While many warblers show some yellow in their plumage, the aptly named yellow warbler is the brightest and most extensively yellow one of all. This bird also has the widest range of any North American warbler, which brings its brilliant color to millions of birders every year.
Yellow Warbler, American Yellow Warbler
- Bill: Pointed, black
- Size: 5 inches long with 7-8-inch wingspan, plump body, short tail
- Colors: Yellow, red, olive green
- Markings: Dimorphic species. Males are bright yellow overall with red streaking on the chest and flanks, and their wings are tinged with an olive wash. Females are plainer and dull yellow with more extensive olive green or olive yellow plumage on the back, wings and tail, with the brightest yellow on the face. Some females show faint red streaks similar to male birds. Year-round males in Mexico and the Caribbean may have a reddish cap. On both genders, eyes are dark and legs are pale.
Insects, caterpillars, fruit
Habitat and Migration:
Yellow warblers are adaptable and will visit many types of habitat, though they prefer riparian areas, gardens, orchards and open forests. Their summer range includes all of Canada, the northern and central United States and central Mexico. While isolated populations stay year-round in the Caribbean, most yellow warblers migrate to southern Mexico, Central America and South America as far as Colombia and Venezuela in the winter.
Like most warblers, these birds have a varied song. The bouncy tune is composed of 6-8 syllables that vary in pitch and generally follow a slow-fast-slow tempo, and the final syllable may be drawn out. The birds also use a “chip-chip-chip-chip” call.
Yellow warblers are active, energetic foragers and will hawk insects from leaves at mid-levels of trees and brush. They are typically solitary or can be found in pairs, and several pairs may be found close together in suitable habitat. These birds can become quite tame and show little fear of humans, often affording birders spectacular views.
These are monogamous birds and the female parent will incubate a brood of 3-6 eggs for 11-12 days. After hatching, the altricial young are fed by both parents for 10-12 days. Yellow warblers may raise 1-2 broods per year, though if brown-headed cowbirds parasitize the nest, the warblers will build a new nest layer on top of the existing eggs, including their own, to lay new ones.
Attracting Yellow Warblers:
Yellow warblers are not common backyard birds but will visit bird-friendly landscaping that includes brushy trees and shrubs as well as fruit-bearing trees and bushes. Birders should avoid spraying for insects, as that would remove these birds’ preferred food source.