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Northern Prairie Wildlife Research Center

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Forest and Rangeland Birds of the United States

Natural History and Habitat Use

Cape May Warbler -- Dendroica tigrina

RANGE: Breeds from southwestern and south-central Mackenzie and northeastern British Columbia east to central Ontario, southern Quebec and New Brunswick south to central Alberta, southeastern Manitoba, northern Wisconsin, southern Ontario, northeastern New York, and east-central Maine. Winters in central and southern Florida and the West Indies.

STATUS: Uncommon.

HABITAT: Inhabits fairly open coniferous forests, especially those with a high percentage of mature spruce. Also frequents dense spruce forests with a scattering of tall spires extending above the canopy level, the edges of coniferous forests, especially if birches or hemlocks are present, and in more open land among small trees. Will occasionally proliferate in areas heavily infested with spruce budworms.

SPECIAL HABITAT REQUIREMENTS: Tall conifer trees, especially spruce, for nesting.

NEST: Builds nest invariably in the uppermost clump of thick foliage near the top of tall conifers, generally invisible from below. (Little is known about the nesting biology of this species, mainly because it tends to nest so high in conifers, and females tend to land near the tree base and move up through the tree rather than fly to the nest.)

FOOD: Consumes insects caught by flycatching or gleaning the tips of dense branches and new buds of conifers near the tops of trees. Also eats spiders and occasionally vineyard grapes.

REFERENCES: Bent 1953a, DeGraff et al. 1980, Griscom and Sprunt 1979, Johnsgard 1979, Petersen in Farrand 1983c.

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