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Yellow-Throated Warbler

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Yellow-Throated Warbler

Yellow-Throated Warbler - Adult

Ed Schneider

The bright lemon yellow throat is the best field mark for the aptly named yellow-throated warbler, and this cheery, elegant warbler is a popular and easily recognizable spring and summer guest in the southeastern United States, and its slow, stately foraging can make it easier to see than more hyperactive warblers.

Common Name:

Yellow-Throated Warbler

Scientific Name:

Dendroica dominica

Scientific Family:

Parulidae

Appearance:

  • Bill: Long, black, sharply pointed
  • Size: 5.25 inches long with 8.5-inch wingspan, long tail
  • Colors: Black, white, gray, yellow, blue-gray, buff
  • Markings: Genders are similar but do show some very small differences. Males have a bright yellow chin, throat and upper breast. The face is marked with a black mask from the lores and forehead to the eyes to the malar stripe, with a bold white eyebrow and a white arc under the eye. A white patch is also prominent on the side of the neck. Upperparts are gray and gray wings show black edging and two white wing bars. Underparts are white with black streaking on the flanks. Females are similar but have finer streaking on the flanks and more gray than black on the forehead. Juvenile birds are similar to adults but have duller coloration overall and may show a buff wash on the flanks.

Foods:

Insects, caterpillars, spiders (See: Insectivorous)

Habitat and Migration:

Yellow-throated warblers are common but elusive birds that are found in swampy hardwood forests and similar riparian areas, particularly where mixed oak-pine forests are present and Spanish moss is plentiful. Their summer range extends from Illinois and Indiana to eastern Texas to the Atlantic coast, though they are absent from the highest elevations of the Appalachian Mountains. Some yellow-throated warblers can be found year-round in northern and central Florida, though these neotropical migrants typically spend winters in southern Florida, along the Mississippi River delta, or in the southern tip of Texas and along Mexico's eastern coast, extending as far south as Panama in appropriate habitats. They can also be found wintering in the Caribbean, and vagrant sightings much further west and north of their typical range are not uncommon during migration.

Vocalizations:

These warblers have a cheerful, musical song that is a high-pitched series of "tsew" notes with 7-10 repetitions that descend slightly in pitch through the song. The volume of the song can be quite loud and these birds often sing perched high in treetops, where they can be hidden by foliage but are still easily audible.

Behavior:

These are relatively solitary birds, though they can be found in pairs, particularly during the mating season in spring and early summer. Their movements may seem slow and deliberate when compared to other warblers and small birds, and they glean insects by prying into crevices as they creep along branches. They will also glean insects from leaves and probe into Spanish moss to forage, and they also use hawking to catch insects in flight. Yellow-throated warblers most often forage high in trees, but are willing to forage at lower heights, even on the ground, if food sources are readily available.

Reproduction:

These are monogamous birds. The nest is a cup-shaped structure constructed of fine stems, grasses, plant down and similar materials and will be lined with feathers or other soft items, and it is typically placed 10-100 feet above the ground. The eggs are a grayish white or grayish green shade and are splotched with lavender, red or gray markings. One brood generally contains 3-5 eggs, and 1-2 broods are raised by a mated pair each year.

The female parent incubates the eggs for 11-14 days. She then continues to care for her altricial young for an additional 10-12 days after hatching until they are ready to leave the nest. The male may help with hatchling feeding to a small degree.

Yellow-throated warblers will very rarely hybridize with northern parulas. The resulting hatchlings show characteristics of both species, and while they are not recognized as an official species, they are referred to as Sutton's warblers.

Attracting Yellow-Throated Warblers:

Most warblers are not typical backyard birds, but yellow-throated warblers will, on rare occasions, visit feeders that offer black oil sunflower seeds. To attract these warblers, it is more important to minimize insecticide use and to maintain mature trees where they can effectively forage. A shaded water source can also help attract these warblers.

Conservation:

These warblers are not generally threatened or endangered, though some regional populations may show fluctuations as habitats are affected by development. Overall, yellow-throated warblers are considered common and their total population numbers are stable.

Similar Birds:

Photo – Yellow-Throated Warbler – Adult © Ed Schneider

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