Pine warbler
Dendroica pinus
ITIS Species Code:   178914         NatureServ Element Code:   ABPBX03170
NatureServe Global Rank: 
NatureServe State (NC) Rank: 
Federal Status: 
NC State Status: 
Southern Blue Ridge:  18 Southern Piedmont:  17 South Atl. Coastal Plain:  19
Land Unit

US Fish & Wildlife Service
US Forest Service
US National Park Service
US Department of Defense
NC State Parks
NC University System
NC Wildlife Res. Com.
NC Forest Service
NC Div. of Coastal Mgmt.
Local Governments
Non-Governmental Org.
Other Public Lands
Private Lands

GAP Status 1-2
All Protected Lands




% of Dist. on
Prot. Lands

17.4 %
21.4 %
23.9 %
1.2 %
4.9 %
6.3 %
17.9 %
2.4 %
1.3 %
2.6 %
2.6 %
0.3 %
< 0.1 %

42.8 %
% of Dist. on
All Lands

2.3 %
2.8 %
3.1 %
0.2 %
0.6 %
0.8 %
2.4 %
0.3 %
0.2 %
< 0.1 %
0.3 %
< 0.1 %
87.0 %

5.6 %
Breed in the low elevations of the mountains and upper piedmont, and is present all year in the lower piedmont east to the barrier islands (Potter et al. 1980, Barden et al. 1986, Simpson 1992, Fussell 1994).

A habitat specialist, always found in association with pine, but can occur in mixed forests with as little as 10% pine (Morse 1989). Prefers open stands with a large canopy and little understory (Anderson and Shugart 1974) such as a savannah with many tall, mature trees (Dunn and Garrett 1997). Not often found in pine plantations due to small canopy size of young trees (Nicholson 1997).

Usually places nest in pines, occasionally other conifers (Dunn and Garrett 1997). Nests are 30- 50 feet above the ground (range 10-135 feet), built on a horizontal limb, in needles at the tip of a branch, or in a cluster of cones (Potter et al. 1980). Forages in all heights of pines; generally high, along trunk and branches, but also beneath the tree on the ground (Dunn and Garrett 1997).


This species is strongly associated with presence of pine and pine-hardwood forest during the breeding and winter seasons. It is a common breeder in most pine forests of the southeastern United States and in areas with pines in southeast Canada and the northeastern United States, but usually at lower densities, less common as a breeder in white pine forest areas. In the southeast, does not occur above 900 m elevation (Hamel 1992). The highest numbers seem to occur where pure stands of pine are found; less abundant as the proportion of hardwood tree species increases. Birds are rarely found in deciduous forest, scrub, and thickets, except during migration and winter.

Breeding occurs in a wide variety of pine forest types but not in other conifer forests (e.g., spruce (PICEA spp.), fir (ABIES spp.), larch (LARIX spp.), or hemlock (TSUGA spp.). In the north-central and northeastern U.S. and Canadian provinces, breeding occur in stands of red (PINUS RESINOSA), pitch (P. RIGIDA), jack (P. BANKSIANA) and white (P. STROBUS) pines (white pine also being used in the Appalachians). In southern states, breeding and winter habitat consists of stands of shortleaf (P. ECHINATA), longleaf (P. PALUSTRIS), loblolly (P. TAEDA), Virginia (P. VIRGINIANA), and slash (P. ELLIOTTII) pines. Breeding occurs less frequently in sand (P. CLAUSA) (Stevenson and Anderson 1994) and pond pines (P. SEROTINA) (Schroeder 1985) in the southeastern U.S. All forest types used may be mixed with varying proportions of hardwood species. Nesting may occur in areas of primarily deciduous forest where small groves of pines are present.

