Family New World Warblers (Parulidae)

Least Concern

Kentucky Warbler (Geothlypis formosa)


French: Paruline du Kentucky German: Kentuckywaldsänger Spanish: Reinita de Kentucky

Sylvia formosa

A. Wilson

, 1811,

Kentucky, USA


Very similar, in plumage and, according to one study, genetically, to G. semiflava. Has hybridized with Vermivora cyanoptera (hybrid originally described as a new species, Helminthophaga cincinnatiensis); one of the two specimens of this pairing originally thought to have involved G. philadelphia, rather than present species. Recent record of hybridization with G. philadelphia. Birds in N of breeding range have been separated as race umbratica, apparently paler yellow below and more yellowish-olive on upperparts, but inadequately differentiated from birds in rest of species’ range. Treated as monotypic.


E USA from S Wisconsin, Iowa, E Kansas and E Texas E to New Jersey, S to C Louisiana, NW Florida and E Georgia. Migrates to wintering grounds from E & S Mexico S to Panama, also irregularly in adjacent N Colombia and N Venezuela and Caribbean.

Descriptive notes

12–14 cm; 11·4–20·6 g. Male has distinctive head pattern, with bold yellow ‘spectacles’ surrounded by black crown, face and side of neck... read more


Song a series of 5–8 loud, rolling, whistled “churree” notes, often sounding... read more


Breeds in mature deciduous forest with a dense undergrowth, often in damp ravines and river bottoms... read more

Food and feeding

Feeds mainly on insects and other arthropods, especially small spiders (Araneae); may occasionally take seeds and Cecropia fruits... read more


Season mainly May–Aug (exceptionally from late Apr), egg-laying mainly Jun–Jul. Nest a bulky cup of grasses, twigs, leaves and... read more


Medium-distance to long-distance migrant. Leaves breeding grounds during late Jul and Aug, most... read more

Status and conservation

Not globally threatened (Least Concern). Listed as a species of conservation concern by US Fish & Wildlife Service. Generally common. Local decline noted in N of breeding... read more

Recommended citation

Curson, J. (2020). Kentucky Warbler (Geothlypis formosa). In: del Hoyo, J., Elliott, A., Sargatal, J., Christie, D.A. & de Juana, E. (eds.). Handbook of the Birds of the World Alive. Lynx Edicions, Barcelona. (retrieved from on 17 January 2020).