Yellow Warbler

Setophaga petechia
A Yellow Warbler specimen on display in the exhibit "Birds of D.C."

The Yellow Warbler (Dendroica petechia) breeds from the Arctic Circle across most of Canada and south to Mexico, with closely related species occurring along Neotropical coastlines. The winter range extends from the extreme southern United States and the Bahamas south through Middle America and the southern Lesser Antilles and on through South America (mainly east of the Andes) to Peru and Amazonian Brazil. Resident year-round populations are present from southern Florida and the Bahamas south throughout the West Indies to the northern coast of Venezuela and from Mexico south through Middle America to Panama, as well as along the west coast of South America, from northwestern Colombia south to central Peru and the Galapagos Islands and east along the northern coast of Colombia to northwestern Venezuela. Infraspecific groups within this species have been recognized as Yellow Warbler, Golden Warbler, and Mangrove Warbler (the latter resident in mangroves from Mexico south; adult males generally have chestnut heads). Yellow Warblers breed in a range of habitats in eastern North America, including thickets, swamp edges, streamsides, second growth woods, orchards, and gardens. In the West, they are largely restricted to streamside thickets. On their tropical wintering grounds, Yellow Warblers are found in semi-open country, woodland edges, and towns. Yellow Warblers feed mainly on insects; up to two thirds of the diet may consist of caterpillars. They forage alone on their wintering grounds and defend a winter feeding territory. Males defend nesting territories by singing and sometimes perform fluttering flight displays. The male courts the female by actively pursuing her for 1 to 4 days. The nest, which is built largely by the female, is placed in an upright fork of a shrub, small tree, or thicket from 1 to 18 m above the ground. Females may steal nest material from other nests. Females lay 4 to 5 (sometimes 3 or 6) eggs that are greenish white with a variety of specks or spots of brown, olive, and gray. Eggs are incubated by the female for 11 to 12 days. The male feeds the female on the nest. Young are fed by both parents, but especially the female. They leave the nest 9 to 12 days after hatching. Yellow Warbler nests are often parasitized by Brown-headed Cowbirds, which lay their eggs in the warbler's nest. In some areas. Yellow Warblers may recognize the problem, build a new floor over the eggs, and lay a new clutch of their own (or, alternatively, simply abandon the nest). In one reported case, cowbirds laid eggs on 5 visits, but the warblers built a new floor after each visit. Migration is mostly by night. Fall migration begins quite early, with many Yellow Warblers moving south during August. (Kaufman 1996; AOU 1998; Dunn and Alderfer 2011)

DC Information

Fairly common summer resident, April to September. Nests from early May to early July. Found in orchards, thickety shrubs, and brushy wood margins. The male is brighter than the female, with rusty streaks on his breast.

Specimen Information

Date:  9/11/1894? 5/1/1892
Collected By:  Edward J Brown
Locality:  Washington, DC
Sex:  Male
Catalog ID:  221111

Distribution Map

distribution map for this species

Bird Vocalizations

Dendroica petechia

Dendroica petechia

Dendroica petechia