These songbirds occupy a great number of habitats from thick to semi-open woodlands, to marshes and swamps, to forest edges. They generally prefer areas that have dense shrubs or thickets, where they often spend much of their time. While most favor woodlands or woodland edges, others tend toward more exotic habitats. The hermit warbler (Dendroica occidentals), for instance, lives in the fairly open coniferous forests along the west coast of the United States, whereas the cerulean warbler (Dendroica cerulea) inhabits the dense deciduous forests in the eastern half of the United States, and the Kirtland's warbler breeds in stands of young jack pines in Michigan. The northern waterthrush (Seiurus noveboracensis) lives in the swamps of Canada, Alaska, and the northernmost United States, while the worm-eating warbler (Helmitheros ver-mivorus) exists in dry woodlots in the central-eastern United States, and Lucy's warbler (Vermivora luciae) makes a living in the mesquite deserts of the southwestern United States and Mexico.

This family has infiltrated many niches, much as the Old World warblers have done in the Eastern Hemisphere. While individual species of wood warblers are not gregarious during the breeding season, several different species frequently coexist. From a good vantage point along the edge of a forest in the northeastern United States, a birder can expect to hear upwards of eight to 10 different species of wood warblers singing in early summer.

It is important to point out that most of what is known of the wood warblers is based on information collected during the North American species' breeding seasons. Although the species spend about eight months on average in their winter homes and only four in their breeding areas, North America has many more birders, as well as organized research projects, in place to study them.

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