SIB “Bird of the Week” – Common Yellowthroat

Common Yellowthroat – Geothlypis trichas
Length:  4.3–5.1”; Wingspan: 5.9 – 7.9″; Weight: 0.3–0.4 oz

Common Yellowthroat - Ed Konrad
Common Yellowthroat – Ed Konrad

The Common Yellowthroat is one of the most easy-to-spot warblers during spring and summer in Seabrook Island, and in much of North America. These songbirds dwell in open habitats such as marshes, wetland edges and brushy fields. The male’s “witchety-witchety-witchety” song is distinctive and easy to recognize. The male is also known for his black ‘bandit’ mask that contrasts to his showy bright, lemon-yellow throat and breast. The female Common Yellowthroat is, like her male counterpart, small and compact, and her coloring is mostly dull olive-gray overall. This bird has a very short neck and a small bill.

Common Yellowthroats spend much of their time flying low to the ground in dense thickets and fields, searching for insects and spiders. They favor small grasshoppers, dragonflies, mayflies, beetles, grubs, caterpillars, and other small bugs and also eat a few seeds. While they gather food mostly on foliage and through ground foraging, they occasionally make short flights to catch insects in mid-air.

Male Yellowthroats court females by flicking their wings and tail, following females closely and performing flight displays. In pairs, these birds prefer to nest low (less than 3’ up) on piles of briars, weeds, grasses or shrubs, or among cattails and bulrushes in the marsh setting. The nest is typically a bulky open cup shape, built by the female, and sometimes includes a partial roof of weeds, grass stems, dead leaves and bark that is attached to the rim of the nest. Common Yellowthroats usually produce 2 broods per year, and typically lay 3-6 eggs at a time. The eggs are creamy white with brown and black spots and are incubated by the female only for a period of 12 days. The male feeds the female on the nest during incubation and the young, once hatched, are fed by both parents. The young leave the nest after about 8-10 days.

The Common Yellowthroat winters throughout Central America, northwestern South America, extreme southern US and most of the Caribbean islands.

Certain subspecies of Common Yellowthroats are at risk of decline, largely from wetland degradation and conversion to agricultural and urban landscapes. Because they are insectivores and often live in wetlands, Common Yellowthroats are also susceptible to poor water quality and to pesticides and other pollutants. Cowbirds will occasionally ‘brood parasitize’ the Yellowthroat nest (lay their eggs in the host nest, forcing the parents to abandon the nest). Given these threats and risks, Yellowthroat populations seem to be holding steady rangewide across the United States.

Yellowthroats are naturally inquisitive birds and a little backyard investigation can often bring them out into the open for observation. Listen for their husky, low chuck coming from undergrowth. When you hear one calling, look low in the bushes and trees for a quick, small bird with olive wings and a yellow breast. Try making a ‘pishing’ sound. This often will draw the curious Yellowthroat out into the open to see who is making the sound, and you will be able to spot this small, pretty songbird!

If you would like to learn more about this bird visit:

Article submitted by: Lyn Magee
Photographs provided by: Ed Konrad

This blog post is part of a series SIB will publish on a regular basis to feature birds seen in the area, both migratory and permanent residents.  When possible we will use photographs taken by our members.    Please let us know if you have any special requests of birds you would like to learn more about.

Author: sibirders

SEABROOK ISLAND BIRDERS / “watching, learning, protecting” Seabrook Island Birders (SIB) are residents, renters and guests of Seabrook Island, SC who have an interest in learning, protecting and providing for the well-being of the incredible variety of birds that inhabit Seabrook Island throughout the year.

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