This plain wood-warbler is a collection of four subspecies with reasonably well-defined breeding ranges and plumages. The northern and eastern subspecies, V. c. celata, breeds from central Alaska to Labrador and winters in the southern United States and parts of Mexico. V. c. orestera breeds in the Rocky Mountains and higher elevations of the Great Basin from Canada to Arizona, New Mexico and Trans-Pecos, Texas. This subspecies winters primarily in the southwest United States (including Texas), western Mexico and northern Central America. The plumage of orestera is brighter than celata and duller than V. c. lutescens which breeds along the Pacific Coast from Alaska to northern Baja California and winters mostly from Oregon to Baja California. Breeding male lutescens have the brightest yellow underparts. The fourth subspecies is found on the Channel Islands off California (Sogge et al. 1994, Howell and Webb 1995, Pyle 1997). In fall and winter the presence of immatures makes field identification of subspecies even more difficult.
DISTRIBUTION. During the 1987-1992 field work seasons of the TBBA project,atlasers found 2 confirmed breeding records in latilomg 30104, quad F2 in the Davis Mountains and a probable and 2 possible records in 31104-H7 in the Guadalupe Mountains of Trans-Pecos Texas. Breeding has been reported earlier for this warbler in both these ranges (Oberholser 1974, Lockwood and Freeman 2004).
SEASONAL OCCURRENCE. Orange- crowned Warblers are present in Texas all year. They are common spring and fall migrants, beginning to arrive in early August with some moving through to Mexico and others wintering in this state. Winter residents are most common in the southern third of Texas and generally absent from the Panhandle. Migrants and winter residents are gone from all but the Trans-Pecos mountains by mid-May (Lockwood and Freeman 2004). Oberholser (1974) suggests the breeding season in the Davis and Guadalupe mountains is from early May to mid-August.
BREEDING HABITAT. In Texas most Orange-crowned Warbler nests have been found at about 2400 m (8000 ft; Oberholser 1974). In Arizona about 85% of breeding evidence was found in mixed conifer, montane riparian and scrub willow and alder habitats (Corman 2005), while in Colorado almost 60% of graphed breeding occurred in shrub habitats and 30% occurred in deciduous habitats, including much aspen (Versaw 1998).
The small open cup nest is usually placed directly on the ground underneath a shrub or small tree. It is constructed by the female who has chosen the nest site. She uses leaves, small twigs, plant down, bark, forb stems, moss and animal hair where available. The structure is lined with fine grass, moss and animal hair. Nests are generally well-shaded and concealed from above (Harrison 1979, Sogge et al. 1994).
The usual clutch is 4-5 (range 3-6) white or creamy eggs finely marked with reddish-brown or chestnut speckling. The female incubates the clutch for about 12-14 days and nestlings leave the nest 10-12 days after hatching. Only one successful brood is normally raised per year although a second nesting may be tried after the first is lost. Parasitism by Brown-headed Cowbirds (Molothrus ater) is apparently rare (Harrison 1979, Sogge et al. 1994).
STATUS. Orange-crowned Warblers are uncommon and local summer residents at the higher elevations of the Davis and Guadalupe mountains (Lockwood and Freeman 2004). The Breeding Bird Survey does not sample this species in Texas. Data from 480 routes in western states and provinces produce a statistically significant population change of -1.0% for the period 1980-2005 (Sauer et al. 2005). Text by Robert C. Tweit (2007)
Versaw, A. E. 1998. Orange-crowned Warbler (Vermivora celata). In Colorado breeding bird atlas, pp. 414-415 (H. E. Kingery, ed.). Colorado Bird Atlas Partnership, Denver.