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17 Yellow Birds in Colorado

yellow birds in colorado
American Yellow Warbler in El Paso, Colorado: Photo by Jim Merritt

Introduction

From buzzing songbirds to flashing wood-warblers, Colorado provides essential habitat for a wide array of bird species exhibiting bright golden-yellow plumage. Their vibrant coloration livens up backyards, woodlands, and wetlands across the state. Let’s explore some of the most eye-catching yellow birds to watch for in Colorado.

Say’s Phoebe (Sayornis saya)

  • Features: Medium flycatcher with pale yellow belly and washed-out burnt orange underparts. Dark head and back contrast whitish breast. Constantly pumps tail downward. 
  • Locations: Nests in open country across western Colorado. Winters south to Mexico. 
  • Fun Fact: Named after explorer Thomas Say. Catches insects by sallying from perch instead of on the wing.

Cassin’s Kingbird (Tyrannus vociferans

  • Features: Large flycatcher with olive-gray back, lemon yellow belly, white throat, and white tail feather tips. Makes chattering, whistling vocalizations. 
  • Locations: Summers in open woodlands in western Colorado. Winters in southern Mexico. 
  • Fun Fact: Aggressively defends nesting territory, chasing after hawks, crows and other intruders that venture too close.

Western Kingbird (Tyrannus verticalis)

  • Features: Gray flycatcher with bright yellow belly and throat, squared off tail with white outer retrices. Upright posture. Scratchy twittering call. 
  • Locations: Widespread summer resident across Colorado in open habitats. Winters in the tropics.
  • Fun Fact: Catches flying insects on the wing by making aerial sallies from an open perch instead of hovering.

Evening Grosbeak (Hesperiphona vespertinus

  • Features: Stocky finch with huge conical bill. Male has yellow body with black wings, tail and white patches. Female is gray with yellow tinges.
  • Locations: Irruptive winter visitor in Colorado’s mountains and foothills. Breeds primarily in Canada.
  • Fun Fact: Visits feeders for sunflower seeds in noisy flocks. Nests in coniferous and mixed forests. 

Yellow Grosbeak (Pheucticus chrysopeplus)

  • Features: Large cardinal-like finch with bright yellow body and grayish wings. Thick conical beak for hulling seeds. Quiet chip calls.  
  • Locations: Breeds in cottonwood riparian woodlands in western Colorado. Winters to the south.  
  • Fun Fact: Male feeds female as part of courtship. She builds the nest in a tree or shrub by herself. Population declining.

Lesser Goldfinch (Spinus psaltria)

  • Features: Tiny active finch with bright yellow body, black back, wings and cap. Thin pointed bill. Sweet warbling vocalizations. 
  • Locations: Common year-round resident in weedy fields, scrub, and urban areas of Colorado.
  • Fun Fact: One of latest nesting songbirds, breeding peaks July-August. Nests often placed in thistles or trees near water.

American Goldfinch (Spinus tristis)

  • Features: Small finch with bright yellow body, black cap, wings, and tail. Long conical bill. Distinct undulating flight.
  • Locations: Widespread breeding bird across Colorado. Winters in large flocks. 
  • Fun Fact: Breeds later than any other Colorado songbird. Male’s bill becomes orange in breeding season. 

Western Meadowlark (Sturnella neglecta)

  • Features: Medium-sized songbird with bright yellow underparts, black “V” on breast, white stripe on flanks. Long slender bill. 
  • Locations: Common year-round resident in grasslands and fields across Colorado. 
  • Fun Fact: Sings a loud, flute-clear song from fence posts and other perches marking its breeding territory.  

Orange-crowned Warbler (Leiothlypis celata

  • Features: Olive green above with yellow underparts. Faint orange crown stripe. Active forager in shrubs and trees. 
  • Locations: Abundant winter resident and migrant across Colorado. Breeds farther north. 
  • Fun Fact: Has a simple, repeating song. Tends to skulk and stay hidden in vegetation as it feeds.

