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Yellow-rumped Warbler

Setophaga coronata ORDER: PASSERIFORMES FAMILY: PARULIDAE

IUCN Conservation Status: Least Concern

Yellow-rumped Warblers are impressive in the sheer numbers with which they flood the continent each fall. Shrubs and trees fill with the streaky brown-and-yellow birds and their distinctive, sharp chips. Though the color palette is subdued all winter, you owe it to yourself to seek these birds out on their spring migration or on their breeding grounds. Spring molt brings a transformation, leaving them a dazzling mix of bright yellow, charcoal gray and black, and bold white.

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Keys to identification Help

Warblers
Warblers
Typical Voice
  • Size & Shape

    Yellow-rumped Warblers are fairly large, full-bodied warblers with a large head, sturdy bill, and long, narrow tail.

  • Color Pattern

    In summer, both sexes are a smart gray with flashes of white in the wings and yellow on the face, sides, and rump. Males are very strikingly shaded; females are duller and may show some brown. Winter birds are paler brown, with bright yellow rump and usually some yellow on the sides.

  • Behavior

    Yellow-rumped Warblers typically forage in the outer tree canopies at middle heights. They're active, and you'll often see them sally out to catch insects in midair, sometimes on long flights. In winter they spend lots of time eating berries from shrubs, and they often travel in large flocks.

  • Habitat

    In summer, Yellow-rumped Warblers are birds of open coniferous forests and edges, and to a lesser extent deciduous forests. In fall and winter they move to open woods and shrubby habitats, including coastal vegetation, parks, and residential areas.

Range Map Help

Yellow-rumped Warbler Range Map
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Field MarksHelp

  • Adult male (Myrtle)

    Yellow-rumped Warbler

    Adult male (Myrtle)
    • Gray upperparts with dark streaking
    • Black and yellow patch on sides of breast
    • Black mask with thin white eyebrow and eye crescent
    • Bright yellow crown and rump
    • © soderlis, Wisconsin
  • Adult male (Audubon

    Yellow-rumped Warbler

    Adult male (Audubon's)
    • Yellow throat, crown, rump, and side patches
    • Dark face, white eye crescents, no white eyebrow
    • © Jeff Larsen, Lost Lake, Washington, May 2004
  • Adult female (Audubon

    Yellow-rumped Warbler

    Adult female (Audubon's)
    • Yellow throat
    • Gray or brown above
    • Yellow rump and side patches
    • White wing bars connected
    • © Joan Gellatly, Tucson, Arizona, December 2008
  • Adult male (Myrtle)

    Yellow-rumped Warbler

    Adult male (Myrtle)
    • Bright yellow rump and side patches
    • White tail spots on dark tail
    • © soderlis, Wisconsin
  • Adult male (Myrtle)

    Yellow-rumped Warbler

    Adult male (Myrtle)
    • White throat and belly
    • Black and yellow patch on sides of breast
    • Yellow crown patch
    • Black mask with thin white eyebrow and eye crescent
    • © Laura Erickson, Duluth, Minnesota, May 2006
  • Adult female (Myrtle)

    Yellow-rumped Warbler

    Adult female (Myrtle)
    • Brown or gray above with dark streaking
    • White throat
    • © Lew Scharpf, Alabama, February 2009
  • Immature (Myrtle)

    Yellow-rumped Warbler

    Immature (Myrtle)
    • Pale brownish gray above, whitish below
    • Indistinct black streaking on breast
    • Yellow patch on sides of breast and rump
    • White wing bars
    • © Debbie McKenzie, September 2008
  • Adult female (Myrtle)

    Yellow-rumped Warbler

    Adult female (Myrtle)
    • White throat and underparts
    • Black streaking on sides of breast and flanks
    • White tail spots visible from below
    • White tail spots visible from below
    • © Debbie McKenzie, September 2008
  • Adult female (Myrtle)

    Yellow-rumped Warbler

    Adult female (Myrtle)
    • Bright yellow rump and side patches
    • Brownish head and back with black streaking
    • White wing bars
    • White throat
    • © The Nature Nook, New Hampshire, October 2008
  • Immature (Myrtle)

    Yellow-rumped Warbler

    Immature (Myrtle)
    • Pale brown overall
    • Thin black streaking on breast
    • Pale eyebrow, white eye crescents
    • White undertail, yellow rump
    • © kcolganazar, Pennsylvania, October 2008
  • Adult male (Audubon