Pine warblers adapt well to pine plantations, which are used for breeding throughout the range. In Florida, Repenning and Labisky (1985) did not record breeding pine warblers in 1-, 10-, and 24-year-old slash pine plantations, but recorded 8 birds/sq km in 40-year-old plantation forests. However, they found that the species did use 1-year-old (3 birds/sq km), 24-year-old (20 birds/sq km), and 40-year-old (86 birds/sq km) pine plantations during winter.

In winter, birds commonly forage in large mixed-species flocks in southern pine forests when numbers increase because of birds migrating from farther north. At that time, flocks may forage in forest leaf litter, or in fields and pastures, usually in the vicinity of forest edge.

Density of pine warblers is inversely related to percent of deciduous vegetation within a stand (Schroeder 1985). In a breeding habitat suitability model developed by Schroeder (1985), three main habitat variables of importance were identified: percent tree canopy closure (excluding white, sand, and pond pines), successional stage of the stand, and percent of dominant canopy pines with deciduous understory in the upper one-third layer. Thus, optimal nesting habitat is provided by pure, dense, mature pine stands (excluding pine species mentioned above) that lack a tall deciduous understory. One shortcoming of this model, however, is that pine warblers do use white pine forest types for nesting; they simply tend to be less common in those pine habitats.

Conner et al. (1983) reported that mature pine forests were favored in east Texas, with increasing abundance as the proportion of pole-size pines and vegetation height increased. Tree and shrub species diversity, and foliage density at different heights had little effect. In addition, stands of sapling-sized pines were avoided.

In eastern Tennessee, Anderson and Shugart (1974) found that pine warbler distribution is influenced by several habitat variables, the strongest of which was related to average size of understory vegetation, number of canopy trees, and average size of canopy vegetation. In this area, birds selected areas with sparse understory and a dense canopy. In Ouachita Mountains of Arkansas, Wilson et al. (1995) found significantly higher densities of pine warblers in forests with a more open midstory, lower canopy coverage, lower basal area of conifers and hardwoods, and dense ground cover of grasses, shrubs, vines, and forbs (see MGMT.REQS for additional information.)

Pine Warbler was considered a forest-interior species by Whitcomb et al. (1981). Schroeder (1985) mentions a minimum estimate of 10-15 ha of forest habitat is required to sustain a breeding population. However, Robbins (1979) estimated the minimum area to be 30 ha. Interestingly, Robbins et al. (1989) found no significant relationship between probability of occurrence and forest area for pine warblers. In a old-growth hammock in Florida, Noss (1991) recorded significantly higher numbers of pine warblers closer to edges than in the forest interior during the breeding season, and considered it an 'edge-attracted species.' However, while this species may be attracted to edge habitats in some areas, edge habitats of small forest blocks probably do not support viable populations.

Nesting occurs typically in pine trees in forest, rarely in deciduous trees within pine forest. Nests usually are placed on a horizontal branch or among foliage at a branch tip, usually 8-20 m above ground. Nests are usually well hidden and difficult to observe from the ground.

