Worm-eating warbler
Helmitheros vermivorus
ITIS Species Code:   178850         NatureServ Element Code:   ABPBX08010
NatureServe Global Rank: 
NatureServe State (NC) Rank: 
Federal Status: 
NC State Status: 
Southern Blue Ridge:  25 Southern Piedmont:  25 South Atl. Coastal Plain:  23
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

6.1 %
55.6 %
3.2 %
16.3 %
2.7 %
0.8 %
8.0 %
1.0 %
0.4 %
4.7 %
4.7 %
< 0.1 %
< 0.1 %

38.5 %
% of Dist. on
All Lands

1.3 %
11.8 %
0.7 %
3.5 %
0.6 %
0.2 %
1.7 %
0.2 %
< 0.1 %
0.2 %
1.0 %
< 0.1 %
78.7 %

8.2 %
Found primarily in the mountain region. Occasional in the piedmont (Potter et al. 1980). Locally common in the coastal plain (Fussell 1994).

In the mountains, inhabits young deciduous forests (Alsop 1991), often oak, with a dense understory of shrubs on steep hillsides and the sides of ridges and ravines (Simpson 1992). On the coastal plain, tends toward damp, open pine forests with a dense understory of shrubs (Fussell 1994). Sometimes near water (Griscom and Sprunt 1957).

Nest is generally built under a shrub or exposed root, at the base of a sapling, or in the cavity of a bank (Griscom and Sprunt 1957) and hidden on the forest floor under dead leaves. It is constructed from old leaf skeletons and mycelia of hair fungi. (Ehrlich et al. 1988). Forages on the ground and on limbs (Potter et al. 1980) of low or intermediate heights (Dunn and Garrett 1997).


BREEDING: Well-drained upland deciduous forests with understory patches of mountain laurel or other shrubs, drier portions of stream swamps with an understory of mountain laurel, deciduous woods near streams; almost always associated with hillsides (Gale 1995, Bushman and Therres 1988). Coastal plain habitats in Maryland include well-drained oak and oak-hickory forests, flatland white oak forests along river terraces, and drier islands of nontidal forested wetlands (Stasz 1996). Dense patches of shrubs or saplings may be an important component of territories (Patton and Hanners, unpub. data; Bushman and Therres 1988). Most abundant in mature woods but also may be common in young and medium-aged stands (see Bushman and Therres 1988). Nests on the ground, usually on hillsides, in cryptic nests among dead leaves, usually against roots or stems of shrubs or saplings, in a slight cavity (Harrison 1978), or up against rock outcrops. Nests are constructed of skeletonized leaves and lined with sporophyte stems of hairy cap moss (POLYTRICHUM sp.).

NON-BREEDING: In migration, occurs in various forest, woodland, scrub, and thicket situations, but specific habitat requirements are not known. In winter, inhabits undergrowth shrub and subcanopy layers of forests. Wunderle and Waide (1993) reported that worm-eating warblers are forest specialists but use a variety of forest types in the Caribbean, including 'montane pine and broadleaf forest, wet limestone and dry forest, and dry scrub and residential habitats in the Bahamas.' On the Caribbean slope of Central America, habitats include scrub and broadleaf and gallery forests (Rappole et al. 1983).


Ranges up to an elevation of 1200m in the Southern Appalachians (Hamel 1992).

