Species Profile

Golden-winged Warbler

Scientific Name: Vermivora chrysoptera
Taxonomy Group: Birds
COSEWIC Range: Manitoba, Ontario, Quebec
COSEWIC Assessment Date and Status Change: April 2006
COSEWIC Status: Threatened
COSEWIC Status Criteria: Met criterion for Endangered, A2be, but designated Threatened because the species is still widespread, shows the ability to maintain small pure populations within the Blue-winged Warbler range, is still expanding in Manitoba, and is thus not in imminent danger of extinction. Criterion met for Threatened: A2be.
COSEWIC Reason for Designation: This small songbird has declined by 79% over the last 10 years according to Breeding Bird Survey data from Canada. The main threat appears to be competition and genetic swamping (hybridization) from the closely-related Blue-winged Warbler, which is spreading north because of habitat change and perhaps climate change. 
COSEWIC History of Status Designation: Designated Threatened in April 2006.
SARA Status: Schedule 1, Threatened
Date of Listing (yyyy-mm-dd): 2007-12-13

Please note that this information is provided for general information purposes only. For the most up to date and accurate list of species listed under the Species at Risk Act, please see the Justice Laws Website.

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The Golden-winged Warbler is a small warbler measuring 11 cm long. It is distinguishable by its grey back, white belly, yellow forehead and a yellow patch on its wings. This is the only warbler with both a yellow patch on its wings and a black throat (grey in females). The male is identified by the black ring around its eyes, which is darker than the ring around the female’s eyes. Juveniles look like their parents.   The Golden-winged Warbler resembles the Black-capped Chickadee, and it is sometimes easy to confuse these species, both of which feed head down at the ends of branches.


Distribution and Population

Golden-winged Warblers nest primarily in the northeastern United States, southeastern Saskatchewan, southwestern Manitoba, southwestern Ontario and far southwestern Quebec. In Ontario, they breed from the far southwest of the province north as far as the centre of the Nipissing region, the southern part of the Sudbury and Algoma districts, and the southwest part of the Rainy River district, near Lake of the Woods. In Manitoba, small populations are found in a narrow corridor along the transition between prairie and forest from the far southeast of the province, near Winnipeg, to the border with Saskatchewan to the northwest. In Quebec and Saskatchewan, the bird’s presence has been identified in only a few places.   This small migratory bird overwinters in Central America and the northern part of South America, from central Guatemala and northern Honduras to northwestern Venezuela and western Colombia. It also overwinters in the Greater Antilles – on the island of Cuba, for example – and on some Caribbean islands.   According to data from the Canadian Breeding Bird Survey, the Golden-winged Warbler population dropped 79% from the mid 1990s to the mid 2000s. In Canada and the United States in the early 2000s, the species was experiencing an overall drop of 2.4% per year, making it one of the most vulnerable passerines, with the most marked decline, in North America.   Breeding Bird Survey data show that between 20 000 and 50 000 couples –roughly 18.5% of the world’s population – breed in Canada. The vast majority of these birds nest in Ontario. In Quebec, the total population would vary between 210 and 540 couples. In Manitoba, the population is said to range between 105 and 270 couples. However, the results from recent detailed surveys and the remaining abundance of unsurveyed lands in Manitoba suggest that the population in that province could be as high as several thousand individuals. In Saskatchewan, 19 birds reportedly show signs of probable reproduction.



In their breeding areas, Golden-winged Warblers seem to be fond of regeneration zones where young shrubs grow, surrounded by mature forest, and characterized by plant succession of 10 to 30 years. The warblers frequent clusters of herbaceous plants and low bushes (where they place their nests, which are built on the ground). They favour environments where the trees are spread out, as well as the forest edge, and use this setting for perching, singing and looking for food.   Golden-winged Warblers are found in dry uplands, swamp forests and marshes. This warbler shows a preference for public utility (hydro-electric) rights-of-way, the edges of fields, areas where logging has recently occurred, beaver ponds and burned-out or intermittently cultivated areas.   On their wintering grounds in Central and South America, Golden-winged Warblers prefer areas where the altitude is between 1500 m and 3000 m, in various types of habitats in open pine, oak and shrub woodlands, where they are found in gaps or at the forest edge, especially with forest cover. Their presence has also been identified in lowlands.



