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Yellow Warbler

Common Name: Yellow Warbler.

Scientific Name: Setophaga Petechia.

What to look for?  Yellow Warblers are small songbirds. The adult male is bright yellow overall with a yellow-green back. They have chestnut streaks on the breast. Yellow Warblers have small, round heads with a beady black eye and stout bill. Adult females are similar, except their breast or underparts are mostly unstreaked. And their tails are of medium-length.

Where can they be found at Carillon Stonegate Pond? Up in the trees! You can find Yellow Warblers around our trees, hopping from branch to branch. They are typically here for several months from late Spring up to early Fall. These birds spend most of their time foraging for insects in our trees. They hop around endlessly so look for movement.

How big are they? The Yellow Warbler averages approximately five (5) inches in length. And their wingspan is just over seven (7) inches. They weigh in at approximately four (4) ounces.

What are their flight patterns? Yellow Warblers take short flights between adjacent branches when foraging in a tree. They may even briefly hover to get at prey on leaves. They have flight endurance – capable of migrating non-stop across the Gulf of Mexico. As male Yellow Warblers are setting up territories, they may perform a “circle flight” in which they fly toward a neighboring male and outline their territory.

How else do they behave? Yellow Warblers are singers! They are one of the most commonly heard warblers in spring and summer. They are territorial and will defend their nesting areas from many species. Bird feeders mean nothing to Yellow Warblers. They forage in trees, with quick and frequent hops along small branches and twigs.

What’s for dinner? Mostly insects. Yellow Warblers primarily eat insects such as caterpillars, mosquitoes, flies, grasshoppers, ants, bees, and spiders. Up to two-thirds of diet may be caterpillars of various kinds.

Where do they take up residence? Yellow Warblers breed in a habitat of shrubby thickets and woods, particularly along streams and in wetlands. Common trees include willows, alders, and cottonwoods. They prefer moist habitats with an abundance of insects. The summer home for Yellow Warblers spans across Illinois and the northern portion of the U.S. and into Canada. They winter in the Caribbean and along the southeastern U.S.

When and where do they breed and nest? Yellow Warblers will breed in May or June anywhere from the northern U.S. and into Canada. They build their nests in the fork of a bush or small tree. They may lay up to five eggs that will incubate for approximately two weeks. The young usually leave nest in around 12 days. They generally have one brood per year.

Where do they migrate? In Illinois, Palm Warblers are common migrants. Illinois is located in the southern portion of their breeding territory which stretches north into Canada. Yellow Warblers will migrate south in the fall and spend winters in Central America and northern South America.

What is their conservation status? There is no concern. While Yellow Warblers are one of the most numerous warblers in North America, their populations have decreased by 25% over last five decades, according to the North American Breeding Bird Survey. Partners in Flight estimates a global breeding population of 90 million.

Do they make any interesting sounds? The song of the Yellow Warbler has been described as a bright, musical “sweet-sweet-sweet, sweeter-than-sweet.” The songs are a common sound of spring and early summer mornings. Here is a link to the sounds of the Yellow Warbler.

Interesting Facts About the Yellow Warbler:

  • Yellow warblers spend the majority of the year throughout much of North America.

  • Like many other migrating songbirds, Yellow Warblers from eastern North America fly across the Gulf of Mexico in a single nonstop journey.

  • Yellow warblers are important predators of insects.

  • The Brown-headed Cowbird lays its eggs in the nests of many species including Yellow Warblers, and this can reduce their breeding success.

  • The oldest recorded Yellow Warbler was approximately 11 years old.

For more information on the Yellow Warbler and sources of information used in this blog (these are the sources that I am using to learn as I blog), please visit All About Birds, Audubon Society and University of Michigan Animal Diversity Web. And the Cornell Lab of Ornithology provides a wonderful source of information for anyone interested in learning more about birds.

The Carillon at Stonegate community is very fortunate to have a variety of wetland, forest and prairie environments conducive to a variety of birds and other wildlife, plants and insects. Our community and the Kane County Forest Preserve do an exceptional job in maintaining this natural environment – both for the benefit of the birds and wildlife and for our residents to enjoy.


Take a hike and see what you can find – and identify!

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