Geothlypis trichascommon yellowthroat

Geographic Range

Geothlypis trichas nest in Alaska and from the Atlantic Ocean to the Pacific Ocean across Canada and the United States. They also nest further south into Mexico. Their wintering range is from southern United States to northern South America and into the West Indies (Terres 1980; Versaware 2000).


Common Yellowthroats occupy non-forested areas low to the ground in briers, damp brushy places, weeds or grasses along country roads or agricultural environments. They are also found in cattails, bulrushes, sedges, and willows by streamsides, swamps, freshwater, and salt-water marshes. They occupy similar types of habitats for both their breeding and wintering locations (Fisher and Acorn 1998; Rogers 2000; Terres 1980).

Physical Description

Common Yellowthroats are wren-like wood warblers with upturned tails. They are 11 to 14 cm in length. The males are olive green above and have a year round black facial mask, bordered above by a blue-white band. They have a white belly with pale yellow chin, throat, breast, and undertail coverts. The beak is black and the legs are a pinkish color. The females look similar to the males but lack the black facial mask. Immature yellowthroats are dull brown with the males' face showing a drab facial mask (Rogers 2000; Terres 1980; Tufts 1986).

  • Range mass
    7.3 to 13.6 g
    0.26 to 0.48 oz
  • Average basal metabolic rate
    0.17622 W


The female yellowthroat lays her eggs between April and July, and incubates 3-5 eggs for 12 days. The eggs are white or cream-white and are speckled brown, black, or grey at the large end. The cup-shaped, bulky nest made from dead leaves, coarse grass and weed stems, with a lining of fine black rootlets, is located low to the ground, in shrubbery. While only the female incubates the eggs, both the male and female tend the young. The young are altricial and leave the nest 8 days after hatching (Ehrlich et al. 1988; Fisher and Acorn 1998; Terres 1980; Tufts 1986).

  • Average time to hatching
    12 days



Common Yellowthroats exhibit jerky flight, and will dart around, especially when males are scolding an intruder in the area. They will fly about chattering chirps of chack!, and will hide in dense cover, then reappear to scold again. The yellowthroat song, witchity, witchity, witchity can be heard when it is in flight, high up in full view.

Yellowthroats are predominantly polygynous, and the territorial males will attract females with their song and then will follow these possible mates around to display for them. They will fan their tails, flick their wings, and present courtship flights.

The Common Yellowthroat is one of the three most frequent Brown-headed Cowbird (Molothrus ater) victims. The parasitic cowbirds, found primarily in open country, target yellowthroat nests because they are in less-forested areas. Some host female yellowthroats will build new nest linings, thereby burying cowbird eggs (Ehrlich et al. 1988; Fisher and Acorn 1998; Terres 1980; Tufts 1986).

Communication and Perception

Food Habits

The yellowthroat is generally an insectivore. It gleans leaves of shrubbery, grasses or weeds for adult and larval insects such as grasshoppers, dragonflies, beetles, butterflies, and spiders. Seeds are sometimes eaten as well (Fisher and Acorn 1998; Terres 1980).

Economic Importance for Humans: Positive

Yellowthroats are a pleasant addition to the variety of sights and sounds of wetlands.

They eat many different species of insects, some of which may pose as pests to humans.

Economic Importance for Humans: Negative

The Common Yellowthroat has no known negative impact on humans.

Conservation Status

There has been a general decline in neotropical migrants. However, the yellowthroat is a very common species of wood warbler and the only threats to its status may be the parasitism of cowbirds and the possibility of habitat loss from development of open areas or wetlands.

Other Comments

Both the appearance (especially of the males) and the vocalizations of the Common Yellowthroat are very striking. They are so characteristic of wetland habitats that they provide a distinguished presence to these areas (Fisher and Acorn 1998).


Christine Loiselle (author), University of Alberta, Cindy Paszkowski (editor), University of Alberta.



living in the Nearctic biogeographic province, the northern part of the New World. This includes Greenland, the Canadian Arctic islands, and all of the North American as far south as the highlands of central Mexico.

World Map


living in the southern part of the New World. In other words, Central and South America.

World Map


uses sound to communicate

bilateral symmetry

having body symmetry such that the animal can be divided in one plane into two mirror-image halves. Animals with bilateral symmetry have dorsal and ventral sides, as well as anterior and posterior ends. Synapomorphy of the Bilateria.


uses smells or other chemicals to communicate


animals that use metabolically generated heat to regulate body temperature independently of ambient temperature. Endothermy is a synapomorphy of the Mammalia, although it may have arisen in a (now extinct) synapsid ancestor; the fossil record does not distinguish these possibilities. Convergent in birds.


offspring are produced in more than one group (litters, clutches, etc.) and across multiple seasons (or other periods hospitable to reproduction). Iteroparous animals must, by definition, survive over multiple seasons (or periodic condition changes).


having the capacity to move from one place to another.

native range

the area in which the animal is naturally found, the region in which it is endemic.


reproduction in which eggs are released by the female; development of offspring occurs outside the mother's body.


reproduction that includes combining the genetic contribution of two individuals, a male and a female


uses touch to communicate

tropical savanna and grassland

A terrestrial biome. Savannas are grasslands with scattered individual trees that do not form a closed canopy. Extensive savannas are found in parts of subtropical and tropical Africa and South America, and in Australia.


A grassland with scattered trees or scattered clumps of trees, a type of community intermediate between grassland and forest. See also Tropical savanna and grassland biome.

temperate grassland

A terrestrial biome found in temperate latitudes (>23.5° N or S latitude). Vegetation is made up mostly of grasses, the height and species diversity of which depend largely on the amount of moisture available. Fire and grazing are important in the long-term maintenance of grasslands.


uses sight to communicate


Ehrlich, P., D. Dobkin,, D. Wheye. 1988. The Birders Handbook: A Field Guide to the Natural History of North American Birds. New York: Simon & Schuster Inc..

Fisher, C., J. Acorn. 1998. Birds of Alberta. Edmonton: Lone Pine Publishing.

Rogers, M. 2000. "Common Yellowthroat" (On-line). Accessed Nov. 20, 2000 at

Terres, J. 1980. The Audubon Society Encyclopedia of North American Birds. New York: Alfred A. Knopf.

Tufts, R. 1986. "Common Yellowthroat" (On-line). Accessed Nov. 20, 2000 at

Versaware Inc., 2000. "Yellowthroat" (On-line). Accessed Nov. 20, 2000 at