Skip to main content
U.S. flag

An official website of the United States government

Pre-nesting and nesting behavior of the Swainson's warbler

January 1, 1969

The Swainson?s Warbler is one of the least known of southern birds. Although fairly common in some parts of its summer range, observations of its breeding biology have been made by very few persons. The present study was conducted mostly at Macon, Georgia; Pendleton Ferry, Arkansas; and Dismal Swamp, Virginia....In central Georgia and east-central Arkansas, Swainson?s Warblers usually arrive on their territories during the first two weeks in April. Territories in several localities ranged in size from 0.3 to 4.8 acres. A color-marked Arkansas male occupied the same territory for at least four months. Hostile encounters between territorial male Swainson?s Warblers usually take place along the boundary of adjacent territories. Paired males were more aggressive than unpaired males. Toward the end of an encounter one of the two males would usually perform a display in which the wing and tail feathers were spread and the tail vibrated. Following boundary encounters males drifted back onto their territories and usually sang unbroken courses of songs for several minutes.....During pre-nesting at Macon, a mated pair spent the day mostly on the ground within 20 feet of each other, often foragin g 3 to 4 feet apart. What may have been a form of courtship display, in which the male flew from a perch down to the female and either pecked her rump or pounced on her, occurred about three times each hour throughout the day. During this period the male sang less than at other times during the breeding season.....First nests are usually built by the first week in May. Although other investigators reported finding nests of this species outside of the defended territory, all nests that I have found were within the territory. The large, bulky nest of this species usually is placed 2-6 feet above the ground. It is built by the female from materials gathered close to the nest site; and takes two or three days to complete.....Three and occasionally four white eggs are laid. The female incubates for 14-15 days. The Cowbird parasitizes nests in some parts of the breeding range of the Swainson?s Warbler.....During incubation the female spends about 78 per cent of daylight time on the nest. Both sexes feed young and clean nest. Young remain in nest from 10-12 days.

Publication Year 1969
Title Pre-nesting and nesting behavior of the Swainson's warbler
Authors B. Meanley
Publication Type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Series Title The Wilson Bulletin
Index ID 5220405
Record Source USGS Publications Warehouse
USGS Organization Patuxent Wildlife Research Center