Leiothlypis celata celata, O. c. orestera

Status:  Common regular spring and fall migrant statewide. Rare casual winter visitor southeast.

Documentation:  Specimen: celata, UNSM ZM6809, 5 May 1898 Beatrice, Gage Co; orestera, UNSM ZM 11930, 13 Sep 1911 Dawes Co.

Taxonomy:  There are four subspecies recognized (Pyle 1997): lutescens, breeding and wintering coastal southeast Alaska to southern California, sordida, resident California Channel Islands, orestera, breeding in Rocky Mountains to southwest USA and west Texas, and celata, breeding from Alaska across southern Canada, wintering coastal southern California to South Carolina and Florida.

Dunn and Garrett (1997) stated that orestera occurs in the Nebraska Panhandle in fall; it breeds as close as the Laramie Mountains in Wyoming (Faulkner 2010). Eastern celata occurs statewide, including the Panhandle; six celata and five orestera were banded 22 Sep 2015 at Chadron SP. Many fall migrants in the Panhandle are brightly colored, especially yellowish underneath, and have gray crowns and napes which contrast with the greenish-olive back, thus resembling Nashville Warblers without eye-rings.  As stated by Josh Lefever of an orestera banded at Chadron SP: “Larger size and brighter yellow than the celata types usually captured”.

Documented records of orestera for Nebraska are from banding stations operated by Bird Conservancy of the Rockies, and three specimens in UNSM collected in Dawes Co in fall 1911. Nine orestera were banded at Chadron SP, Dawes Co 17-24 Sep 2015 and two on 4-13 Oct 2016, and at Wildcat Hills NC, Scotts Bluff Co 4 Sep and 8 Oct 2015.  The three UNSM specimens are ZM11930 (cited above), ZM 12005 collected 15 Sep 1911, and ZM12006 collected 17 Sep 1911. One orestera was observed at Wildcat Hills NC 10 Oct 2015.

Although lutescens has not been documented in Nebraska, it breeds in the same general area as Cassin’s Vireo and Townsend’s Warbler, both of which are regular fall migrants through the western Panhandle in fall.  A pale overall yellow bird with no pale areas on its underparts and an exquisite lemon-yellow eye ring but otherwise fitting the description of an Orange-crowned (see Dunn and Garrett 1997) was at Oliver Reservoir, Kimball Co 20 Sep 2002; it may have been an immature lutescens. A very yellow bird with yellow eye arcs at Wilderness Park, Lancaster Co 11 Oct 2017 also fitted the description of lutescens. A bird photographed and identified as lutescens was in Logan Co, Colorado, some 10 miles from Nebraska, 23 Nov 2015 (Mlodinow,, accessed May 2018). There are 10 reports of lutescens in the northeast corner of Colorado in the period 17 Sep-23 Nov (, accessed May 2018).

The type locality of O. c. celata is Omaha, Nebraska; it was collected by Thomas Say on the Long Expedition in 1819-1820 (AOU 1957, Sharpe et al 2001).

Spring: Apr 8, 9, 9 <<<>>> May 25, 25, 26

Earlier dates are 1 Apr 2012 Douglas Co, and 2 Apr (specimen, UNSM ZM12004).

Later dates are 29 May 2007 Cherry Co, 29 May 2020 Cedar Co, 30 May 2008 Douglas Co, 1 Jun 2011 Banner Co, 3 Jun (Tout 1947), and 12 Jun 2010 Garden Co (photo,

Migrants arrive fairly early, in mid- to late Apr, and most depart by late May.  In the northwest, Rosche (1982) considered it an uncommon to fairly common migrant.

The Rocky Mountains subspecies orestera, fairly common in fall in the Panhandle, has been reported only once in spring, at Oliver Reservoir, Kimball Co 28 May 2011.

  • High counts:  100+ in the eastern Rainwater Basin 3 May 2001, 85 at Gering Cemetery, Scotts Bluff Co 1 May 2016, and 72 at Twin Lakes WMA, Seward Co 28 Apr 2019.

Fall:  Aug 25, 25, 25 <<<>>> Nov 3, 3, 5

Earlier dates are 18 Aug 2008 Fontenelle Forest, Sarpy Co, and 18 Aug 2019 Oliver Reservoir SRA, Kimball Co.