    Yellow-rumped Warbler

    Adult male (Audubon's)
    • Yellow throat, crown, and side patches
    • Black sides of breast
    • Thick black streaking on flanks
    • © Jeff Larsen, Belfair, Washington, April 2008
  • Adult female (Audubon

    Yellow-rumped Warbler

    Adult female (Audubon's)
    • Yellow throat and side patches
    • White eye crescents, no pale eyebrow
    • Black streaking on sides of breast and flanks
    • © Jon Rowley, Central Valley, California, February 2008
  • Adult female (Audubon

    Yellow-rumped Warbler

    Adult female (Audubon's)
    • Yellow throat, side patches, and rump
    • Black streaking on sides of breast and flanks
    • White tail spots on dark tail
    • © Eric Rosenberg, San Jose, California, February 2008
  • Immature (Audubon

    Yellow-rumped Warbler

    Immature (Audubon's)
    • Dull brown overall
    • Yellowish throat
    • White eye crescents, no pale eyebrow
    • © Len Blumin, Miller, California, January 2008

Similar Species

  • Adult male

    Magnolia Warbler

    Adult male
    • Similar to adult male Yellow-rumped Warbler
    • All-yellow throat and breast with black necklace
    • White eyestripe and crescent under eye
    • © Gerry Dewaghe, June 2006
  • Adult male

    Magnolia Warbler

    Adult male
    • Similar to adult male Yellow-rumped Warbler
    • Large white wing patch
    • Yellow throat and breast with black necklace
    • White eyestripe and crescent below eye
    • © Gerry Dewaghe, Quebec, Canada, June 2005
  • Adult

    Yellow-throated Warbler

    Adult
    • Occurs in eastern U.S. only
    • Bright yellow throat and upper breast
    • White sides without yellow patch of Yellow-rumped
    • Broad white eyebrow and neck spot
    • Black mask extending down sides of chest
    • © Larry Meade, Prince William Co., Virginia, April 2005
  • Adult male

    Black-and-white Warbler

    Adult male
    • Could be confused in a quick view
    • More boldly striped than Yellow-rumped Warbler
    • Bold white eyebrow
    • No yellow: even fall Yellow-rumped Warblers have at least a yellow rump
    • Creeps on main limbs like a nuthatch
    • © Gerry Dewaghe, Maryland, April 2007

Similar Species

Magnolia Warblers have a gray crown, white eyestripe, and fully yellow chest. Yellow-throated Warblers have much more yellow on the throat and white on the face. Black-and-white Warblers are more boldly striped, with a strong white eyebrow, and they don't have any yellow.

Regional Differences

The Yellow-rumped Warbler has two distinct subspecies that used to be considered separate species: the "Myrtle" Warbler of the eastern U.S. and Canada's boreal forest, and "Audubon’s" Warbler of the mountainous West. The Audubon’s has a yellow throat; in the Myrtle subspecies the throat is white. Male "Audubon's" Warblers have more white in the wing than the "Myrtle" Warbler. Female Audubon's have less distinctly marked faces, lacking the dark ear patches of the "Myrtle" Warbler. Intermediate forms occur where the two subspecies' breeding ranges overlap, such as in the Canadian Rockies.

Backyard Tips

Yellow-rumped Warblers winter across much of central and southeastern U.S., and they sometimes come to bird feeders. To attract them, try putting out sunflower seed, raisins, suet, and peanut butter.

Find This Bird

Visit the north woods or middle elevation conifer forests of the West to find Yellow-rumped Warblers during summer. They're often perched on the outer limbs of trees and are very conspicuous as they fly out after insects, often making long, aerobatic pursuits and flashing their yellow rumps and white patches in the tail. But the easiest time to see Yellow-rumped Warblers is probably on migration, when hordes of Yellow-rumped Warblers sweep down the continent, particularly along the Eastern Seaboard, where wax myrtles are abundant.

Get Involved

Keep track of any Yellow-rumped Warblers that visit your feeder from November through early April with Project FeederWatch

Record your warbler sightings online with eBird for your personal records – and for the birding community

Enhance your yard to attract warblers and other birds. Visit our web pages on landscaping for birds.

Top 10 Ways to Help Birds in Cities

Learn more about bird photography in our Building Skills section. Then contribute your images to the Birdshare flickr site, which helps supply All About Birds and our other websites with photos.

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