Vermivora chrysoptera

Status:  Uncommon regular spring migrant east, rare casual central, accidental west. Rare casual fall migrant east, accidental central and west.

Documentation:  Specimen: UNSM ZM16966, 15 May 1993 Lincoln, Lancaster Co (Brogie 1997).

Taxonomy:  No subspecies are recognized (Pyle 1997).

This species and Blue-winged Warbler V. cyanoptera hybridize frequently and produce fertile hybrids; genetic studies indicate introgression of cyanoptera haplotypes into chrysoptera phenotypes with no reverse movement (Confer et al 2011), indicating that chrysoptera is being replaced by cyanoptera (Confer et al 2011). The only known phenotypically and genetically pure populations of chrysoptera breed in Manitoba, where numbers are increasing (Confer et al 2011), possibly even to the extent of increasing numbers being reported in Nebraska.

The hybrid form “Brewster’s Warbler,” more common than the recessive form “Lawrence’s Warbler”, has been reported three times in Nebraska: in Keya Paha Co 19 May 1982 (Brogie and Mossman 1983), at Fontenelle Forest, Sarpy Co 6 Sep 2007, and at Oak Grove WMA, Seward Co 13 Sep 2008. There are no Nebraska reports of “Lawrence’s Warbler”.

Changes since 2000: There has been a noticeable increase in numbers of spring migrants coincident with increases in populations in the western portions of the species breeding range (Sauer et al 2017), especially Manitoba (Confer et al 2011).

Spring:  May 2,3,4 <<<>>> May 24,25,25

There is an earlier report 25 Apr 1982 Douglas-Sarpy Cos and a later report 6 Jun 1992 Keith Co (Brown et al 1996).

There are few reports away from the east, the single Panhandle record a singing male in Dawes Co 23 May 1997. Other westerly reports are 11 May 1991 Keith Co (Rosche 1994), 15 May 1998 Clear Creek WMA, Garden Co, 17 May 1955 Keith Co, one photographed 17 May 2008 Lake Ogallala, Keith Co, and 6 Jun 1992 Keith Co (Brown et al 1996).

Most reports of this species are recent; there were no reports until one was reported in Adams Co 17 May 1954, and there were only about 30 reports through 1992. There has been a marked increase in numbers in recent years, beginning with a major incursion in 1993 when there were 14 reports involving 15 birds, most at Fontenelle Forest (Grzybowski 1993). Most years since, 5-15 have been reported; 2016 was a banner year, with reports of 29 individuals and 27 were reported in 2018. These recent increases in numbers reflect a continuing increase in the breeding population in Manitoba, where it was “very rare” as a breeder in the 1950s (Confer et al 2011).

  • High counts: 5 at Fontenelle Forest 14 May 2016, 5 there 12 May 2018, and 5 there 12 May 2019.

Fall: Aug 22, 23, 26 <<<>>> Sep 13, 13, 14

There is an earlier report 2 Aug 2001 Otoe Co (Falk 2002) and a late record of one photographed 26 Sep 2017 at Fontenelle Forest, Sarpy Co.

Fall reports are rare, with only 34 in all, four of these in 2016 and two in 2018. There is a tendency for fall migration routes to be further east than in spring (Confer et al 2011).

The only reports away from the Missouri River Valley are the single Panhandle record, 14 Sep 1997 in Sowbelly Canyon, Sioux Co, 2-3 Oct 2010 Enders Reservoir, Chase Co, and 7 Sep 1973 Thomas Co (Williams 1974). Northernmost in the Missouri River Valley are 6 Sep 2016, singles in both Knox and Cedar Cos, and 11 Sep 1995 Washington Co (Grzybowski 1996).


UNSM: University of Nebraska State Museum
WMA: Wildlife Management Area (State)


Photograph (top) of a Golden-winged Warbler at Fontenelle Forest, Sarpy Co 10 May 2011 by Phil Swanson.

Literature Cited

Brogie, M.A. 1997. 1996 (Eighth) Report of the NOU Records Committee. NBR 65: 115-126.

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. Confer, J.L., P. Hartman, and A. Roth. 2011. Golden-winged Warbler (Vermivora chrysoptera), version 2.0. In The Birds of North America (A. F. Poole, Editor). Cornell Lab of Ornithology, Ithaca, New York, USA.

Confer, J. L., P. Hartman, and A. Roth.  2011. Golden-winged Warbler (Vermivora chrysoptera), version 2.0. In The Birds of North America (A. F. Poole, Editor). Cornell Lab of Ornithology, Ithaca, New York, ESA.

Falk, L. 2002. Birds in Otoe County. Published by the author, Nebraska City, Nebraska, USA.

Grzybowski, J.A. 1993. Southern Great Plains Region. American Birds 47: 426-429.

Grzybowski, J.A. 1996. Southern Great Plains Region. Field Notes 50: 74-77.

Pyle, P. 1997. Identification Guide to North American Birds. Part I, Columbidae to Ploceidae. Slate Creek Press, Bolinas, California, USA.

Rosche, R.C. 1994. Birds of the Lake McConaughy area and the North Platte River valley, Nebraska.  Published by the author, Chadron, Nebraska, USA.

Sauer, J.R., D.K. Niven, J.E. Hines, D.J. Ziolkowski, Jr, K.L. Pardieck, J.E. Fallon, and W.A. Link. 2017.  The North American Breeding Bird Survey, Results and Analysis 1966 – 2015 (Nebraska).  Version 2.07. USGS Patuxent Wildlife Research Center, Laurel, Maryland, USA.

Williams, F. 1974. Southern Great Plains Region. American Birds 28: 70-76.

Recommended Citation

Silcock, W.R., and J.G. Jorgensen.  2018.  Golden-winged Warbler (Vermivora chrysoptera), Version 1.0. In Birds of Nebraska — Online.

Birds of Nebraska – Online