The sprightly Common Yellowthroat usually stays low in thick marshy or brushy vegetation, and is often hard to see. The bold black mask of the male and his distinctive wich-i-ty, wich-i-ty, wich-i-ty song makes this an easy warbler to identify. The Common Yellowthroat breeds from western Canada across North America and spends the non-breeding season in the coastal southeastern states, throughout Mexico and Central America, and the Caribbean. In Tennessee it is found statewide from mid-April to late October, and occasionally through the winter.
Description: The Common Yellowthroat is plain olive-green above and yellow below with a grayish belly. The male has a broad black mask bordered with white; the female lacks the mask and is duller overall.
Weight: 0.35 oz
Voice: The song is a series of three wich-i-ty, wich-i-ty, wich-i-ty notes. The call note is a distinctive, husky chip along with a raspy, scolding trill.
- Female Common Yellowthroats resemble female Connecticut Warbler and Mourning Warbler, except they have dusky or grayish hoods and entirely yellow underparts. Both Connecticut and Mourning Warblers are rare migrants in Tennessee and are not often seen or heard.
Habitat: Common Yellowthroats breed in a variety of brushy habitats including fencerows, grassy marshes, abandoned agricultural fields, and brushy pastures.
Diet: Insects and other small invertebrates, and occasionally seeds.
Nesting and reproduction: Pairs form shortly after the females arrive on the breeding grounds, and most pairs raise two broods a season. When the first brood fledges, the female starts the second brood, and the male feeds the fledglings.
Clutch Size: Usually 4 eggs, with a range of 1 to 6.
Incubation: The female incubates for 12 days, with the male occasionally bringing her food.
Fledging: Both parents feed the young, which leave the nest in 8 to 10 days. The parents continue to feed the young for at least two weeks following fledging.
Nest: The female selects the nest site and builds the nest, usually in low, thick vegetation. The nest is a loose, bulky cup, sometimes with a partial roof, made of weeds, grass, sedge, and leaves, and lined with fine bark, grass, and hair.
Status in Tennessee: The Common Yellowthroat is a common summer resident and one of the most abundant of the wood warblers nesting in Tennessee. It usually arrives in mid-April and departs by late October. There are several winter records for this species in the state. The population has been declining in Tennessee and elsewhere in its range for several years.
Dynamic map of Common Yellowthroat eBird observations in Tennessee
- The Common Yellowthroat was first collected in what is now Maryland, and described by Carl Linnaeus in 1766, making it one of the first species of birds to be described from the New World.
- Common Yellowthroats are monogamous within a breeding season and only infrequently will males have two mates in their territory. Females, however, are not faithful to their mates and often attract other males with their calls for extra-pair copulations.
Obsolete English Names: northern yellowthroat, southern yellowthroat, Maryland yellowthroat.
Best places to see in Tennessee: This species is common in thick shrubby vegetation across the state from mid-April to late-October.
For more information:
Guzy, M. J. and G. Ritchison. 1999. Common Yellowthroat (Geothlypis trichas), The Birds of North America, No. 448 (A. Poole and F. Gill, eds.). The Academy of Natural Sciences, Philadelphia, PA, and The American Ornithologists' Union, Washington, D.C.
Nicholson, C. P. 1997. Atlas of Breeding Birds of Tennessee. Univ. Tennessee Press, Knoxville.
Sibley, D. A. 2000. The Sibley Guide to Birds. A. A. Knopf, New York, NY.
Consider using the online bird checklist program at eBird to help us understand bird populations and distributions in Tennessee. Click here to see how.