Living Bird Magazine
Yellow-breasted ChatIcteria virens
- ORDER: Passeriformes
- FAMILY: Icteriidae
The Yellow-breasted Chat offers a cascade of song in the spring, when males deliver streams of whistles, cackles, chuckles, and gurgles with the fluidity of improvisational jazz. It’s seldom seen or heard during the rest of the year, when both males and females skulk silently in the shadows of dense thickets, gleaning insects and berries for food. The largest of our warblers, the chat is a widespread breeder in shrubby habitats across North America, venturing to Central America for the winter.More ID Info
Find This Bird
Though widespread, Yellow-breasted Chats can be hard to find, thanks to their habit of skulking in dense thickets. You’ll have the most success looking (or listening) for them early in the breeding season, when male performs his extensive repertoire of loud whistles, rattles, catcalls, grunts, and other sounds. He often sings from an exposed perch or while doing an exaggerated display flight that ends with a thumping sound (probably made by his wings). Pay special attention to birds that make scolding sounds but remain hidden in thickets; with patience and perhaps a few pishing sounds you may coax a chat into view.
- Reinita Grande (Spanish)
- Ictérie polyglotte (French)
- Cool Facts
- The Yellow-breasted Chat has traditionally been placed in the New World warbler family, although it is an unusual one: it’s larger than other warblers, has a more varied repertoire of songs and calls, and also differs in certain aspects of behavior and anatomy.
- Though a small percentage of males have two mates at once, most appear to be monogamous during the breeding season. Female aggression may help enforce this monogamy. However, some infidelity happens behind the scenes: in a Kentucky study, one-third of nests contained at least one chick sired by another male.
- Brown-headed Cowbirds often lay their eggs in nests of Yellow-breasted Chats. Some breeding pairs will desert a parasitized nest, while others accept the cowbird egg and raise the chick as their own.
- The oldest Yellow-breasted Chat on record, a female, was at least 11 years old when recaptured and released at an Arizona banding station in 2015.