Length5.5 to 6 inches. About an inch smaller than the English sparrow.
MaleBlack cap; cheeks and beneath grayish white, forming a sort of collar, more or less distinct. Upper parts striped gray, black, and olive. Breast and under parts white, with black streaks. Tail olive-brown, with yellow-white spots.
FemaleWithout cap. Greenish-olive above, faintly streaked with black. Paler than male. Bands on wings, yellowish. RangeNorth America, to Greenland and Alaska. In winter, to northern part of South America.
MigrationsLast of May. Late October.
A faint “screep, screep,” like “the noise made by striking two pebbles together,” Audubon says, is often the only indication of the blackpoll’s presence; but surely that tireless bird-student had heard its more characteristic notes, which, rapidly uttered, increasing in the middle of the strain and diminishing toward the end, suggest the shrill, wiry hum of some midsummer insect. After the opera-glass has searched him out we find him by no means an inconspicuous bird. A dainty little fellow; with a glossy black cap pulled over his eyes, he is almost hidden by the dense foliage on the trees by the time he returns to us at the very end of spring. Giraud says that he is the very last of his tribe to come north, though the bay-breasted warbler has usually been thought the bird to wind up the spring procession.
The blackpoll has a certain characteristic motion that distinguishes him from the black-and-white creeper, for which a hasty glance might mistake him, and from the jolly little chickadee with his black cap. Apparently he runs about the tree-trunk, but in reality he so flits his wings that his feet do not touch the bark at all; yet so rapidly does he go that the flipping wing-motion is not observed. He is most often seen in May in the apple trees, peeping into the opening blossoms for insects, uttering now and then his slender, lisping, brief song.
Vivacious, a busy hunter, often catching insects on the wing like the flycatchers, he is a cheerful, useful neighbor the short time he spends with us before travelling to the far north, where he mates and nests. A nest has been found on Slide Mountain, in the Catskills, but the hardy evergreens of Canada, and sometimes those of northern New England, are the chosen home of this little bird that builds a nest of bits of root, lichens, and sedges, amply large for a family twice the size of his.