Bird of the Month

Common Yellowthroat

Common Yellowthroat Geothlypis trichas? 


General description: 

You may hear this little warbler before you see him. Males sing a very distinctive, rolling?wichety-wichety-wichety?or which-is-it which-is-it which-is-it song, and the call is a sharp chirp. The male is an energetic bird that rarely stays put for long as he flits from perch to perch searching for insects and protecting his territory. Watch for a quick darting movement among low bushes and in marshes. 

About five inches long, the male sports a yellow throat and chest. He has a broad bandit’s black eye mask set off above with a light-colored line. Otherwise he is olive-colored. Females and immature males lack the mask but have the yellow throat, though it is not as bold as that of a mature male. 

Behavior and Habitat 

Common Yellowthroats spend much of their time hunting for insects and spiders on the ground and in low bushes and other vegetation. Preferred habitats range from marshes to open pine forests. They seem to be constantly on the move, changing perches often.  

Common Yellowthroat nests often fall prey to Brownheaded Cowbird brood parasitism where the cowbird lays its eggs in a yellowthroat nest. If left this way, the cowbird young outcompete the yellowthroat young. As a counter measure, Common Yellowthroats will often abandon nests when a cowbird egg shows up in the nest, sometimes building two nests on top of the parasitized ones. 

Life as a migrating songbird is difficult and dangerous. Common Yellowthroats are subject to predation by Merlins, Loggerhead Shrikes, Kestrels and even largemouth bass. However, at least one lucky bird set the record for longevity among yellowthroats living at least 11 years and six months.  

Similar Species 

The male Common Yellowthroat is pretty distinctive and not likely to be confused with other species. The female is a little harder and may be confused with females from a number of warbler species. Look carefully for the yellow brightening at the throat just under the chin. 

When and where found at Camas NWR:  

The Common Yellowthroat is indeed common throughout most of the Continental U.S. and Canada during summer months and finding them at Camas NWR is not difficult as much of the refuge is habitat for them. Look for them in low shrubs, grasslands and especially along the marshes. 

Since you may hear them before you see them, learn their call by listening to it at: Click on the Sound tab and then on the green/white “go” arrow under, Song, Calls. 

Threatened/Endangered Status: Least Concern 

Common Yellowthroats are numerous but they declining by almost 1% per year between 1966 and 2014, resulting in a cumulative decline of about 38%, according to the North American Breeding Bird Survey. Partners in Flight estimates the global breeding population at 87 million with 54% spending some part of the year in the U.S., 58% in Mexico, and 41% breeding in Canada. They rate a 9 out of 20 on the Continental Concern Score and are not on the?2014 State of the Birds Watch List... Rangewide, yellowthroats probably suffer most from habitat degradation and loss. Because they are insectivores and often live in wetlands, they are also susceptible to poor water quality and to pesticides and other pollutants. Common Yellowthroats are not the focus of any management efforts, but they probably benefit indirectly from efforts used for other species, such as waterfowl. 

Text by Terry Thomas 

Photo by Terry Thomas 


(Information sources: Cornell’s All About Birds website ( and Audubon Birds app.