Occupied Landcover Map Units:
Code NameDescription NC Natural Heritage Program Equivalent
121 Maritime Pinelands Loblolly forests and woodlands of the outer coastal plain. Estuarine Fringe Loblolly Pine Forest
17 Maritime Forests and Hammocks Maritime forests and woodlands dominated by live or sand laurel oak. Estuarine Fringe forests dominated by loblolly pine. Coastal Fringe Evergreen Forest, Maritime Deciduous Forest, Maritime Deciduous Forest
158 Coastal Plain Nonriverine Wet Flat Forests Loblolly pine - Atlantic white-cedar - red maple - swamp tupelo saturated forests as well as forests dominated by loblolly, sweetgum, and red maple in non-riverine flats. Non-riverine Wet Hardwood Forest
87 Pocosin Woodlands and Shrublands Includes pond pine woodland, low pocosin and high pocosin shrub dominated areas. Canebrakes and bay forests may be present. Pond Pine Woodlands, Peatland Canebrake, Small Depression Pocosin
67 Wet Longleaf or Slash Pine Savanna Wet flatwoods and pine savannas, typically dominated by longleaf pines, but slash or pond pines may be the dominant pines. Wet Pine Flatwoods
97 Mesic Longleaf Pine Longleaf pine woodlands without a major scrub oak component. Slash or loblolly pines may be present as well. Mesic Pine Flatwoods
42 Xeric Longleaf Pine Sandhills including a range of longleaf pine density from predominantly wiregrass, scrub oak dominated to true longleaf pine woodland. This does not include mesic or saturated flatwood types. Xeric Sandhill Scrub, Pine/Scrub Oak Sandhill, Coastal Fringe Sandhill
46 Xeric Oak - Pine Forests Mixed forest dominated by yellow pines with white or northern red oaks co-dominating. Pine Oak Heath
232 Xeric Pine-Hardwood Woodlands and Forests Mixed forest dominated by yellow pines with drier oaks including southern red, post, and chestnut oaks. Dry Oak Hickory Forest
383 Piedmont Mixed Successional Forest Generally loblolly mixed with successional hardwoods. Sweetgum, tulip poplar and red maple are common co-dominants in these successional forests. No equivalent
222 Piedmont Dry-Mesic Pine Forests Loblolly dominated forests resulting from succession following clearing. This type occurs on all moisture regimes following disturbance with the exception of the extremely xeric sites. No equivalent
382 Dry Mesic Oak Pine Forests Mixed forests of the coastal plain and piedmont. Includes loblolly pine with white, southern red and/or post oak and loblolly with water oak. On basic sites of the piedmont, eastern red cedar may co-occur with post, black, and blackjack oaks. Dry Mesic Oak Hickory Forest, Xeric Hard Pan Forest, Chestnut Oak Forest, Dry Mesic Oak Hickory Forest, Dry Oak Hickory Forest
220 Piedmont Xeric Pine Forests Dry to xeric pine forests dominated by Virginia pine, shortleaf pine or Eastern Red Cedar. Pine Oak Heath
21 Coniferous Cultivated Plantation (natural / planted) Managed pine plantations, densely planted. Most planted stands are loblolly, but slash and longleaf occur as well. No equivalent
527 Appalachian Hemlock Upland hemlock forests of the moutains region. Vary from side slopes to steep slope positions. Canada Hemlock Forest
528 Appalachian Xeric Pine Forest Pine forests and woodlands on xeric sites. A variety of pines, including Virginia, Shortleaf, Eastern White Pine, Table Mountain and Pitch pine. Often small areas of dense pine within a matrix of Xeric Oak-Pine Forests. Pine Oak Heath
529 Appalachian Xeric Mixed Forest Mixed forests with Virginia, Shortleaf, Eastern White Pine, Table Mountain and Pitch pines in combination with xeric oak species. Oaks include, white, Southern Red, black, and rock chestnut. Pine Oak Heath
View Entire Landcover Legend
Additional Spatial Constraints:
Exclude all area outside of known range.
Limited to elevation range: less than 3000 ft.
Anderson, S. H., and H. H. Shugart, Jr. 1974. Habitat selection of breeding birds in an east Tennessee deciduous forest. Ecology 55:828-37.

Robbins, C.S. 1979. Effect of forest fragmentation on bird populations. Pp. 198-212 in:R.M. DeGraff and K.E. Evans (ed.). Management of north central and northeastern forests for nongame birds. U.S. Dep. Agric. For. Serv., Gen. Tech. Rep. NC-51. 268pp.

Whitcomb, R.F., C.S. Robbins, J.F. Lynch, B.L. Whitcomb, M.K. Klimciewicz, and D. Bystrak. 1981. Effects of forest fragmentation on avifauna of the eastern deciduous forest. Pages 125-206 in R.L. Burgess and B.L. Sharpe, editors. Forest island dynamics in

Conner, R.N., J.G. Dickson, B.A. Locke, and C.A. Segelquist. 1983. Vegetation characteristics important to common songbirds in east Texas (USA). Wilson Bulletin 95: 349-361.

