The Cape May Warbler (Setophaga tigrina) is a small migratory songbird that breeds in the boreal forests of Canada and the northeastern United States. This species measures about 4.3-5.1 inches in length and weighs around 0.3-0.4 ounces. It has a distinctive appearance, with a bright yellow chest, a black face mask, and white wing patches. Males have a rusty-colored patch on the sides of their breasts, while females have a duller version of this feature.
During migration, Cape May Warblers can be found in a wide range of habitats, including forests, woodlands, and shrublands. They are often seen foraging high in trees, where they feed on insects and occasionally fruits. Their migration route takes them from their breeding grounds in the northern forests to their wintering range in the Caribbean, Central America, and northern South America. Some individuals also occur in the southeastern United States during migration.
Cape May Warblers are a highly migratory species that breed in the northern forests of North America and winter in the tropics. They undertake one of the longest migrations of any warbler, with some individuals traveling over 2,000 miles from their breeding grounds to their wintering areas. They begin their southward journey in late summer, flying at night and using celestial cues to navigate.
One of the key features that sets Cape May Warblers apart from other warbler species is their unique feeding behavior. They have a specialized tongue that is long and frayed, which they use to extract nectar from flowers. During migration, when nectar is scarce, they will also feed on insects, often catching them in midair. This feeding behavior makes Cape May Warblers an important pollinator of flowering plants in their breeding range.
Although Cape May Warblers are considered to be of least concern by the IUCN Red List, their populations have declined in some areas due to habitat loss and fragmentation. They are listed as a species of special concern in some states and provinces, and conservation efforts are underway to protect their breeding and wintering habitats.