Helmithorus vermivorum

Status:  Rare casual spring migrant statewide. Accidental in summer. Rare casual fall migrant east, accidental west.

Documentation:  Specimen: BMNH 41749, 14-16 Oct 1957 Scotts Bluff Co (see Fall).

Taxonomy:  No subspecies are recognized (Pyle 1997).

Spring:  Apr 19,21,28 <<<>>> May 24,25,30

There is an earlier date 16 Apr 2015 in Lancaster Co.

There are about 56 reports, including these from the Panhandle: 16 May 1979 Garden Co (Williams 1979), 16 May 2002 West Lawn Cemetery, Gering, Scotts Bluff Co, one in the Alliance City Park 24 May 1959 (Gates 1959), and one singing at Wind Springs Ranch, Sioux Co 8 Jun 2007. Also westerly was one banded at Lake Ogallala. Keith Co 14 May 1997. A report of one in Scottsbluff, Scotts Bluff Co 6 May 2002 was not accepted by NOURC (Brogie 2003).

Totals for the spring period of four were reported for 1995, 1996, and 1999, and three for 2018.

Summer: One banded at Cedar Point Biological Station, Keith Co, 4 Jul 1992 (Brown et al 1996), and a singing male at Schramm SP, Sarpy Co 2 May-13 Jun 1994 (Grzybowski 1994, Silcock 1994a, 1994b) are the only modern summer records.

Prior reports are those cited by Bruner et al (1904), including a sighting by Aughey in the southeast in Jun 1875, Jun and Jul occurrences around Omaha, Douglas Co and several reports from the Lincoln, Lancaster Co area, notably “all summer in deep woods near Roca in 1903,” where “breeding” was “almost certain.”  That this species was apparently more common in the Missouri River Valley around 1900 is supported by Robbins (2018): “Shirling … recorded 21 singing males at Swope Park, Kansas City, in Jun 1916, but it had “mostly vanished” as a breeder there by the late 1920s”.

This species occurs in deciduous woods, with a preference for deep ravines near streams or rivers (Robbins 2018). There is a disjunct breeding population in northwest Missouri (Vitz et al 2020) at Bluffwoods CA near St Joseph (Robbins 2018).

Fall:  There are few fall reports: 27 Aug 1934 Webster Co (Ludlow 1935), 3-5 Sep 1977 Douglas-Sarpy Cos, 5 Oct 2000 Lancaster Co, 8 Oct 1963 Cass Co, and 14-16 Oct 1957 Scotts Bluff Co.  The latter record, amazingly, was of “several” feeding in a chokeberry thicket “about October 14, 15, and 16, 1957”; one was found dead and presented to the Bell Museum of Natural History (cited above); it was a hatch year bird (Warner 1959, John Klicka, pers. comm.), and the only fall Panhandle record.


BMNH: Bell Museum of Natural History
CA: Conservation Area
NOURC: Nebraska Ornithologists’ Union Records Committee
SP: State Park


Photograph (top) of a Worm-eating Warbler at Schramm State Park Sarpy Co 28 May 1994 by Phil Swanson.

Literature Cited

Brogie, M.A. 2003. 2002 (14th) Report of the NOU Records Committee. NBR 71: 136-142.

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.

Gates, D. 1959. Thirty-fifth Annual Cooperative Spring Migration and Occurrence Report. NBR 27: 50-67.

Grzybowski, J.A. 1994. Southern Great Plains Region. American Birds 48: 313-315.

Ludlow, C.S. 1935. A quarter-century of bird migration records at Red Cloud, Nebraska. NBR 3: 3-25.

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.

Silcock, W.R. 1994a. Spring Field Report, March-May 1994. NBR 62: 66-88.

Silcock, W.R. 1994b. Summer Field report, June-July 1994. NBR 62: 102-116.

Vitz, A.C., L.A. Hanners, and S.R. Patton. 2020. Worm-eating Warbler (Helmitheros vermivorum), version 1.0. In Birds of the World (A. F. Poole, Editor). Cornell Lab of Ornithology, Ithaca, NY, USA. https://doi.org/10.2173/bow.woewar1.01.

Warner, D.W. 1959. A Worm-eating Warbler specimen from western Nebraska. NBR 27: 73.

Williams, F. 1979. Southern Great Plains Region. American Birds 33: 784-787.

Recommended Citation

Silcock, W.R., and J.G. Jorgensen.  2020.  Worm-eating Warbler (Helmithorus vermivorum). In Birds of Nebraska — Online. www.BirdsofNebraska.org

Birds of Nebraska – Online

Updated 1 July 2020