It is no surprise that the yellow-rumped warbler is one of the most familiar warblers of North America; this bird is one of the first to arrive in the spring and the last to leave in the fall, and during the winter months it is the most abundant warbler in North America. While yellow-rumped warblers were formerly classified as two distinct species, today the Audubon's and Myrtle warblers are both butter-butts.
Yellow-Rumped Warbler, Butter-Butt (slang)
- Bill: Black, thin, pointed
- Size: 5 inches long with 9-inch wingspan
- Colors: Gray, buff, black, white, yellow, blue-gray
- Markings: Dimorphic species with two color variations, Audubon's and Myrtle. Myrtle males have a gray or blue-gray head, back, and wings with black streaking that extends onto the white breast and flanks. The face has a black cheek patch and a white arc under the eye. The birds have bright yellow patches on the crown, flanks and rump. Feet and legs are black, and there are two white wing bars. Audubon's males have similar markings but with a yellow chin and throat and less black on the face. Females of both variations have similar but plainer markings and are buff rather than gray. Females' yellow is less extensive.
Insects, spiders, seeds, berries, sap
Habitat and Migration:
Yellow-rumped warblers can be found throughout North America in brushy coniferous and mixed forests, suburban parks and agricultural areas. The Audubon's variation is most common in western regions while the Myrtle plumage is more common in the north and east. Together, the birds' summer range includes all but the very northern regions of Canada and Alaska as well as the mountain west and Pacific northwest. In winter, these birds migrate to the southern and southeastern United States as well as Mexico and as far south as Guatemala and the western Caribbean. Year round populations can be found in eastern Arizona and along the Pacific northwest, including British Columbia, Washington and Oregon.
Yellow-rumped warblers can be gregarious and their high-pitched, whistling trill song is easily recognizable. The pitch remains fairly constant for the 2-3 second song that may consist of up to two dozen syllables. The Audubon's song is lower in pitch than the Myrtle's. Both species use sharp "chek-chek-chek-chek" and "psit-psit-psit" calls.
While butter-butts are typically found as solitary birds or in pairs, it's not uncommon to find many of them in a small area, especially during migration. They will form mixed flocks with other small birds in the winter, and they can easily be seen foraging on the ground or in trees while they hawk for insects.
Yellow-rumped warblers are monogamous birds and a mated pair can produce 2 broods of 3-5 eggs each during the breeding season. The female incubates the eggs for 12-13 days, and both parents will feed the altricial young for an additional 10-12 days.
Attracting Yellow-Rumped Warblers:
These birds do not come readily to feeders, but they will visit backyards where suitable brush and mixed trees are available to host insects. In winter, yellow-rumped warblers will visit feeders for sunflower seeds, suet, raisins and peanut butter.
- Black-Throated Gray Warbler (Dendroica nigrescens)
- Magnolia Warbler (Dendroica magnolia)
- Yellow-Throated Warbler (Dendroica dominica)