Because the Appalachian population of golden-winged warblers is elevation-dependent, the species' breeding distribution in Virginia is limited to the western part of the state. Our understanding of this distribution is imperfect. Historically, golden-wings were documented in 15 counties west of the Blue Ridge Mountains prior to 1985 (Bailey 1913, Peake 1986, Wilson and Watts 2012). These observations were reported by individual birders or via county-based Breeding Bird Forays by the Virginia Society of Ornithology; as such, there are probably gaps in the records.
The 1985-1989 Virginia Breeding Bird Atlas documented golden-wings in 23 counties (Trollinger and Reay 2001), and, through its broader geographic scope, filled in some of the historic gaps.
The first systematic state-level survey for golden-winged warblers in Virginia was conducted in 2006 and covered a 40 county area; the species was documented in only 11 counties (Wilson et al. 2007). Because the survey covered a broad geographic area within a relatively short period, by necessity it under-sampled certain areas (habitat patches surveyed per county varied from 1 to 76). Given these limitations, it is likely that the current distribution of golden-wings in Virginia exceeds what was documented by the study.
Golden-winged Warbler banner image by Bill Hubick