These birds have a yellow face with a black stripe across their cheeks, a thin pointed bill, white wing bars, olive upperparts with black streaks on their backs and flanks, and a white belly. Adult males have a black cap, black throat and yellow lower breast; females have a dark cap and a yellow throat. Immature birds are similar to females with a dark green cap and cheeks.
Their breeding habitats are coniferous forests with large trees on the northwestern coast of North America. Their nests are shallow cups built with grass and lined with moss. These nests are usually placed atop a branch in a conifer. The female lays 4 to 5 eggs.
This bird is closely related to the Hermit Warbler, and the two species interbreed where their ranges overlap.
They forage actively in the higher branches, sometimes hovering or catching insects in flight. They mainly eat insects and spiders and seeds. Outside of the nesting season, these birds forage in mixed flocks. In winter, they also eat berries and plant nectar.
The song of the male bird is a buzzed zee-zee-zee-bzz-zee, somewhat similar to that of its eastern relative, the Black-throated Green Warbler. The call is a sharp tup.
This bird was named after the American ornithologist, John Kirk Townsend. Although Townsend is also credited with first describing this bird, he used a name chosen by Thomas Nuttall, who was travelling with him, and so sidestepped the convention against naming a species after oneself.
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