Common Yellowthroat Warbler

Geothlypis trichas

common yellowthroat warbler

Common yellowthroat, photographed at Wakodahatchee Wetlands, Delray Beach, Palm Beach County, in April 2019.

The best word to describe the common yellowthroat, Geothlypis trichas, is common. At one time of the year or another, they can be found in just about every nook and cranny of North America, including Florida. It is, in fact, the only warbler to breed in every one of the lower 48 states, plus southeastern Alaska.

According to Partners in Flight, there are 87 million yellowthroats globally. They breed in spring and summer throughout most of the United States and into Canada as far north as the Yukon and Northwest Territories. They winter in the southern U.S.. Mexico, the Caribbean and Central America. There are year-round populations along the Gulf and Atlantic coasts of the U.S., including Florida, and parts of central Mexico.

While yellowthroats are year-round residents of Florida, we've seen them most frequently during winter and spring. They tend to hang out in thickets, along the edges of marshes and wetlands, which tend to open up a bit as vegetation dies back during the cooler months, making these tiny birds a little easier to spot. That's our theory, at least. And it makes sense that they spend their time as well hidden as possible, considering they nest on or near the ground. The subspecies of common yellowthroat that resides here: G t ignota, but six other subspecies are known to visit Florida during the winter or on migration.

The black mask worn by males make them easy to identify. Females, however, lack the mask and are duller in color except for some yellow at the throat and near the tail. Like other warblers, they are small birds, about five inches long and have a max wingspan of less than eight inches. Their heads are round and a little large in comparison to body size.

Yellowthroats nest in dense vegetation such as sedges, grasses and cat-tails. Females pick the site and lay a clutch of six eggs or less, which hatch within about a week to 10 days. Females do the sitting and are fed by males. The young fledge in 10 days or less, but stick with their parents for some time afterwards. Two broods per year is typical.

According to the Cornell Laboratory of Ornithology, one of the threats to the yellowthroat is posed by cow bird, which are parasites of a sort, laying their eggs in the nests of other species, hoping the other species rear their young. Yellowthroat nests are particular targets; yellowthroats, however, will abandon their nests if they discover a cow bird egg in their midst.

Yellowthroats eat all sorts of bugs, usually catching them from their perch, but will venture out to do a little foraging as well. In return, yellowthroats and their young are targets for birds of prey, snakes, raccoons, skunks and others. According to the Aububon Society, one defensive tactic they employ is to use different paths to and from their nests as they gather food for their young. Yellowthroats are rated a "least concern" by the International Union for Conservation of Nature but their population has been declining slowly for years. Habitat loss, degradation of habitat and pollutants, including pesticides, are the culprits.

They are members of Parulidae, the wood-warbler family.

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Published by Wild South Florida, PO Box 7241, Delray Beach, FL 33482.

Photographs by David Sedore. Photographs are property of the publishers and may not be used without permission.