Wilson, C. W., R. E. Masters, and G. A. Bukenhofer. 1995. Breeding bird response to pine-grassland community restoration for red-cockaded woodpeckers. Journal of Wildlife Management 59:56-67.

Bent, A.C. 1953. Life histories of North American wood warblers. U.S. Natl. Mus. Bull. 203. Washington, D.C.

Hamel, P. B. 1992. The land manager's guide to the birds of the south. The Nature Conservancy, Chapel Hill, North Carolina. 367 pp + several appendices.

Simpson MB Jr. 1992. Birds of the Blue Ridge Mountains. Chapel Hill and London: University of North Carolina Press.

Fussell, J.O. III. 1994. A birderís guide to coastal North Carolina. Chapel Hill and London: The University of North Carolina Press.

Stevenson, H. M., and B. H. Anderson. 1994. The birdlife of Florida. University Press of Florida, Gainesville. 892 pp.

Dunn, J.L., and K.L. Garrett. 1997. A field guide to warblers of North America. Houghton Mifflin Company, Boston.

Nicholson CP. 1997. Atlas of the breeding birds of Tennessee. Knoxville: University of Tennessee Press.

Robbins, C. S., J. R. Sauer, R. Greenberg, and S. Droege. 1989. Habitat area requirements of breeding forest birds of the middle Atlantic states. Wildl. Monogr. 103:1-34.

Schroeder, R. L. 1985. Habitat suitability index models:Pine Warbler. Biol. Rep. 82(10.28). U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. 8 pp.

Harrison, C. 1978. A field guide to the nests, eggs and nestlings of North American birds. Collins, Cleveland, Ohio.

Nolan, V., Jr. 1978. Ecology and behavior of the prairie warbler DENDROICA DISCOLOR. American Ornithologists' Union, Ornithological Monographs No. 26. 595 pp.

Griscom, L., and A. Sprunt, Jr. 1979. The warblers of America. Doubleday and Co., Garden City, New York. 302 pp.

Harrison, H.H. 1979. A field guide to western birds' nests. Houghton Mifflin Company, Boston. 279 pp.

Potter, E. F., J. F. Parnell, and R. P. Teulings. 1980. Birds of the Carolinas. Univ. North Carolina Press, Chapel Hill. 408 pp.

Terres, J.K. 1980. The Audubon Society encyclopedia of North American birds. Alfred A. Knopf, New York.

Repenning, R. W., and R. F. Labisky. 1985. Effects of even-age timber management on bird communites of the longleaf pine forest in northern Florida. Journal of Wildlife Management 49:1088-98.

Barden LS, Brown RD, Matthews JF, Cross RE. 1986. Vegetation structure and bird species diversity in a North Carolina piedmont forest. Journal of the Elisha Mitchell Scientific Society 102(1):35-41.

American Ornithologists' Union (AOU), Committee on Classification and Nomenclature. 1983. Check-list of North American Birds. Sixth Edition. American Ornithologists' Union, Allen Press, Inc., Lawrence, Kansas.

Harrison, H.H. 1984. Wood warblers' world. Simon and Schuster, New York. 335 pp.

Morse, D. H. 1989. American warblers:an ecological and behavioral perspective. Harvard University Press. 384 pp.

Droege, S., and J.R. Sauer. 1990. North American Breeding Bird Survey, annual summary, 1989. U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Biological Report 90(8). 22 pp.

Noss, R. F. 1991. Effects of edge and internal patchiness on avian habitat use in an old-growth Florida hammock. Natural Areas Journal 11:34-47.

10 March 2005
This data was compiled and/or developed by the North Carolina GAP Analysis Project.

For more information please contact them at:
NC-GAP Analysis Project
Dept. of Zoology, NCSU
Campus Box 7617
Raleigh, NC 27695-7617
(919) 513-2853