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26 Yellow Birds in Minnesota

yellow birds in minnesota yellow birds in mn
Pine Warbler in Stearns, Minnesota: Photo by Meghan Hines

Introduction

From the boreal forests of the north to the prairie grasslands of the south, Minnesota provides crucial breeding habitat for an array of vibrant yellow-plumaged songbirds. The state’s diverse habitats support warblers, vireos, tanagers and more. Let’s explore some of the most eye-catching yellow birds gracing Minnesota.

Great Crested Flycatcher (Myiarchus crinitus)

  • Features: Large grayish flycatcher with lemon-yellow belly and washed out yellow-olive breast. Long shaggy crest. Loud rattling call. 
  • Locations: Summer breeder across Minnesota in open woodlands and along edges. Winters in southern Central America. 
  • Fun Fact: Weaves shed snakeskins into nest lining. Perches motionless before sallying out for insects.

Western Kingbird (Tyrannus verticalis

  • Features: Medium gray flycatcher with bright yellow throat and breast. White outer tail feathers flash in flight. Upright perching posture.
  • Locations: Uncommon summer breeder in western Minnesota grasslands. More common to the west. Winters to South America.
  • Fun Fact: Aggressive defender of nesting territory, chasing crows, hawks and other intruders. Catches insects mid-air.

Yellow-throated Vireo (Vireo flavifrons)

  • Features: Bluish-gray above with bright yellow throat and upper breast. White spectacles around eyes. Deliberate warbling song. 
  • Locations: An oak woodland species, breeds in southern Minnesota. Winters to tropical America.
  • Fun Fact: Slow, methodical forager that gleans caterpillars from leaves. Weaves hanging nest from bark strips.

Blue-headed Vireo (Vireo solitarius)

  • Features: Active songbird with gray back, white undersides, and blue-gray head with white spectacles. Clear whistled song. 
  • Locations: Breeds across northern Minnesota in mature deciduous and mixed forests. Winters south to Panama. 
  • Fun Fact: Males and females share nest-building and feeding of young. Nests suspended from forked branch.

Evening Grosbeak (Hesperiphona vespertinus

  • Features: Large finch with massive conical bill. Male has bright yellow body with black and white wings. Female drabber. 
  • Locations: Irruptive winter visitor, with flocks moving south some years. Breeds in northern forests.
  • Fun Fact: Visits feeders for sunflower seeds. Nests in conifers or mixed forests. Recently declined.

American Goldfinch (Spinus tristis)

  • Features: Small finch with bright golden-yellow body, black wings and cap. Long pointed bill. Undulating flight pattern.
  • Locations: Common year-round resident across Minnesota. Winters in large nomadic flocks.
  • Fun Fact: One of the latest nesting birds, breeding peak is August when thistle down is abundant.

Western Meadowlark (Sturnella neglecta)

  • Features: Medium-sized songbird with bright yellow underparts, black “V” on breast, white stripes on flanks. Long slender bill.
  • Locations: Common breeder in prairie grasslands in western Minnesota. Winters southward. 
  • Fun Fact: Sings loud flute-clear song from fence posts and other elevated perches marking territory. 

Eastern Meadowlark (Sturnella magna

  • Features: Medium grassland songbird with black “V” on yellow breast. White outer tail feathers flash in flight. Melodious song.
  • Locations: Breeds in tallgrass prairies and pastures in eastern Minnesota. Winters southward. 
  • Fun Fact: Skulkier than Western. Nest has long tunnel entrance leading to cup nest woven from grasses. 

Blue-winged Warbler (Vermivora cyanoptera

  • Features: Olive-gray above with bright yellow underparts. Male has white and blue-gray wings. Buzzing insect-like song.
  • Locations: An early successional forest breeder, found in southern Minnesota. Winters to Central America. 
  • Fun Fact: Hops along the ground and flies out to catch insects. Nests on ground hidden in clumps of grass.

Prothonotary Warbler (Protonotaria citrea)

  • Features: Golden-yellow head and underparts with blue-gray wings and back. Long pointed bill. Clear ringing song.
  • Locations: Localized breeder in wooded swamps and bottomlands in far southern Minnesota. 
  • Fun Fact: Nest is an open cup placed in a cavity in dead tree over water. Male feeds female on nest.

Tennessee Warbler (Leiothlypis peregrina)

  • Features: Bright lime-yellow below with olive upperparts. Male has gray head. Quick energetic forager along branches.
  • Locations: Abundant breeder across northern Minnesota’s forests. Winters to Central America.
  • Fun Fact: Nests on the ground hidden in mats of moss, grass and roots. Named for where it was first encountered.

Orange-crowned Warbler (Leiothlypis celata)

  • Features: Olive-green above with yellow underparts. Faint orange crown stripe. Active gleaner of shrubs and trees. 
  • Locations: Common migrant across Minnesota. Breeds in northern forests, winters southward. 
  • 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.
  • Locations: Widespread migrant across Minnesota. Breeds in northern forests, winters to Mexico.
  • Fun Fact: Has a buzzy, insect-like song. Hops along branches picking insects.

Connecticut Warbler (Oporornis agilis)

  • Features: Olive back with gray hood and yellow underparts. Rarely seen as it skulks on ground under cover. Loud ringing song. 
  • Locations: Uncommon breeder across central and northern Minnesota in wet thickets. Winters to northern South America.  
  • Fun Fact: Elusive forager on the ground under dense shrub cover. Nests hidden on the ground.

