Common Yellowthroat

Geothlypis trichas
Range Map

The Common Yellowthroat is a bird usually found near waterways or marshes, and one of the few new world warblers who will nest there. They are abundant breeders in North America, ranging from the southern half of Canada to Panama. Many of these birds, especially those at the southern end of their range, are nonmigratory. This has contributed to regional genetic variations. Scientists recognise up to thirteen subspecies:

  • G. t. arizela breeds in the Pacific coastal zone from southeast Alaska south to central California. They spend winters in areas from California south to northwest Mexico.
  • G. t. sinuosa breeds in central California in the San Francisco Bay Area. They spend winter south of the bay south to San Diego.
  • G. t. modesta breeds on the west coast of Mexico from Sonora to Colima.
  • G. t. campicola breeds in the interior of northwestern North America from the southern Yukon east to western Ontario (Canada) south to Idaho and Nebraska. They spend winters in the southwestern USA and northern Mexico.
  • G. t. occidentalis breeds from eastern Oregon to Kansas, and spends winters in southwest USA, west Mexico, and Guatemala.
  • G. t. scirpicola lives in southern California, southeastern Nevada, southwestern Utah, western Arizona, northern Baja California, and northwestern Sonora (Mexico).
  • G. t. chryseola breeds in southern Arizona to western Texas and northern Mexico. In winter, they move slightly south of their breeding range.
  • G. t. melanops lives in central and southern Mexico.
  • G. t. trichas breeds in west-central Ontario east to Newfoundland and Nova Scotia (Canada) and south in the USA to eastern Texas and inland areas of Virginia.
  • G. t. typhicola breeds along the coastal belt of northern Florida and Gulf of Mexico. They spend winters around the Gulf coast, south to eastern Mexico.
  • G. t. ignota lives along the coastal zones of southeast Louisiana, east to Florida and southeastern South Carolina.
  • G. t. insperata lives in the lower Rio Grande Valley south of Brownsville (Texas).
  • G. t. chalapensis lives in southwestern Mexico.

Unlike many warbler species, the Common Yellowthroat has developed a defensive strategy for the brood parasitic Brown-Headed Cowbird. If the cowbird lays an egg in its nest, the yellowthroats will either build a new nest on top of the old one, or abandon the nest completely.

I enjoy hearing the witchety-witchety-witchety song of the Common Yellowthroat and the distinct chuck call of these birds whenever I visit marshes and wetland edges. Sometimes they will surprise me and make their homes in dry brushy areas. We rarely find these birds high in the canopy. They’d rather spend their time lurking in low foliage a few feet from the ground.

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