American Yellow Warbler

Setophaga petechia

The Yellow Warbler and its various subspecies (today’s scientists recognise 37) breed in most of North America from the tundra southwards. There seems to be no breeding going on for this species in southeastern USA and the eastern southwestern states. When the breeding cycle is over these birds fly south, staying in southern Mexico, Central America and northern South America.

Yellow Warblers love riparian habitats, and moist areas with plenty of small trees. They build their nest in a vertical fork, anywhere from 10 to 40 feet from the ground. Brown-Headed Cowbirds often parasitize the nest of the Yellow Warbler, but their defensive response is to build a new nest on top of the old one and laying fresh eggs. It might require several layers in a season if the cowbird persists in laying eggs in the warbler’s nest.

With 37 subspecies recognised, there are too many to describe here. I can pass along that there are four groups of subspecies, with some overlap in their ranges. Avian biologist view mangrove Warblers as a subspecies of the Yellow Warbler, belonging to the Mangrove or erithachorides group. There are eleven subspecies in this group, and its members live mostly in coastal Mexico, Central America and northern South America. The Northern or aestiva group has six subspecies and ranges across most of the USA, some of Alaska and southern Canada. The Galapagos or Aureola Group has one member found only on the Galapagos Islands. The Golden or Petechia Group has sixteen members, ranging through south Florida, The West Indies, the Caribbean, and northern South America.

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