Little is known about the dispersal movements of these migratory birds. What is documented is the arrival of male Golden-winged Warblers in southern Ontario during the first days of May, with the females following one or two weeks later. These small warblers remain in their breeding habitats until late August and early September. Males and females tend to nest in the same territory year after year.   Golden-winged Warblers usually breed at one year of age and can continue to do so until they are nine years old. Couples build their nest on the ground, at the base of a plant, and produce a single clutch of 2 to 6 eggs per year. In Ontario, the female lays an average of 4.75 eggs. When nesting fails, subsequent breeding attempts are common, but a decline in fertility is seen. In 55% of nests sampled in the province, at least one chick took flight, whereas predators or abandonment caused nesting failure in 45% of cases.   The eggs and chicks of this species fall victim to various predators, including the racoon, red fox, coyote, ermine, mink, red squirrel, grey squirrel, eastern chipmunk, fisher, striped skunk, Blue Jay, American Crow, American toad and several species of mouse and snake. The adults probably deal with a less varied group of predators.   During the breeding season, Golden-winged Warblers are strictly insectivores. While their diet consists primarily of harmful caterpillars belonging to the tortricid moth family, these warblers also eat other moths and their pupae, other winged insects, and spiders. Similar feeding habits are seen in regions where the warblers overwinter.   Golden-winged and Blue-winged Warblers often breed together when they are in contact. This cross gives rise to two hybrids, Brewster’s Warblers and Lawrence’s Warblers, which resemble either of the first species.



The main factors threatening the survival of the Golden-winged Warbler in the areas where it breeds are the decrease in regeneration areas where young shrubs grow, as well as competition and hybridization with the Blue-winged Warbler, a closely related species whose breeding area extends north because of habitat change and, possibly, climate change. It is conceivable that if the Blue-winged Warbler’s breeding range continues to expand, Golden-winged Warbler populations believed to be safe from hybridization will soon come into contact with the Blue-winged Warbler. This will increase the likelihood of hybridization and competition-related extinction. It has been observed that the Golden-winged Warbler disappears locally within 50 years of the arrival of the Blue-winged Warbler.   No detailed study has yet been done on the threats in migration and hibernation areas. However, as is the case with most neotropical migrants, threats in these areas are probably connected with the decline in Golden-winged Warblers.



Federal Protection

The Golden-winged Warbler is protected under the federal Species at Risk Act (SARA). More information about SARA, including how it protects individual species, is available in the Species at Risk Act: A Guide.

Provincial and Territorial Protection

To know if this species is protected by provincial or territorial laws, consult the provinces' and territories' websites.


Recovery Initiatives

Status of Recovery Planning

Recovery Strategies :

Name Recovery Strategy for the Golden-winged Warbler (Vermivora chrysoptera) in Canada
Status Final posting on SAR registry


Recovery Team

Golden-winged Warbler

  • Christian Friis - Chair/Contact - Environment Canada
    Phone: 416-739-4908  Fax: 416-739-5845  Send Email



PLEASE NOTE: Not all COSEWIC reports are currently available on the SARA Public Registry. Most of the reports not yet available are status reports for species assessed by COSEWIC prior to May 2002. Other COSEWIC reports not yet available may include those species assessed as Extinct, Data Deficient or Not at Risk. In the meantime, they are available on request from the COSEWIC Secretariat.

28 record(s) found.

Reports on the Progress of Recovery Document Implementation

COSEWIC Status Reports

Response Statements

  • Response Statements - Golden-winged Warbler (2006-11-29)

    This small songbird has declined by 79% over the last 10 years according to Breeding Bird Survey data from Canada. The main threat appears to be competition and genetic swamping (hybridization) from the closely-related Blue-winged Warbler, which is spreading north because of habitat change and perhaps climate change. 

Recovery Strategies

  • Recovery Strategy for the Golden-winged Warbler (Vermivora chrysoptera) in Canada (2016-08-05)

    The Minister of the Environment and the Minister responsible for the Parks Canada Agency are the competent ministers for the recovery of the Golden-winged Warbler and have prepared this strategy, as per section 37 of SARA. It has been prepared to the extent possible in cooperation with the Provinces of Manitoba (Manitoba Conservation), Ontario (Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry) and Quebec (Ministère du Développement durable, de l’Environnement et de la Lutte contre les Changements Climatiques).