Occupied Landcover Map Units:
Code NameDescription NC Natural Heritage Program Equivalent
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
50 Coastal Plain Mixed Bottomland Forests Includes forests dominated by a variety of hardwood species, including sweetgum, cottonwood, red maple. Coastal Plain Bottomland Hardwood (in part), Coastal Plain Levee Forest
49 Coastal Plain Oak Bottomland Forest Bottomland forests dominated by deciduous oak alliances. Oaks represented can include swamp chestnut, cherrybark, willow, and/or overcup oak. Inclusions of loblolly pine temporarily flooded forests occur in patches. Hydrology is temporarily to seasonally flooded. Coastal Plain Bottomland Hardwoods (in part) blackwater subtype, brownwater subtype
30 Cypress-Gum Floodplain Forests Swamps dominated by black or swamp tupelo with or without Taxodium. Seasonally to semi-permanently flooded hydrology. Cypress-Gum Swamps
78 Pond-Cypress - Gum Swamps, Savannas and Lakeshores Cypress dominated swamps and lakeshores. Can include bays dominated by pond cypress or shorelines of coastal plain lakes with a narrow band of cypress. Non-riverine Swamp Forest, Natural Lakeshores (in part)
385 Oak Bottomland Forest and Swamp Forest The swamp chestnut oak, cherrybark oak, shumard oak and sweetgum alliance is one representative. Other alliances are dominated by water, willow, and overcup oaks. Swamp forests can be dominated by sweetgum, red maple, and black gum being dominant. Loblolly can occur in combination with sweetgum and red maple, or with tulip poplar. Includes saturated and semi- to permanently flooded forests in the mountains. Piedmont/Mountain Bottomland Forest, Piedmont/Mountain Swamp Forest
384 Piedmont/Mountain Mixed Bottomland Hardwood Forests Includes temporarily to seasonally forests dominated by hardwood species. Hardwoods include sweetgum, red maple, sycamore which co-occur in a mosaic of bottomland and levee positions. Includes alluvial hardwood forests in the mountains. Hemlock and white pine may occur as inclusions, but are generally mapped separately. Piedmont/Mountain Alluvial Forest, Piedmont/Mountain Levee Forest
522 Northern Hardwoods High Elevation forests including yellow birch, American beech, and yellow buckeye. Includes forests with Hemlock and Yellow Birch. Northern Hardwoods Forest, Boulderfield Forest
525 Appalachian Oak Forest A variety of oak forest types including Black, White, Scarlet Oaks in dry to mesic situations. Includes forests historically co-dominated by American Chestnut. High Elevation Red Oak Forest, Montane White Oak Forest
526 Appalachian Cove Forest Mixed Mesophytic forests of the mountains. Includes tuliptree, basswood, yellow buckeye and surgar maple. This class is mapped to include cove forests dominated or co-dominated by hemlock. Rich Cove Forest, Acidic Cove Forest
527 Appalachian Hemlock Upland hemlock forests of the moutains region. Vary from side slopes to steep slope positions. Canada Hemlock Forest
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
530 Appalachian Xeric Deciduous Forest Deciduous forests in the mountains dominated by Xeric Oak species. Species include, white, Southern red, black, and rock chestnut. High Elevation Red Oak Forest, Montane White Oak Forest
View Entire Landcover Legend
Additional Spatial Constraints:
Exclude all area outside of known range.
Exclude the outerbanks.
Limited to elevation range: less than 4000 ft.
Wenny, D.G., R.L. Clawson, J. Faaborg, and S.L. Sheriff. 1993. Population density, habitat selection, and minimum area requirements of three forest interior warblers in central Missouri. Condor 95:968-979.

Wunderle, J.M., Jr., and R.B. Waide. 1993. Distribution of overwintering Nearctic migrants in the Bahamas and Greater Antilles. Condor 95:904-933.

Banks, R. C., and M. R. Browning. 1995. Comments on the status of revived old names for some North American birds. Auk 112:633-648.

Stasz, J.L. 1996. Worm-eating Warbler (HELMITHEROS VERMIVORUS). Pages 352-353 in C.S. Robbins and E.A.T. Blom, editors. Atlas of the breeding birds of Maryland and the District of Columbia. University of Pittsburgh Press, Pittsburgh.

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

Hagan, J.M., III, and D.W. Johnston, editors. 1992. Ecology and conservation of neotropical migrant landbirds. Smithsonian Institution Press, Washington, D.C. xiii + 609 pp.

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.

Sauer, J.R., and S. Droege. 1992. Geographical patterns in population trends of neotropical migrants in North America. Pages 26-42 in J.M. Hagan III and D.W. Johnston, editors. Ecology and conservation of neotropical migrant landbirds. Smithsonian Institu

Rappole, J.H., and D.W. Warner. 1980. Ecological aspects of migrant bird behavior in Veracruz, Mexico. Pages 353-393 in A. Keast and E.S. Morton, editors. Migrant birds in the neotropics:ecology, behavior, distribution, and conservation. Smithsonian Insti

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

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

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

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.

Keast, A., and E. S. Morton. 1980. Migrant birds in the Neotropics; ecology, distribution, and conservation. Smithsonian Inst. Press, Washington, D.C.

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.

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.

Raffaele, H.A. 1983. A guide to the birds of Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands. Fondo Educativo Interamericano, San Juan, Puerto Rico. 255 pp.

Rappole, J.H., E.S. Morton, T.E. Lovejoy III, and J.S. Ruos. 1983. Nearctic avian migrants in the Neotropics. U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Washington, DC. vi + 646 pp.

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

Greenberg, R. 1987. Seasonal foraging specialization in the worm-eating warbler. Condor 89:158-168.

Bushman, E.S., and G.D. Therres. 1988. Habitat management guidelines for forest interior breeding birds of coastal Maryland. Maryland Department of Natural Resources, Wildlife Tech. Publ. 88-1. 50 pp.

Ehrlich, P.R., D.S. Dobkin, and D. Wheye. 1988. The birder's handbook:a field guide to the natural history of North American birds. Simon and Shuster, Inc., New York. xxx + 785 pp.

Gale, G.A. 1995. Habitat selection in the Worm-eating Warbler (HELMITHEROS VERMIVORUS):testing different spatial scales. University of Connecticut, Storrs, Connecticut. Ph.D. dissertation.

Stiles, F.G., and A.F. Skutch. 1989. A guide to the birds of Costa Rica. Comstock Publ. Associates, Cornell University Press, Ithaca, New York. 511 pp.

Alsop FJ III. 1991. Birds of the Smokies. Gatlinburg: Great Smoky Mountains Natural History Association.

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