According to Gilbert et al (2020), orestera is an early fall migrant, arriving in mid-Aug, and celata is “notoriously late”, arriving late Sep.  Thus, reports in the west before mid-Sep are expected to be orestera.  In the central, a report of two “very yellow” birds in Clay Co Sep 2000 (Jorgensen 2012) suggests orestera. 

This species is one of the last warblers to leave in fall. Later dates are 20 Nov 2019 Forest Lawn Cemetery, Douglas Co, 22 Nov 2018 Douglas Co, 25 Nov 2017 Sarpy Co, 9 Dec 2017 Lancaster Co, 1-2 at Stolley Park, Hall Co 11-15 Dec 2019, 12 Dec 2019 Republican City, Harlan Co, 17 Dec 2002 Omaha, Douglas Co, 18 Dec 1998 Harlan Co Reservoir CBC, 18 Dec 1999 Lincoln CBC, 21 Dec 1957 Scottsbluff CBC, 21 Dec 1996 Lincoln CBC, and 21 Dec 2019 Schramm SP, Sarpy Co. For Jan-Feb dates see Winter.

  • High counts:  50+ in Thomas Co 30 Sep 2001, 50+ at North Platte, Lincoln Co 4 Oct 2010, 45 at Arbor Day Farm, Otoe Co 26 Sep 2000, and 42 in the eastern Rainwater Basin 27 Sep 1999.

Winter: The first documented Jan-Feb record for Nebraska was of one photographed at Conestoga Lake, Lancaster Co 27-28 Feb 2016; whether it wintered in the vicinity or was a very early migrant is conjectural. Since then there have been five more Jan records and two more for Feb, five of the seven in winter 2020-2021: one first noted at a Lincoln, Lancaster Co residence 9 Dec 2017 later found dead after a spell of very cold weather 1 Jan, and singles were in Douglas Co 7 Jan 2021, Sarpy Co 5 Dec 2020-24 Jan 2021, at Branched Oak Lake, Lancaster Co 26 Jan 2020, at another Douglas Co location 27-30 Jan 2021, at a different Douglas Co location 12 Jan- 1 Feb 2021, and in Lancaster Co 22 Jan-4 Feb 2021.

It was described as “wintering as far north as Omaha” in 1979-80 (Williams 1980) but no details were given. Orange-crowned Warbler normally winters north only to Oklahoma and Arkansas; there are “at least 11” counties in Kansas that have Feb records, and there is a single record of over-wintering (Thompson et al 2011).


CBC: Christmas Bird Count
NC: Nature Center
NWR: National Wildlife Refuge
SP: State Park
UNSM: University of Nebraska State Museum

Literature Cited

American Ornithologists’ Union [AOU]. 1957. The AOU Check-list of North American birds, 5th ed.  Port City Press, Baltimore, Maryland, USA.

Dunn, J.L., and K.L. Garrett. 1997. A field guide to warblers of North America. Houghton Mifflin Company, Boston, Massachusetts, USA.

Faulkner, D.W. 2010. Birds of Wyoming. Roberts and Company, Greenwood Village, Colorado, USA.

Gilbert, W.M., M.K. Sogge, and C. van Riper. 2020. Orange-crowned Warbler (Leiothlypis celata), version 1.0. In Birds of the World (P. G. Rodewald, Editor). Cornell Lab of Ornithology, Ithaca, NY, USA.

Jorgensen, J.G. 2012.  Birds of the Rainwater Basin, Nebraska.  Nebraska Game and Parks Commission, Lincoln, Nebraska, USA.

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

Rosche, R.C. 1982. Birds of northwestern Nebraska and southwestern South Dakota, an annotated checklist. Cottonwood Press, Crawford, Nebraska, 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.

Sharpe, R.S., W.R. Silcock, and J.G. Jorgensen. 2001. The Birds of Nebraska: Their Distribution and Temporal Occurrence.  University of Nebraska Press, Lincoln, Nebraska, USA.

Thompson, M.C., C.A. Ely, B. Gress, C. Otte, S.T. Patti, D. Seibel, and E.A. Young. 2011. Birds of Kansas.  University Press of Kansas, Lawrence, Kansas, USA.

Tout, W. 1947. Lincoln County birds. Published by the author, North Platte, Nebraska, USA.Williams, F. 1980. Southern Great Plains Region. American Birds 34: 286-288.

Recommended Citation

Silcock, W.R., and J.G. Jorgensen.  2021.  Orange-crowned Warbler (Oreothlypis celata). In Birds of Nebraska — Online.

Birds of Nebraska – Online

Updated 31 Mar 2021