Black-cheeked Warblers

The Black-cheeked Warbler (Basileuterus melanogenys) is a New World warbler which is a resident breeding bird endemic to the mountains of central and southern Costa Rica and western Panama.

Despite this species’ restricted range, it has three subspecies.

  • B. m. melanogenys, the nominate race described above, breeds in central and southern Costa Rica.
  • B. m. eximius is highly localised in a small area of western Panama, and is slightly whiter on the belly than melanogenys.
  • B. m. bensoni is highly localised in a small area of west-central Panama, and is whiter below than eximius, and a purer grey above.

It is normally found in oak forests with a dense bamboo understory from 2500 m altitude to the timberline, but occasionally occurs as low as 1600m.

Nesting / Breeding

The breeding pair builds a bulky domed nest with a side entrance on a sloping bank or in a gully, and the female lays two white eggs.


The Black-cheeked Warbler is 13-13.5 cm long and weighs 13 g. It has a rufous crown, long white supercilia and black cheeks. The upperparts are dull olive, the breast is olive-grey, and the belly is yellow-white.

Males and females look alike, but the young bird is browner on the upperparts, has a dull supercilium, a greyer breast, and shows two cinnamon wingbars.

Diet / Feeding

The Black-cheeked Warbler primarily feeds on insects, spiders and other small invertebrates (= animals without internal skeleton), taken low in the undergrowth.

Song / Vocalization

The call note of the Black-cheeked Warbler is a hard tsit, and the male’s song is a lisping spluttered tsi tsi wee tsi tsi wu tsi wee.

Photo of author

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