Golden-winged Warbler wintering habitat,
Volcán Arenal, Costa Rica.
Photo: Frank Ravizza
About Golden-winged Warbler (Vermivora chrysoptera)
For general information about Golden-winged Warbler life history, please visit Cornell Lab of Ornithology’s All About Birds and The American Bird Conservancy‘s species accounts.
Range and Abundance
For detailed information about Golden-winged Warbler range, abundance, and timing of movements, please visit Cornell Lab of Ornithology’s eBird Status and Trends page.
Photo: Gautam Apte/ Macaulay Library ML 236556301
Golden-winged Warbler (GWWA) is one of the highest conservation priority species of all forest birds in the United States. GWWA is currently under review for Endangered Species Act protection by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) and is in the USFWS Focal Species Strategy program. The USFWS also lists GWWA as a bird of Conservation Concern at the national level, and at various regional scales (USFWS Regions 3, 4, 5; Bird Conservation Regions 12, 13, 23, 28). Fifteen State Wildlife Action Plans include it as a Species of Greatest Conservation Need. The species is state-listed as Endangered in Connecticut, Georgia, Indiana, Massachusetts, plus Ohio, and is considered Threatened in Kentucky. Like most US songbirds, GWWA is protected by the Migratory Bird Treaty Act of 1918.
In Canada, GWWA is a threatened species under Schedule 1 of Canada’s Species at Risk Act (SARA) and protected by the Migratory Bird Convention Act of 1994. Under provincial species at risk legislation, GWWA is designated as Special Concern in Ontario, and Likely to be Designated as Threatened or Vulnerable in Quebec.
- Near Threatened by International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN).
- Audubon Society Watchlist of Birds on Conservation Concern
- Partners in Flight Watch List Species in Need of Immediate Action
Breeding Population Trends and Estimates
Tracking Population Change
The USGS Breeding Bird Survey (BBS) is the most comprehensive monitoring program tracking Golden-winged Warbler population change rangewide. Because the BBS is a roadside survey, however, it may not adequately monitor response to changing conditions across all habitat types in North America—particularly if higher probability of land development results in disproportionately greater habitat loss along roadsides.The BBS trend data for the northern states and provinces has deficiencies, and the survey no longer detects GWWA in most of the Appalachians.
Estimating Population Size
Although the BBS was designed to index population trend and not to estimate actual abundance, Partners in Flight collaborated with over a hundred ornithologists to devise a standardized method to use BBS data from the 1990s to estimate current population size of Golden-winged Warblers at multiple geographic scales.
Hover over each state or province to view the latest population trends¹ and estimates². Note that other sources of population estimates indicate small numbers of GWWA in some states with zero birds in the Partners in Flight database.
330,000 birds • -2.1% annual change • 84% of global population
63,000 birds • +1.3% annual change • 16% of global population
1 USGS Breeding Bird Survey: Pardieck, K.L., Ziolkowski Jr., D.J., Lutmerding, M., Aponte, V.I., and Hudson, M-A.R., 2020, North American Breeding Bird Survey Dataset 1966 -2019: U.S. Geological Survey data release.
2 Partners in Flight Population Estimate Database: Will, T., J.C. Stanton, K.V. Rosenberg, A.O. Panjabi, A.F. Camfield, A.E. Shaw, W.E. Thogmartin, and P.J. Blancher. 2020. Handbook to the Partners in Flight Population Estimates Database, Version 3.1.
Golden-winged Warbler declines are attributed to a variety of sources, including loss of breeding season habitat, hybridization with Blue-winged Warbler, and land use changes on the Neotropical wintering grounds. All of these threats, likely contribute to population-level declines, and the relative impact of each as a limiting factor remains unclear. Threats to the species appear to vary considerably across regions, although loss of early successional habitat has been identified as the primary threat on the breeding grounds, compounded in some areas by hybridization with Blue-winged Warbler.
Land development and forest maturation of early successional breeding habitat is a primary contributor to Golden-winged Warbler declines. MORE INFO
Clearing of mid-elevation forest in the wintering range, and degradation of migratory stopover sites are associated with Golden-winged Warbler declines. MORE INFO
Photo: Slash and burn clearing of wintering habitat in Nicaragua. Ruth Bennett
Replacement by Blue-winged Warblers has occurred in many areas of the historic Golden-winged breeding range. In addition to competing for resources, Golden-winged and Blue-winged Warbler hybridize to produce viable offspring, causing genetic dilution.
Photo: “Brewster’s” Warbler (Golden-winged x Blue-winged Warbler hybrid). Kurt Ongman
Golden-winged Warbler are highly susceptible to collisions with communication towers during migration (especially guyed towers) , and windows. Collisions with window glass is the second greatest threat to songbirds in the U.S. MORE INFO
Though the direct impact of cats on GWWA populations has never been fully assessed, predation by outdoor cats is the single greatest threat to songbirds in the United States and Canada. MORE INFO
Climate change is thought to intensify other threats to Golden-winged Warbler. Predictive climate models indicate that temperature increases could alter plant composition, insect populations, and the distribution of Golden-winged Warbler.
Conservation by Land Trusts
Land trusts and private conservation organizations provide critical contributions to conserving birds by protecting undeveloped habitat for Golden-winged Warbler and hundreds of other bird species. Cornell Lab of Ornithology’s Land Trust Bird Conservation Initiative is a strategic and coordinated effort to maximize the benefits of land trusts and birds.
To read about the success of the Land Trust Bird Conservation Initiative, visit the Success Stories page.
To read about land trust projects that emphasize Golden-winged Warbler conservation, visit our featured projects page.
Conservation Investment Strategies
The Power of Partnerships
Our Working Group is a network of biologists, landowners, and conservationists striving to ensure healthy Golden-winged Warbler populations and habitats into the future. Developing strong partnerships to share the latest science and management techniques is at the core of our organization.
Visit our projects page to learn how different Working Group projects are helping conserve Golden-winged Warbler.