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IDENTIFICATION

Tennessee warbler “Vermivora peregrine” is a medium size 11.5 cm in length.  This is a small transatlantic vagrant, fairly plump, short-tailed parulid. In the first winter or (slightly less bright) adult female winter plumage in autumn, an unstreaked green and yellow warbler, with contrasting white undertail coverts, a rather poorly defined (and not very long) yellow supercilium and one or two faint pale wing-bars; often (maybe only adults) shows a tiny whitish area at tail corners.
This clearly suggests a Phylloscopus, with a call confusingly alike to that of Arctic Warbler. The brightness of plumage not normal for Arctic (the race of Arctic breeding from Kamchatka to Japan, xanthodryas, not yet recorded in the European region, is, however, very yellow below), and further differs in having clean whitish tips to primaries in fresh plumage, greyer legs and greyer, more sharply pointed bill with the pale grayish lower mandible.
Tennessee warbler “Vermivora peregrine” is a medium size 11.5 cm in length.
Tennessee warbler “Vermivora peregrine” is a medium size 11.5 cm in length. Photo Credit – Andy Reago & Chrissy McClarren
Overall the colors are more suggestive of Wood Warbler, but the latter is stockier and has a longer primary projection, whiter underparts from the lower breast down, brighter green fringes to wing feathers, no white tips to primaries, no pale wing bar, a blunter bill with more pinkish lower mandible, pinkish legs and a diverse call (but is usually silent on passage).
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Compare also Green Warbler and Philadelphia Vireo. The adult female winter is very comparable to 1st-winter and so similar identification problems apply but averages duller. Adult male winter is often whiter below and on supercilium, and greyer on the crown, than adult female winter, but many are indistinguishable.
The adult male summer is markedly whiter below and on supercilium, and has crown and ear-coverts noticeably dull bluish-gray. Whereas, adult female summer is alike but has yellow-tinged supercilium and ear-coverts, greenish crown and more yellow on underparts. Thus, consequently, both sexes are less likely to be confused with Phylloscopus warblers. This is a very active warbler, continuously on the move in the canopy of trees and shrubs, calling freely. In spite of breeding no nearby to the state of Tennessee than to northern Michigan almost six hundred miles away!

SEX/AGE

Tennessee warbler adult male summer has whitish supercilium and underparts and bluish-grey crown and ear-coverts, contrasting with dull olive upperparts; adult male winter has headed more olive, less grey, and there may be a hint of yellowish in underparts.
Adult female summer is less grey on the head than male, with a stronger yellow wash to supercilium and underparts; in winter plumage, much brighter overall and similar to 1stwinter birds. 1st-winters are very bright green and yellow (check out Identification), but often not distinguishable in the field from brightest adult females. The name is given by Alexander Wilson when during their migration he encountered a beautiful bird in Tennessee. 

VOICE / SONGS / CALLS

Tennessee warbler given freely by migrants, a short, rasped ‘zik’ (recalling Arctic Warbler, but sharper and less metallic), and a thin ‘zeep’ (recalling single note of Firecrest). Tennessee warbler song is distinctive; a fairly loud, staccato series of two-syllable notes, followed by a few higher pitched single notes and finally a trill: ‘sidit-sidit-siditsidit- swit-swit-swit-sit-sit-sit-sit-sit-sit’.
Tennessee warbler song is distinctive; a fairly loud, staccato series of two-syllable notes, followed by a few higher pitched single notes
Tennessee warbler song is distinctive; a fairly loud, staccato series of two-syllable notes, followed by a few higher pitched single notes. Photo Credit – Jerry Oldenettel

HABITAT

Tennessee warbler is a vagrant in Western Europe, however in the natural range, breeds in coniferous and mixed woodland; on migration also in open deciduous woodland, scrubby areas, and thickets. Normally, the cup-shaped nest is built by females in open grass stems; lined with fine dry grass, porcupine quills, and decorated with moose hair.
Tennessee warbler habitually had hidden in a depression on the ground under bushes or hanging grass. The place is normally on mossy hummock in wet fields, but builds a nest on fairly dry ground on steep hillsides.
Tennessee warbler is a vagrant in Western Europe, however in the natural range, breeds in coniferous and mixed woodland;
Tennessee warbler is a vagrant in Western Europe, however, in the natural range, breeds in coniferous and mixed woodland. Photo Credit – Andy Reago & Chrissy McClarren

Related Reading – Arctic Warbler

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