Lucy's WarblerOreothlypis luciae

adult male
Rick and Nora Bowers/VIREO
adult female
Rob Curtis/VIREO
Rick and Nora Bowers/VIREO
adult male
Rob Curtis/VIREO



Small, pale, and plain, this bird is unimpressive in appearance, but it is notable as the only warbler that nests in the hot deserts of the Southwest. Lucy's Warblers return to the desert early in spring, and pairs can be found foraging in brush along the washes even before the mesquites have leafed out. Unlike most warblers, they raise their young in cavities, placing their nests inside old woodpecker holes or under loose slabs of bark.


Mesquite along desert streams and washes; willows, cottonwoods. Breeds mostly in cottonwood-mesquite woods near desert streams or in open groves of mesquite along dry washes in the Sonoran desert. Also found in sycamore and live oak groves near streams in the lower parts of canyons close to arid lowlands.

Feeding Diet

Mostly or entirely insects. Diet is not known in detail; undoubtedly feeds mostly on insects.

Feeding Behavior

Most common method of foraging is to hop rapidly about in mesquites and other desert trees and bushes, taking insects from the foliage and twigs. Typically, warblers in this genus do much probing of buds and flowers. Sometimes observed flying out to catch insects in mid-air.


Male displays to the female during courtship by fluffing plumage, raising crown feathers and spreading wings and tail. Nest: Placed in natural hollows in mesquites, old woodpecker holes, under loose bark (especially bark peeled from trunk by fire), sometimes in deserted Verdin nest or hole in eroded stream bank. Typically nests 5-40' above ground. Nest (built by both sexes) is loosely and raggedly made of coarse grass and weeds, bark strips, mesquite leaf stems, surrounding a compact cup of fine grasses. Lined with animal hair or feathers. Eggs: 4-5, sometimes 3-7. White or creamy, with red-brown spots near large end. Incubation is by female, possibly also by male. Incubation period unknown. Young: Both parents feed nestlings. Age at which young leave the nest is not well known. Probably 2 broods per year.


4-5, sometimes 3-7. White or creamy, with red-brown spots near large end. Incubation is by female, possibly also by male. Incubation period unknown. Young: Both parents feed nestlings. Age at which young leave the nest is not well known. Probably 2 broods per year.


Both parents feed nestlings. Age at which young leave the nest is not well known. Probably 2 broods per year.


Undoubtedly has declined with loss of streamside groves and clearing of mesquite woods in Southwest. Still very common in appropriate habitat.


Migrates very early in both spring and fall, with most arriving in the Southwest in March, and the species becoming hard to find there after mid-August.


songs #3
songs #2
songs #1

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adult male


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