Living Bird Magazine
Common YellowthroatGeothlypis trichas
- ORDER: Passeriformes
- FAMILY: Parulidae
A broad black mask lends a touch of highwayman’s mystique to the male Common Yellowthroat. Look for these furtive, yellow-and-olive warblers skulking through tangled vegetation, often at the edges of marshes and wetlands. Females lack the mask and are much browner, though they usually show a hint of warm yellow at the throat. Yellowthroats are vocal birds, and both their witchety-witchety-witchety songs and distinctive call notes help reveal the presence of this, one of our most numerous warblers.More ID Info
Find This Bird
Common Yellowthroats are easy to find during spring and summer in much of North America. Just visit open habitats such as marshes, wetland edges, and brushy fields. Listen for the male’s wichety-wichety-wichety song, which they sing frequently during summer, and is easy to recognize. Even their call notes are distinctive, so listen for their husky, low chuck coming from the undergrowth. When you hear one calling, look low in bushes and trees for a quick, small bird, olive above and yellow below. If you don’t spot one after a while, try making a “pishing” sound; yellowthroats are inquisitive birds and often pop into the open to see who’s making the sound.
- Mascarita Común (Spanish)
- Paruline masquée (French)
Your yard could attract Common Yellowthroats if it is fairly large (yellowthroat territories are sometimes as small as 0.5 acre) and features dense or tangled, low-growing grasses and other vegetation.
- Cool Facts
- The Common Yellowthroat was one of the first bird species to be catalogued from the New World, when a specimen from Maryland was described by Linnaeus in 1766.
- Adult Common Yellowthroats sometimes fall prey to carnivorous birds such as Merlins and Loggerhead Shrikes. Occasionally they have more unexpected predators: one migrating yellowthroat was eaten by a Chuck-will's-widow, while another was found in the stomach of a largemouth bass.
- Each male normally has only one mate in his territory during a breeding season. However, a female’s mating calls often attract other males, and she may mate with them behind her mate’s back.
- One subspecies of Common Yellowthroat is a year-round resident in the Rio Grande river delta in Texas. These yellowthroats are not only territorial among themselves, but they also keep migrant yellowthroats of other races completely out of their habitat.
- Brown-headed Cowbirds often lay their eggs in the nests of Common Yellowthroats (and many other songbird species). This is called brood parasitism, and it’s detrimental to the yellowthroats, so they’ve developed a few defenses. They desert a nest if it contains a cowbird egg, or if their own eggs have been removed or damaged by a visiting cowbird. They may build a second or even a third nest on top of a parasitized nest.
- The oldest Common Yellowthroat on record was at least 11 years, 6 months old.