- 4.7–5.5 in
- 7.5–9.1 in
- 0.4–0.5 oz
- Large warbler; about the size of a Black-capped Chickadee
- Myrtle Warbler, Audubon's Warbler (part) (English)
- Paruline à croupion jaune (French)
- Chipe coronada (Spanish)
- The Yellow-rumped Warbler is the only warbler able to digest the waxes found in bayberries and wax myrtles. Its ability to use these fruits allows it to winter farther north than other warblers, sometimes as far north as Newfoundland.
- Male Yellow-rumped Warblers tend to forage higher in trees than females do.
- Yellow-rumped Warblers are perhaps the most versatile foragers of all warblers. They're the warbler you're most likely to see fluttering out from a tree to catch a flying insect, and they're also quick to switch over to eating berries in fall. Other places Yellow-rumped Warblers have been spotted foraging include picking at insects on washed-up seaweed at the beach, skimming insects from the surface of rivers and the ocean, picking them out of spiderwebs, and grabbing them off piles of manure.
- When Yellow-rumped Warblers find themselves foraging with other warbler species, they typically let Palm, Magnolia and Black-throated Green warblers do as they wish, but they assert themselves over Pine and Blackburnian warblers.
- The oldest recorded Yellow-rumped Warbler was at least 7 years old.
Yellow-rumped Warblers spend the breeding season in mature coniferous and mixed coniferous-deciduous woodlands (such as in patches of aspen, birch, or willow). In the western U.S. and in the central Appalachian mountains, they are found mostly in mountainous areas. In the Pacific Northwest and the Northeast, they occur all the way down to sea level wherever conifers are present. During winter, Yellow-rumped Warblers find open areas with fruiting shrubs or scattered trees, such as parks, streamside woodlands, open pine and pine-oak forest, dunes (where bayberries are common), and residential areas. On their tropical wintering grounds they live in mangroves, thorn scrub, pine-oak-fir forests, and shade coffee plantations.
Yellow-rumped Warblers eat mainly insects in the summer, including caterpillars and other larvae, leaf beetles, bark beetles, weevils, ants, scale insects, aphids, grasshoppers, caddisflies, craneflies, and gnats, as well as spiders. They also eat spruce budworm, a serious forest pest, during outbreaks. On migration and in winter they eat great numbers of fruits, particularly bayberry and wax myrtle, which their digestive systems are uniquely suited among warblers to digest. The habit is one reason why Yellow-rumped Warblers winter so much farther north than other warbler species. Other commonly eaten fruits include juniper berries, poison ivy, poison oak, greenbrier, grapes, Virginia creeper, and dogwood. They eat wild seeds such as from beach grasses and goldenrod, and they may come to feeders, where they'll take sunflower seeds, raisins, peanut butter, and suet. On their wintering grounds in Mexico they've been seen sipping the sweet honeydew liquid excreted by aphids.
- Clutch Size
- 1–6 eggs
- Number of Broods
- 1-2 broods
- Egg Length
- 0.7–0.8 in
- Egg Width
- 0.5–0.6 in
- Incubation Period
- 12–13 days
- Nestling Period
- 10–14 days
- Egg Description
- White, speckled with brown, reddish-brown, gray, or purplish gray.
- Condition at Hatching
- Helpless and naked with sparse brown down. Eyelids have dull white spots.
Females build the nest, sometimes using material the male carries to her. The nest is a cup of twigs, pine needles, grasses, and rootlets. She may also use moose, horse, and deer hair, moss, and lichens. She lines this cup with fine hair and feathers, sometimes woven into the nest in such a way that they curl up and over the eggs. The nest takes about 10 days to build. It's 3-4 inches across and about 2 inches tall when finished.
Yellow-rumped Warblers put their nests on the horizontal branch of a conifer, anywhere from 4 to about 50 feet high. Tree species include hemlock, spruce, white cedar, pine, Douglas-fir, and larch or tamarack. They may build their nests far out on a main branch or tuck it close to the trunk in a secure fork of two or more branches. Occasionally nest are built in a deciduous tree such as a maple, oak, or birch.
Yellow-rumped Warblers flit through the canopies of coniferous trees as they forage. They cling to the bark surface to look for hidden insects more than many warblers do, but they also frequently sit on exposed branches and catch passing insects like a flycatcher does. In winter, Yellow-rumped Warblers join flocks and switch to eating berries from fruiting shrubs. Sometimes the flocks are enormous groups consisting entirely of Yellow-rumped Warblers. If another bird gets too close, Yellow-rumped Warblers indicate the infraction by holding the body horizontally, fanning the tail, and raising it to form a right angle with its body. When males court females, they fluff their feathers, raise their wings and the feathers of the crown, and hop from perch to perch, chipping. They may also make display flights in which they glide back and forth or fly slowly with exaggerated wingbeats. The Yellow-rumped Warbler's flight is agile and swift, and the birds often call as they change direction.
Yellow-rumped Warblers are common and widespread, and populations are generally stable though they experienced a small decline from 1966 to 2014, according to the North American Breeding Bird Survey. Partners in Flight estimates a global breeding population of 130 million with 58% spending some part of the year in the U.S., 71% in Canada, and 31% wintering in Mexico. They are not on the 2014 State of the Birds Watch List. Migrating Yellow-rumped Warblers, like many migrants, are frequently killed in collisions with radio towers, buildings, and other obstructions.
- Hunt, P. D., and D. J. Flaspohler. 1998. Yellow-rumped Warbler (Dendroica coronata). In The Birds of North America, No. 376 (A. Poole and F. Gill, eds.). The Birds of North America Online, Ithaca, New York.
- Dunne, P. 2006. Pete Dunne’s essential field guide companion. Houghton Mifflin, Boston.
- Dunn, J. L., and Garrett, K. L. 1997. A Field Guide to Warblers of North America. Houghton Mifflin Co., Boston.
- Ehrlich, P. R., D. S. Dobkin, and D. Wheye. 1988. The birder’s handbook. Simon & Schuster Inc., New York.
- Partners in Flight. 2012. Species assessment database.
- Sibley, D.A. 2000. The Sibley guide to birds. Alfred A Knopf, New York.
- USGS Patuxent Wildlife Research Center. 2011. Longevity Records of North American Birds.
- USGS Patuxent Wildlife Research Center. 2012. North American Breeding Bird Survey 1966–2010 analysis.
Short to long-distance migrant. Some western Yellow-rumped Warblers move to the nearby Pacific Coast to spend the winter. Other populations migrate to wintering grounds in Mexico and throughout Central America.
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 out more about what this bird likes to eat and what feeder is best by using the Project FeederWatch Common Feeder Birds bird list.
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.
Keep track of any Yellow-rumped Warblers that visit your feeder from November through early April with Project FeederWatch
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