present about Omaha and Peru all summer.” There are no breeding reports since that time, suggesting a significant range contraction possibly resulting from clearing of preferred habitat. It was a regular breeder in the Kansas City area until the 1940s (Robbins and Easterla 1992), although there is a small breeding population in northwest Missouri at Weston Bend SP, Platte Co, where territorial males have been present each year since about 1996, although “vegetational succession” is threatening the small population (Robbins 2018). It breeds throughout most of the southeast half of Iowa (Kent and Dinsmore 1996).
Recent Nebraska records of potential breeding are of one singing in “perfect breeding habitat” four miles south of Verdigre, Knox Co along the Verdigre Creek 8 Jun 2002 and found there again 24 May 2003 (Mark Brogie, pers. comm.), singing birds in Keya Paha Co 18 Jun 1999 and 4-19 Jun 2000 (recorded, Jorgensen 2003).
Additional summer reports in likely breeding locations are 11 Jun 1993 Sarpy Co (Grzybowski 1993), 11 Jun 1999 Fontenelle Forest, Sarpy Co, and 6 Jul 1974 Douglas-Sarpy Cos.
Fall: There are only 18 fall reports, all during 28 Aug-16 Sep, with one very late documented record 3 Oct 1982 Madison Co (eBird.org).
There are two Panhandle reports. One at Chadron SP, Dawes Co 28 Aug 2016 was well-described by a bander from Bird Conservancy of the Rockies, although not accepted by NOURC, (Brogie 2017). The other was photographed at Gering Cemetery, Scotts Bluff Co 31 Aug-1 Sep 2022 (Brenner, eBird.org. Westerly was one in Custer Co 30 Aug 1970.
The only recent fall reports (not all documented) are 31 Aug-1 Sep 2022 Scotts Bluff Co, 2 Sep 1994 Dakota Co, 1 Sep 2019 Lancaster Co, 7 Sep 2015 Lincoln, Lancaster Co, 9-10 Sep 1995 Dixon Co, 9 Sep 2018 Sarpy Co, 10 Sep 2018 Lancaster Co, 10 Sep 2019 Lancaster Co, 15 Sep 2011 Lancaster Co.
NOURC: Nebraska Ornithologists’ Union Records Committee
SP: State Park
UNSM: University of Nebraska State Museum
Bray, T.E., B.K. Padelford, and W.R. Silcock. 1986. The birds of Nebraska: A critically evaluated list. Published by the authors, Bellevue, Nebraska, USA.
Brogie, M.A. 2008. 2007 (19th) Report of the NOU Records Committee. NBR 76: 111-119.
Brogie, M.A., and M.J. Mossman. 1983. Spring and summer birds of the Niobrara Valley Preserve, Nebraska: An annotated checklist. NBR 51: 44-51.
Brown, C.R., M.B. Brown, P.A. Johnsgard, J. Kren, and W.C. Scharf. 1996. Birds of the Cedar Point Biological Station area, Keith and Garden Counties, Nebraska: Seasonal occurrence and breeding data. Transactions of the Nebraska Academy of Sciences 23: 91-108.
Bruner, L., R.H. Wolcott, and M.H. Swenk. 1904. A preliminary review of the birds of Nebraska, with synopses. Klopp and Bartlett, Omaha, Nebraska, USA.
Ducey, J.E. 1988. Nebraska birds, breeding status and distribution. Simmons-Boardman Books, Omaha, Nebraska, USA.
Grzybowski, J.A. 1993. Southern Great Plains Region. American Birds 47: 1122-1124.
Jorgensen, J.G. 2002. 2002 (sic; =2000). (12th) Report of the NOU Records Committee. NBR 70: 84-90.
Jorgensen, J.G. 2003. 2001 (13th) Report of the NOU Records Committee. NBR 71: 97-102.
Kent, T.H., and J.J. Dinsmore. 1996. Birds in Iowa. Publshed by the authors, Iowa City and Ames, Iowa, USA.
Mollhoff, W.J. 2022. Nest records of Nebraska birds. Nebraska Ornithologists’ Union Occasional Paper Number 9.
Pyle, P. 1997. Identification Guide to North American Birds. Part I, Columbidae to Ploceidae. Slate Creek Press, Bolinas, California, USA.
Robbins, M.B. 2018. The Status and Distribution of Birds in Missouri. University of Kansas Biodiversity Institute, Lawrence, Kansas, USA.
Robbins, M.B., and D.A. Easterla. 1992. Birds of Missouri, their distribution and abundance. University of Missouri Press, Columbia, Missouri, USA.
Silcock, W.R., and J.G. Jorgensen. 2022. Blue-winged Warbler (Vermivora cyanoptera). In Birds of Nebraska — Online. www.BirdsofNebraska.org
Birds of Nebraska – Online
Updated 31 Dec 2022