Yellow-Rumped Warbler

Setophaga coronata

Yellow-Rumped Warblers are anything but rare in North America. From Panama to Alaska to the Canadian Maritime Provinces, they either breed, spend the winter, or migrate through.

At one time the Yellow-Rumped Warbler was classified as separate species. There is much overlap in their breeding range, but not so much where they spend winters. The Audubon’s Warbler (Dendroica coronata auduboni) winters primarily in the west, and the Myrtle Warbler (Dendroica coronata coronata) in the east. We rarely see the Myrtle Warbler on the west coast of the USA. The Audubon’s Warbler is most commonly found here. In 1973, we classified them as the same species, but separate subspecies. Genetic studies from 2006 suggest it is less than clear whether we should classify these birds as full species, or continue as subspecies in their taxonomy. My money’s on a split.

I recently learned there are two more members of the Yellow-Rumped complex: the Black-Fronted Warbler (Dendroica coronata nigrifrons) from northern Mexico, and the Goldman’s Warbler (Dendroica coronata goldmani) from southern Mexico and Guatemala.

A more recent move in this “name-game” is the change in genus applied to this complex. No longer is Dendroica (belonging to a tree) used for these birds. Setophaga (moth eater) is now the preferred name <sigh>.

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