Chestnut-sided Warbler

Dendroica pensylvanica

A common bird of second growth and scrubby forests, the Chestnut-sided Warbler is distinctive in appearance. No other warbler combines a greenish-yellow cap, a white breast, and reddish streaks down the sides.

Cool Facts

Photo taken from:
The Sibley Field Guide to Birds of Western North America by David Allen Sibley
  • On the wintering grounds in Central America the Chestnut-sided Warbler joins in mixed-species foraging flocks with the resident antwrens and tropical warblers. An individual warbler will return to the same area in subsequent years, joining back up with the same foraging flock it associated with the year before.
  • The Chestnut-sided Warbler sings two basic song types: one is accented at the end (the pleased-to-MEETCHA song), and the other is not. The accented songs are used primarily to attract a female and decrease in frequency once nesting is well under way. The unaccented songs are used mostly in territory defense and aggressive encounters with other males. Some males sing only unaccented songs, and they are less successful at securing mates than males that sing both songs.


Adult Description

  • Small songbird.
  • Forehead yellow.
  • Black mustache stripe on face.
  • Underparts white.
  • Chestnut streak along sides.

Male Description

Breeding (Alternate) plumage: Crown bright yellow, with white edge at front. Nape pale gray streaked with black. Back striped yellow and black. Tail blackish. Black stripe from bill to behind eye. Black mustache stripe. Cheek white. Throat, chest, belly, and under tail white. Sides with long narrow chestnut streak. Two broad yellowish wingbars. Flight feathers outlined in pale yellow or white.

Nonbreeding (Basic) plumage: Back, nape, and crown yellowish green. Some dark streaking on rump. Sides of head and neck pale gray. White eyering. Underparts dull white. Long thin streak of chestnut along sides. Two broad yellowish wingbars. Flight feathers outlined in pale yellow or white. Eyes dark. Legs dark.

Female Description

Breeding (Alternate) plumage: Chestnut streak on sides less extensive than on male. Wings with two broad yellowish wingbars. Crown greenish yellow. Dull black or slaty line through eye. Dull black or slaty mustache stripe. Cheek whitish. Back green with black streaks.

Nonbreeding (Basic) plumage: Back, nape, and crown yellowish green. Some dark streaking on rump. Sides of head and neck pale gray. White eyering. Underparts dull white. Thin streak of chestnut along sides; may be absent. Two broad yellowish wingbars. Flight feathers outlined in pale yellow or white. Eyes dark. Legs dark.

Immature Description

Immature resembles fall adult, but streaks on back finer. Immature female without chestnut on sides.
Range Map
Taxonomic Hierarchy


© 2003 Cornell Lab of Ornithology
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
     Subphylum: Vertebrata
Class: Aves
Order: Passeriformes
Family: Parulidae
Genus: Dendroica
Species: Dendroica pensylvanica
Song a series of musical notes, usually accented at the end: "pleased, pleased, pleased to MEETCHA."

Identification and Information
See Anatomy of a Bird
  • Length Range: 13-13 cm (5-5.25 in)
  • Weight: 11 g (0.4 oz)
  • Size: Small (5 - 9 in)
  • Color Primary: White, Black
  • Underparts: White with Red-brown flanks.
  • Upperparts: Black streaked olive-green.
  • Back Pattern: Striped or streaked
  • Belly Pattern: Solid
  • Breast Pattern: Solid
  • Bill Shape: All-purpose
  • Eye Color: Dark brown in all ages.
  • Head Pattern: Eyeline, Capped, Eyering, Unique pattern, Malar or malar stripe
  • Crown Color: Yellow
  • Forehead Color: White
  • Nape Color: Olive-green
  • Throat Color: White
  • Cere color: No Data
  • Flight Pattern: Weak fluttering flight with shallow wing beats.
  • Wingspan Range: 19-21 cm (7.5-8.25 in)
  • Wing Shape: Rounded-Wings
  • Tail Shape: Fan-shaped Tail
  • Tail Pattern: Solid
  • Upper Tail: Black
  • Under Tail: Black with white patches.
  • Leg Color: Blue-gray
  • Breeding Location: Forest edge, Bushes, shrubs, and thickets
  • Breeding Type: Monogamous, Solitary nester
  • Breeding Population: Fairly common to common
  • Egg Color: White to pale green with purple and brown blotches
  • Number of Eggs: 3 - 5
  • Incubation Days: 11 - 13
  • Egg Incubator: Female
  • Nest Material: Bark chips, vines, and plant material with lining of animal hair and grasses.
  • Migration: Migratory
  • Condition at Hatching: Helpless with sparse down.

Other Names

Similar Species

  • Paruline à flancs marron (French)
  • Reinita de costillas castañas (Spanish)
  • Bay-breasted Warbler also has chestnut on sides, but in breeding plumage face is dark and throat and crown are chestnut. In nonbreeding plumage Bay-breasted is dusky underneath and lacks the bright yellow-green of a chestnut-sided.

Conservation Status

Populations increased in 19th century, slightly decreasing now.


Sources used to Construct this Page:

  • Breeds in early successional deciduous woods.
  • Winters in moist tropical forest.
  • Dunn, J. L., and Garrett, K. L. 1997. A Field Guide to Warblers of North America. Houghton Mifflin Co., Boston.;
  • Richardson, M., and D. W. Brauning. 1995. Chestnut-sided Warbler (Dendroica pensylvanica). In The Birds of North America, No. 190 (A. Poole and F. Gill, eds.). The Academy of Natural Sciences, Philadelphia, PA, and The American Ornithologists' Union, Washington, D.C.
Insects and other arthropods, occasionally fruit.
Gleans insects from the bottom of leaves.


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Additional Photos & Video


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All photos © 2008 Rick Swartzentrover - Free for non-profit use.

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