The male and female of this stocky little warbler look quite different; the male has a black “mask” (first-winter males’ masks are faint) and fairly bright yellow breast to go with its olive colored back, while females have no mask and have less yellow on the breast. Both have yellow under their tails.
Bird guides often use the word “skulking” to describe how this active little bird hops about inside shrubs, tall grasses, herbaceous perennial plants, and thickets. The bird is a “foliage gleaner,” meaning that it picks insects, spiders, larvae, etc. from leaves, branches, and flowers. It generally flies low and fluttery across short distances. Its call is usually described as “whitchety whitchety.” It sometimes travels in mixed-species flocks.
What brings it to the SBG?
Food, cover, possibly nesting sites. Its diet consists primarily of insects taken at or near ground level, and it prefers low, dense thickets for nesting and food seeking. Thus this species may find the Demonstration Gardens and associated shrubs attractive. At Tudek Park, the Common Yellowthroat has been observed in overgrown areas adjacent to the horse pasture. Though they often nest in places that are wetter than the SBG, they are found in a fairly broad range of habitats. They are territorial and reportedly defend at least half an acre.
When can I see it?
Mainly in spring and fall. They seem to be most visible during migration season, when some are headed far north to breeding grounds and others are casting about locally for nesting sites. In winter they travel (short or long distance depending on the population) to the southern US, Mexico and the Caribbean.