How to use this guide

All 35 species of warblers covered in my full warbler quiz have been categorized into just a few groups- with helpful info and quizzes along the way.

High-pitched Squeaky Wheels

Black-and-white Warbler
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Listen for the large, relatively slow fluctuations in squeaks in comparison to the faster, slight fluctuations of Bay-breasted or Cape May. Can at times sound deceptively similar to Bay-breasted. Lacks rattles of Blackburnian. American Redstart has a similar alternate song with very large fluctuations, though Redstart sounds less like a squeaky wheel and more like clear whistles.

Bay-breasted Warbler
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Very hard to distinguish from Cape May, but almost always possible. Fast, slight squeaks during the crescendoing notes. In the spectrogram, notice the more jagged quality to the notes, giving it a very slight multi-syllabic sound, where Cape May has even, clear notes. Lower pitched than Cape May. Lacks the rattles of Blackburnian.

Cape May Warbler
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Very hard to distinguish. Can sound almost identical to Bay-breasted. Averages extremely high, clear notes, less complex than Bay-breasted and higher pitched. More variable than Bay-breasted.

Blackpoll Warbler
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Easy to pick out as it has low variance. Very high pitched, staccato notes that smoothly become louder and quieter are conclusive for the species.

American Redstart
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A few different songs are common. Most distinctive resembles a sneeze, where the leadup is a fast squeaky wheel followed by a rapid downward note, like a sneeze. Sometimes lacks the final note, or sings different variations, but speed, clear tone, and large fluctuations in pitch rule out all other high-pitched singers.

Blackburnian Warbler
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Highly variable but almost always gives distinctive notes. Easiest way to distinguish from Cape May or Bay-breasted is to listen for distinctive rattle notes, a little like White-winged Crossbill. Often sings songs in several parts, with different syllables, or follows one song by a completely different sounding song. This variability itself is distinctive, as no other squeaky wheel changes syllables within or between songs so much.

Nashville Warbler
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Listen for the two-parted song; first, an upward series of squeaky wheel notes, then much faster 'chups'. Lacks rattles of Blackburnian, different quality than Yellow-throated Warbler.

Yellow-throated Warbler
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Easy to identify once you learn the trick, considering the low variance. Sounds like it goes into slow motion as the song progresses, because it slows down and becomes very slightly lower in pitch, which is unlike any other species. When heard distantly it can be mistaken for Louisiana Waterthrush, as it has the same quality. Probably isn't technically a squeaky wheel as it is usually lower in pitch, but some birds sing high and can sound superficially similar. Can sometimes have a few upwards notes at the end like Nashville, but the 'slowed-down-time' effect and clear notes easily rule Nashville out.

Rich and Rolling

Prothonotary Warbler
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Common Yellowthroat
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Chestnut-sided Warbler
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Yellow Warbler
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Louisiana Waterthrush
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Easily identifiable by the loud, rich, complex song with clear introductory notes, usually two clear whistles. Sometimes the introductory notes can by a bit less clear, but the only other similar song is Northern Waterthrush which always has groupings of notes (usually three), where Louisiana is more jumbled.

Yellow-throated Warbler
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Easy to identify once you learn the trick, considering the low variance. Sounds like it goes into slow motion as the song progresses, because it slows down and becomes very slightly lower in pitch, which is unlike any other species. When heard distantly it can be mistaken for Louisiana Waterthrush, as it has the same quality. Probably isn't technically a squeaky wheel as it is usually lower in pitch, but some birds sing high and can sound superficially similar. Can sometimes have a few upwards notes at the end like Nashville, but the 'slowed-down-time' effect and clear notes easily rule Nashville out.

Northern Waterthrush
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Ovenbird
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Mourning Warbler
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Can occasionally have very very strange variants; often soft songs that are much sweeter, reminicent of a Magnolia Warbler or Chestnut-sided Warbler.

Kentucky Warbler
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Hooded Warbler
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Magnolia Warbler
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Canada Warbler
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Listen for a distinctive chips near the beginning of the song, easily ruling out any other species. Almost Vireo-like. Random jumbled song.

Tricky Trills

Orange-crowned Warbler
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Palm Warbler
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Pine Warbler
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Worm-eating Warbler
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Yellow-rumped Warbler
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Buzzes

Black-throated Blue Warbler
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Black-throated Green Warbler
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Blackburnian Warbler
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Highly variable but almost always gives distinctive notes. Easiest way to distinguish from Cape May or Bay-breasted is to listen for distinctive rattle notes, a little like White-winged Crossbill. Often sings songs in several parts, with different syllables, or follows one song by a completely different sounding song. This variability itself is distinctive, as no other squeaky wheel changes syllables within or between songs so much.

Blackpoll Warbler
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Easy to pick out as it has low variance. Very high pitched, staccato notes that smoothly become louder and quieter are conclusive for the species.

Blue-winged Warbler
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Golden-winged Warbler
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Cerulean Warbler
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Northern Parula
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Palm Warbler
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Prairie Warbler
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Explosives

Connecticut Warbler
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Louisiana Waterthrush
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Easily identifiable by the loud, rich, complex song with clear introductory notes, usually two clear whistles. Sometimes the introductory notes can by a bit less clear, but the only other similar song is Northern Waterthrush which always has groupings of notes (usually three), where Louisiana is more jumbled.

Northern Waterthrush
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Ovenbird
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Tennessee Warbler
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Wilson's Warbler
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