Mourning Warbler (Geothlypis philadelphia)

  • Features: Gray hood with black chin and throat. Yellow below with olive back. White eye crescents. Habitually flicks tail. 
  • Locations: Scattered breeder in brushy areas across Minnesota. Winters to Central America.  
  • Fun Fact: Hops low in cover searching for insects. Nest concealed on ground beneath overhanging vegetation.

Common Yellowthroat (Geothlypis trichas)

  • Features: Olive upperparts. Male has black mask with bright white and yellow throat/breast. Loud “witchity” song. 
  • Locations: Common summer resident in wetlands across Minnesota with dense vegetation. Winters southward.
  • Fun Fact: Builds well-hidden nest low in marsh grasses and sedges over water. Males display with flight song.

Hooded Warbler (Setophaga citrina

  • Features: Yellow face with olive-gray back and black hood down the neck and breast. White tail edges. 
  • Locations: Rare summer resident, found sporadically in southeast Minnesota. 
  • Fun Fact: Males perform spirited display flights low through territory to attract females. 

Magnolia Warbler (Setophaga magnolia)

  • Features: Bright yellow rump and undertail contrast back streaked black and gray. Male has black mask and throat.
  • Locations: Abundant spring and fall migrant across Minnesota. Breeds in northern forests. Winters south to Colombia. 
  • Fun Fact: Hops along branches singing a buzzy “chika-tory-chika” song as it gleans insects.

Blackburnian Warbler (Setophaga fusca)

  • Features: Small warbler with bright head and throat orange in males, yellow in females. Black cheek patch. 
  • Locations: Uncommon migrant and breeder in Minnesota’s pine and mixed forests. Winters to South America. 
  • Fun Fact: Forages high in trees. Eats insects and some berries, nectar. Song is a high thin “tsee-tsee-tsee”. 

American Yellow Warbler (Setophaga aestiva)

  • Features: Male is mostly bright yellow with chestnut streaks. Yellow-olive back and wings. Sweet whistled song.
  • Locations: Common summer breeder near wet areas and streams across Minnesota. Winters southward. 
  • Fun Fact: Males sing from prominent bare branches to declare territory. Preys on caterpillars.

Palm Warbler (Setophaga palmarum

  • Features: Olive above with yellow underparts. Chestnut cap and yellow supercilium line. Constantly pumps tail.
  • Locations: Common migrant across Minnesota. Breeds in boreal bogs and winters southward. 
  • Fun Fact: Forages on ground, flying to catch insects. Nests on ground near water. Named for its tropical wintering habitat.

Pine Warbler (Setophaga pinus

  • Features: Yellow below with yellow-olive upperparts. White wing bars. Male has rusty cap and sides. Trilling song. 
  • Locations: Uncommon localized breeder in southeast Minnesota’s pine forests. Winters to southern U.S.
  • Fun Fact: Forages high in pine trees eating insects and some seeds and berries. Very rare in western Minnesota. 

Black-throated Green Warbler (Setophaga virens

  • Features: Olive-green above with bright yellow face and breast. Black throat and cheek patch. Buzzing song.
  • Locations: Fairly common migrant and summer breeder in northern Minnesota’s coniferous forests. 
  • Fun Fact: Males perform display flight with slow-flapping wings to attract females. Nest built near tree trunks.

Canada Warbler (Cardellina canadensis)

  • Features: Bright yellow throat and breast with necklace-like black necklace. Blue-gray back with white spectacles. 
  • Locations: Locally common breeder in northern Minnesota in moist forests with dense understory. Winters to South America.
  • Fun Fact: Forages on the ground and in dense shrubs. Lays eggs on a platform nest on the ground.

Wilson’s Warbler (Cardellina pusilla

  • Features: Small warbler with yellow underparts and olive green above. Male has black cap. Active forager, often along the ground.
  • Locations: Abundant migrant across Minnesota. Breeds farther north, winters southward. 
  • Fun Fact: Has a loud, ringing song. Bobbing walk and flight. Nests in dense shrubs and thickets.

Scarlet Tanager – female (Piranga olivacea)

  • Features: Medium songbird with bright yellow body and olive-gray wings. Female lacks male’s red plumage. Upright foraging posture.
  • Locations: Breeds across southern and central Minnesota in deciduous and mixed forests. Winters to South America.
  • Fun Fact: The male has a hoarse, burry song. This striking species eats bees, wasps and other flying insects.

Threats and Conservation

Habitat loss on both the breeding and wintering grounds affects migratory species. Collisions with buildings and towers also take a toll. Conserving wetlands, forests and shrublands benefits these birds. Careful building placement, reduced pesticide use, and keeping cats indoors aid in protecting songbird populations. 

Citizen Science

Minnesota birders contribute greatly to knowledge and conservation:

  • eBird sightings inform research on distributions, migration, behavior, and declines. Photos help document rare migrants. 
  • Breeding Bird Survey and atlas projects compile nesting data and highlight population trends.
  • Banding stations provide migration timing and age/sex composition. Band recoveries show individual movements.
  • Nest box programs collect breeding data on cavity nesters like Eastern Bluebirds and Tree Swallows.

Conclusion

Exploring Minnesota’s diverse habitats provides opportunities to appreciate the remarkable variety of stunning yellow-plumaged songbirds that breed here and migrate through. From warblers flashing through forests to meadowlarks singing in grasslands, these species brighten our lives while facing substantial threats. Birders can contribute to knowledge and help protect these special birds.