Nashville Warbler (Leiothlypis ruficapilla

  • Features: Gray above with bright yellow underparts. Male has chestnut crown patch. Forages actively in shrubs and trees.
  • Locations: Widespread migrant across Colorado. Winters to southern U.S. and Mexico. 
  • Fun Fact: Has a buzzy, insect-like breeding song. Hops along branches picking insects.

MacGillivray’s Warbler (Geothlypis tolmiei

  • Features: Gray head and back with yellow underparts. Broken eye-ring. Male shows black cap. Loud “tchip” callnote. 
  • Locations: Summers in western Colorado and parts of the east. Winters in Mexico.
  • Fun Fact: Forages along branches and in dense understory for insects. Named after Scottish ornithologist William MacGillivray.

Common Yellowthroat (Geothlypis trichas

  • Features: Masked warbler with olive upperparts. Male has black facial mask outlined in bright white with yellow throat-breast.
  • Locations: Year-round resident in wetlands across Colorado with dense vegetation. 
  • Fun Fact: Loudly sings “witchity-witchity” from cover. Builds well-hidden ground nest cup over water. 

Hooded Warbler (Setophaga citrina)

  • Features: Yellow face with olive-gray back and black hood that extends down neck and breast. White tail edges. 
  • Locations: Rare summer resident, mainly on eastern plains. Winters to Mexico and tropics. 
  • Fun Fact: Males perform acrobatic display flights to attract females to their nesting territory.

American Yellow Warbler (Setophaga aestiva)

  • Features: Bright yellow with rusty streaks on breast. Olive back with yellow stripes. Sweet whistled song. 
  • Locations: Summer resident across Colorado near wet areas. Winters to Central and South America.
  • Fun Fact: Males sing from prominent open perch to attract mates and defend territory.

Townsend’s Warbler (Setophaga townsendi)

  • Features: Olive green above with bright yellow throat and breast. Black cheek patches and white wing bars.
  • Locations: Spring and fall migrant in western Colorado mountains and foothills.
  • Fun Fact: Forages along pine branches and needles for insects. Has a rapid rattling song.

Wilson’s Warbler (Cardellina pusilla) 

  • Features: Small warbler with bright yellow underparts and olive green above. Male has black cap.
  • Locations: Widespread migrant across Colorado. Breeds in far north.
  • Fun Fact: Walks along ground under cover with tail bobbing, searching for insects. Loud ringing song. 

Western Tanager (Piranga ludoviciana

  • Features: Medium-sized songbird with bright yellow body and black wings, back and tail. Male has red head.
  • Locations: Summer resident in Colorado’s coniferous forests. Winters in Mexico. 
  • Fun Fact: Uncommon in the east. Female is yellow with gray wings. Male sings a hoarse, burry song.

Threats and Conservation

Habitat loss in breeding areas affects populations of many migratory yellow birds. Cats, collisions and climate change also take a toll. Conserving stopover habitats helps migrating species. Citizen science aids monitoring.

Citizen Science

Citizen scientists contribute greatly to knowledge and conservation of Colorado’s yellow birds:

  • eBird sightings provide researchers with valuable data on distribution, migration timing, population trends, range changes, and more. Photos help document rare species.
  • Breeding Bird Surveys help monitor populations long-term. However, coverage is still sparse in some areas of the state.
  • Nest box programs collect data on cavity nesters like Western Bluebirds. Monitoring provides info on reproduction, mortality, nest success.
  • Feeder surveys document irruptive species like Evening Grosbeaks when they move south in winter.
  • Bird banding helps track migratory patterns and demographics. Band recoveries show travels of individuals.
  • Christmas Bird Counts compile winter distribution data and highlight trends.
  • Atlas projects map ranges, breeding locales and habitat use.

Committed citizen scientists are crucial for monitoring diverse species like Colorado’s yellow birds over time. Their contributions inform research and conservation.

Conclusion

The diversity of yellow avian jewels sparkling in Colorado’s skies and trees provides ample rewards for birders. Note the plumage patterns, songs, behaviors and preferred habitats of these special species as you explore. Your sightings and actions can help conserve these migratory wonders.