Action Plans

  • Multi-species Action Plan for Bruce Peninsula National Park and Fathom Five National Marine Park of Canada (2016-11-22)

    Bruce Peninsula National Park (BPNP) and Fathom Five National Marine Park (FFNMP) lie at the tip of the Bruce Peninsula which separates Georgian Bay from Lake Huron. The peninsula is 90 km in length and its most prominent feature is the Niagara Escarpment which runs along the entire eastern edge. Within BPNP, the escarpment forms the Georgian Bay shoreline and is recognized as part of the core area of the Niagara Escarpment UNESCO World Biosphere Reserve.  BPNP was established by the federal government in 1987 to protect a representative example of the Great Lakes/St. Lawrence Lowlands natural region. Because of the fragmented nature of the park properties, many of the stresses on the park’s ecosystem originate from outside its boundaries. For this reason, First Nations, local residents, non-governmental organizations, and other groups and land users play an important role in managing, restoring, and protecting the northern Bruce ecosystem. 
  • Multi-species Action Plan for Point Pelee National Park of Canada and Niagara National Historic Sites of Canada (2016-07-05)

    The Multi-species Action Plan for Point Pelee National Park of Canada and the Niagara National Historic Sites of Canada applies to lands and waters occurring within the boundaries of the two sites: Point Pelee National Park of Canada (PPNP) and the Niagara National Historic Sites of Canada (NNHS). The NNHS is being used as a term to collectively refer to two locations in the Niagara region that consist of three National Historic Sites: Fort George National Historic Site, Battlefield of Fort George National Historic Site, and Butler’s Barracks National Historic Sites of Canada. The plan meets the requirements for action plans set out in the Species At Risk Act (SARA s.47) for species requiring an action plan and that regularly occur in these sites. Measures described in this plan will also provide benefits for other species of conservation concern that regularly occur at PPNP and at NNHS.
  • Multi-species Action Plan for Thousand Islands National Park of Canada (2016-03-29)

    The Multi-species Action Plan for Thousand Islands National Park of Canada is a Species At Risk Act action plan (SARA s.47) for four species: American Water-willow (Justicia americana), Butternut (Juglans cinerea), Deerberry (Vaccinium stamineum), and Pugnose Shiner (Notropis anogenus). The plan also outlines measures to monitor and manage 30 other species of conservation concern that regularly occur in the park. This plan applies only to lands and waters occurring within the boundaries of Thousand Islands National Park of Canada.


  • Order Acknowledging Receipt of the Assessments Done Pursuant to Subsection 23(1) of the Act (2007) (2007-05-16)

    This Order acknowledges receipt by the Governor in Council of the assessments of the status of 40 species done pursuant to paragraph 15(1)(a) and in accordance with subsection 23(1) of the Species at Risk Act (SARA) by the Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada (COSEWIC). The purpose of SARA is to prevent wildlife species from being extirpated or becoming extinct, to provide for the recovery of wildlife species that are extirpated, endangered or threatened as a result of human activity and to manage species of special concern to prevent them from becoming endangered or threatened.
  • Order Amending Schedule 1 to the Species at Risk Act (volume 141, number 26, December 13, 2007) (2007-12-26)

    Her Excellency the Governor General in Council, on the recommendation of the Minister of the Environment, pursuant to section 27 of the Species at Risk Act, hereby makes the annexed Order Amending Schedules 1 to 3 to the Species at Risk Act.

Permits and Related Agreements

Consultation Documents

  • Consultation on Amending the List of Species under the Species at Risk Act Terrestrial Species: December 2006 (2006-12-28)

    The Government of Canada proclaimed the Species at Risk Act (SARA) on June 5, 2003 as part of its strategy for the protection of wildlife species at risk. Attached to the Act is Schedule 1, the list of the species that receive protection under SARA, hereinafter referred to as the 'SARA list'. Canadians are invited to comment on whether all or some of the species included in this document should be added to the SARA list. Please submit your comments by March 16, 2007 for species undergoing normal consultations and by March 14, 2008 for species undergoing extended consultations.

Critical Habitat Descriptions in the Canada Gazette

  • Description of critical habitat of the Golden-winged Warbler in Riding Mountain National Park (2016-10-08)

    The Golden-winged Warbler (Vermivora chrysoptera) is a migratory bird protected under the Migratory Birds Convention Act, 1994, and listed on Schedule 1 of the Species at Risk Act as threatened. In Canada, the Golden-winged Warbler is found in forest edge habitat exhibiting early successional characteristics, usually with a patchy mixture of shrubs, saplings, herbaceous openings and widely spaced tall trees.

Recovery Document Posting Plans

  • Environment and Climate Change Canada's Three-Year Recovery Document Posting Plan (2016-07-06)

    Environment and Climate Change Canada’s Three-Year Recovery Document Posting Plan identifies the species for which recovery documents will be posted each fiscal year starting in 2014-2015. Posting this three year plan on the Species at Risk Public Registry is intended to provide transparency to partners, stakeholders, and the public about Environment and Climate Change Canada’s plan to develop and post these proposed recovery strategies and management plans. However, both the number of documents and the particular species that are posted in a given year may change slightly due to a variety of circumstances. Last update December 2, 2021
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