Be Your Own Birder

Bird of the Week: Yellow Warbler

This week’s featured bird is sunny all around – a sunny disposition, sunny plumage and a herald of sunny spring and summer days. Meet the yellow warbler!

Yellow Warbler

Yellow Warbler – Photo by LOST HOPE

Name: Yellow Warbler
Scientific Name: Setophaga petechia
Scientific Family: Parulidae (New World Warblers)

Habitat: These birds brighten up shrubby or thicket-like habitats, including woods, forests and swamps. They prefer riparian areas, such as alongside river or streams, or in marshes or swampy areas. Areas with willows, alders, mangroves, birch, dogwoods and cottonwoods are especially favored by yellow warblers. In suburban areas, these birds may be seen in orchards or parks as well.

Range: These are widespread birds, found year-round throughout the southern United States, eastern Mexico, Central America and the Caribbean. During the summer breeding season, they spread out further north throughout all of North America into Canada and Alaska, and in winter, they venture to northern South America.

These birds are aptly named for their overall yellow plumage, which is a bright banana, lemon or canary-yellow shade. Their dark eyes stand out in the bright face, giving them an inquisitive and cheerful countenance. The back and wings are be a bit duller with an olive-yellow hue, and females are overall a bit more dull. Males show reddish vertical streaks on the breast and flanks, and southern populations – in the Caribbean, Mexico, Central America and South America – may show a rusty red cap or even a completely red face. Even in northern populations, the reddish streaking can vary and some birds are more heavily marked than others.

Yellow warblers are active bright spots high in dappled foliage as they flit about feeding on insects, and they may even hover for a moment or two as they pick insects off leaves. They hop along quickly and rarely stay still, though males will perch and sing from open branches. The sweet, whistling song is just as delightful to hear as this bird’s pretty plumage is to see.

I’ve been privileged to see a number of yellow warblers, and they are always a delight to brighten any birder’s day. I hope they brighten yours!

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