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Yellow Warbler

Setophaga petechia ORDER: PASSERIFORMES FAMILY: PARULIDAE

IUCN Conservation Status: Least Concern

North America has more than 50 species of warblers, but few combine brilliant color and easy viewing quite like the Yellow Warbler. In summer, the buttery yellow males sing their sweet whistled song from willows, wet thickets, and roadsides across almost all of North America. The females and immatures aren’t as bright, and lack the male’s rich chestnut streaking, but their overall warm yellow tones, unmarked faces, and prominent black eyes help pick them out.

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Songs

Males sing a sweet series of 6–10 whistled notes that accelerate over the course of the roughly 1-second song and often end on a rising note. The tone is so sweet that people often remember it with the mnemonic sweet sweet sweet I’m so sweet. The songs are a common sound of spring and early summer mornings and may be repeated as often as 10 times per minute.

Calls

Yellow Warblers use a variety of short chip notes, some with a metallic sound and some with a lisping or buzzing quality. Males sometimes alternate chip notes with their songs, and females may answer a song with a high-pitched chip. Both sexes use a high, hissing note in territorial defense, and may confront cowbirds with a seet call.

Search the Macaulay Library online archive for more sounds and videos

Backyard Tips

Yellow Warblers eat mostly insects, so they don’t come to backyard feeders. Larger yards that have small trees or are near streams may provide nesting habitat for these birds.

Find This Bird

Listen for Yellow Warblers singing when you’re in wet woods, thickets, or streamsides—they’re one of the most commonly heard warblers in spring and summer. Their song isn’t hard to learn—a tumbling series of whistles that sounds like sweet sweet sweet I’m so sweet. Look for them in the tops of willows and other small trees.

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All About Birds Blog, When Will Yellow Warblers Return? Check Our Animated Map, March 2014.