Birds of Back Bay – Common Yellowthroat Warbler

Common Yellowthroat Warbler

Common Yellowthroat, Back Bay National Wildlife Refuge, Virginia, photo, back bay bloggerScientific name: Geothlypis trichas

Family: Parulidae

The Common Yellowthroat is classified with at least 13 subspecies.  It is a common migrant from the tropics and may be the most widespread warbler in North America.  Its characteristics vary by region.  It is elusive and is most often heard before seen.

Description (Eastern variety described):

Size:  5 inches on average with a wingspan of 6.75 inches. 

Male:  The most distinguishing characteristic is the broad black mask that stretches from the sides of the neck across the eyes with a grayish to white band that borders above the mask.  Olive-brown nape, back, wings, and tail.  The throat and undertail coverts are bright yellow.  Flanks are grayish.

Female:  Olive-brown.  Similar to male but lacks the mask.  The throat and undertail coverts are paler yellow. Flanks are pale gray.

Juveniles:  Similar to adult female.  First year males have a faint mask which darkens completely by spring.


The breeding habitat can be found primarily in grassy and brushy marshes and other wetlands with dense, low tangled vegetation or dense shrub. Less common in dry areas.  Common summer resident in our area (approximately April – August).  They winter in similar habitats from southern U.S., Mexico, Central America, and the Caribbean.  They migrate at night and many cross the Gulf of Mexico instead of flying along the coast.


Song – Loud series of “witch-ity, witch-ity”.

Call – Soft “jip”

Listen to the Yellowthroat at:


The Common Yellowthroat is an insectivore.  While they mostly glean a meal while perched, they also forage on or near the ground.  Their diet consists of beetles, dragonflies, damselflies, bees, wasps, grasshoppers, flies, butterflies, moths, caterpillars, and other larvae.

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