Yellow-throated Warbler, Setophaga dominica

The Yellow-throated Warbler is a true southeastern bird, nesting from northern Missouri and southern Pennsylvania southward to northern Florida and the Gulf of Mexico.

It arrives earlier than most warblers in the spring, and can be seen in Tennessee creeping like a nuthatch on branches in the canopy starting in late March.  It usually nests in association with water and is often found either in wet forests or near streams and rivers.  In winter, it is found from coastal South Carolina along the Gulf Coast to eastern Mexico, northern Central America, and the Caribbean.

Description: The Yellow-throated Warbler is appropriately named for its yellow throat, chin and upper breast. This bright yellow contrasts with the black-and-white face, plain gray back, and white streaked belly. The females and first year birds (August-March) look similar to the male but are somewhat duller. 

Length: 5.5"
Wingspan: 8"
Weight: 0.33 oz

Voice: The song is a series of sweet, clear descending whistles, with a couple of notes that rise at the end.

Similar Species:

  • No other eastern warbler has the combination of a bright yellow throat, and black, white, and gray plumage.
  • Female Blackburnian Warblers look similar, but have a yellow stripe over the eye, not white, and pale stripes on the back.

Habitat: The species occupies two distinct habitats: heavily wooded stream bottomlands or forested wetlands, and drier upland coniferous or mixed coniferous-deciduous forests.

Diet: Insects and spiders.

Nesting and reproduction: Some Yellow-throated Warblers raise two broods in one year.

Clutch Size: 3 to 5 eggs, with 4 most common.

Incubation: The female alone incubates the eggs for 12 to 13 days.

Fledging: Both parents feed the young, which leave the nest in about 10 days.

Nest: The open cup-nest is constructed almost entirely by the female from bark strips, grasses, and weed stems, and lined with plant down and feathers. The nest is placed in the canopy of a tree on a horizontal branch well out from the trunk. Pine, sycamore, and cypress trees are preferred for nesting. In Tennessee, nest heights range from 15 to 60 feet above the ground, with an average of 33 feet.

Status in Tennessee: The Yellow-throated Warbler arrives in late March and departs by mid-September. It is a fairly common migrant and summer resident in Tennessee, though not evenly distributed across the state. In the West it is usually associated with major rivers like the Mississippi, Obion, and Hatchie; in Middle Tennessee it is found on the Western and Eastern Highland Rims, but largely absent from the Central Basin; and in East Tennessee it reaches its greatest abundance in the upper Cumberland Plateau. Yellow-throated Warblers appear to be increasing in the state.

Dynamic map of Yellow-throated Warbler eBird observations in Tennessee

Fun Facts:

  • The breeding range of the Yellow-throated Warbler is more southerly, and its wintering range more northerly, than most Dendroica warblers.
  • Mark Catesby (1682-1749), an English naturalist and one of the first naturalists in the American colonies, was the first to mention the Yellow-throated Warbler; he called it the Yellow-throated Creeper for its habit of creeping along branches while foraging.

Obsolete English Names: sycamore warbler, yellow-throated creeper

Best places to see in Tennessee: In West Tennessee the Yellow-throated Warbler can be found in forests along major rivers like the Mississippi, Obion, and Hatchie; in Middle Tennessee it can be found on the Western and Eastern Highland Rims; and in East Tennessee on the upper Cumberland Plateau.