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27 Yellow Birds in Indiana

yellow birds in indiana
Black-throated Green Warbler in Marion, Indiana: Photo by Peter Finley

Introduction

From vibrant wood-warblers flashing through spring forests to meadowlarks singing over sunny fields, Indiana provides prime habitat for a variety of stunning yellow-plumaged birds. Ranging from tiny kinglets to thrush-sized tanagers, yellow feathers help many species blend into sun-dappled leaves or stand out among spring buds. Let’s explore some eye-catching yellow birds finding homes in Hoosier forests, prairies and backyards.

Yellow-throated Vireo (Vireo flavifrons)

  • Features: Songbird with bright yellow throat/breast and white spectacles. Blue-gray upperparts and white undersides. Deliberate mellow song with alternating short phrases. 
  • Locations: Found breeding in Indiana’s deciduous forests and woodland openings. Winters in tropical Americas. 
  • Fun Fact: Arrives early spring to claim wooded breeding areas. Suspends its woven hanging nest from a forked branch high in a tree.

White-eyed Vireo (Vireo griseus

  • Features: Gray songbird with bright yellow flanks and white spectacles around yellow eyes. Black “ear patches” and conspicuous white wing bars. Distinctive squeaky song.
  • Locations: Summer resident in shrubby areas and forest edges across Indiana. Winters to Central America. 
  • Fun Fact: Male and female build suspended nest in a tree fork 2-8 feet up. Well-camouflaged against bark and leaves while foraging.

Bell’s Vireo (Vireo bellii)

  • Features: Plain gray-olive vireo with pale yellow-washed underparts and spectacle-like markings around eyes. Short wings give round-headed look. Slurred, meandering song. 
  • Locations: Breeds in brushy areas and along waterways in southwestern Indiana. Winters to western Mexico. Declining population.
  • Fun Fact: Returns in April from Central America. Favors dense willow and early successional habitat. Nest suspended from forked twigs in thicket.

Blue-headed Vireo (Vireo solitarius

  • Features: Yellow-olive flanks and white spectacles. Blue-gray cap and white underside. Hoarse, burry song with alternating short phrases.
  • Locations: Nests across northern Indiana in mature deciduous forests. Winters to southern Florida and the Caribbean. 
  • Fun Fact: Arrives in April just before leaves emerge, making nest high in a tree. Both parents incubate eggs and feed nestlings.

Philadelphia Vireo (Vireo philadelphicus

  • Features: Yellow undersides with olive back and gray head. White wing bars and spectacles. Thin pointed bill. Sweet slow whistled song. 
  • Locations: Spring and fall migrant across Indiana. Breeds farther north, winters to western Amazonia in South America.
  • Fun Fact: Rarely seen, usually foraging deliberately in forest canopy. Nest cleverly suspended from a branch fork.

Golden-crowned Kinglet (Regulus satrapa

  • Features: Tiny olive-gray songbird with bright yellow-orange central crown stripe bordered by black. Constantly flicks wings while foraging.
  • Locations: Winters across Indiana but found year-round in conifer forests. Summers farther north in boreal forests. 
  • Fun Fact: High-pitched buzzy call. To conserve heat, roosts communally in tree cavities at night.

American Goldfinch (Spinus tristis

  • Features: Small finch with bright golden-yellow plumage and black cap, wings and tail. Undulating flight on pointed wings. Long thin bill.
  • Locations: Common year-round across Indiana in weedy fields, roadsides and backyard feeders. Gregarious outside breeding season.
  • Fun Fact: One of the last migrants to arrive in spring and latest breeders. Nests mainly in July-September.

Eastern Meadowlark (Sturnella magna)

  • Features: Medium-sized songbird with bright yellow underparts and black “V” on breast. White malar stripe with black cheek patch. Flute-clear whistled song. 
  • Locations: Year-round resident in grasslands and pastures across northern Indiana. Winters farther south than western meadowlark.
  • Fun Fact: Walks and runs through grass before bursting into flight. Rarely visits feeders. Nest has long tunnel entrance leading to cup.

Prothonotary Warbler (Protonotaria citrea)

  • Features: Golden-yellow head and underparts. Gray wings and tail. Long pointed bill is black on top and pink on bottom. Loud ringing “sweet-sweet” song. 
  • Locations: Localized summer breeder in wooded swamps and bottomlands in southwestern Indiana. Winters farther south. 
  • Fun Fact: Cavity nester, remarkably building nest in holes over water. Male feeds female while she incubates.

Tennessee Warbler (Leiothlypis peregrina

  • Features: Bright yellow-green undersides with plain olive upperparts. Male has muted gray crown. Tiny with rapid wing beats. High thin buzzy song.
  • Locations: Abundant spring and fall migrant across Indiana. Breeds northward, winters to Caribbean and Central America. 
  • Fun Fact: Forages quickly and methodically in trees but only occasionally visits feeders. Nest cleverly hidden on ground among roots. 

Orange-crowned Warbler (Leiothlypis celata

  • Features: Olive-yellow above with yellow face and breast. Faint orange crown stripe is rarely visible. Active forager, often lower in vegetation. 
  • Locations: Fairly common migrant across Indiana, breeding farther north. Winters along the southern U.S. coast and Mexico.
  • Fun Fact: Has a simple, repeating song. Skulks and stays hidden in dense foliage while feeding.

Nashville Warbler (Leiothlypis ruficapilla)

  • Features: Gray above with bright yellow underparts. Male has subtle chestnut crown. White wing bars and eye ring. Thin pointed bill.
  • Locations: Common spring and fall migrant in Indiana, breeding farther north. Winters from southern U.S. to Mexico. 
  • Fun Fact: Forages actively, repeatedly flashing white undertail coverts. Common in second growth habitats.

Mourning Warbler (Geothlypis philadelphia

  • Features: Gray above with black spotting on breast and bright yellow below. Large white tail patches. Male has darker hood than female. Song starts with three buzzy phrases.
  • Locations: Regular spring and fall migrant across Indiana favoring thickets and forest edges. Winters farther south.
  • Fun Fact: Walks along branches and ground methodically picking insects. Loose colonies nest on the ground.

Kentucky Warbler (Geothlypis formosa)

  • Features: Bright yellow underparts with olive-green back and subtle black sideburns along cheek. Male has black crown stripe. Loud forceful song of paired phrases. 
  • Locations: Localized summer breeder in dense undergrowth of moist deciduous forests in southern Indiana. Winters to Mexico and farther south.
  • Fun Fact: Skulking songster, usually heard before being seen. Nests on the ground in heavy overgrown vegetation.

Common Yellowthroat (Geothlypis trichas

  • Features: Male has bold black mask outlined in bright white with yellow face and breast. Olive upperparts. Loud fast “witchity-witchity” song.
  • Locations: Common summer resident statewide in marshes, wet meadows and thickets. Winters along the southern U.S. coast. 
  • Fun Fact: Builds well-hidden nest low in wetland vegetation, often over water. Forages low but sings from elevated bare perches.

Hooded Warbler (Setophaga citrina)

  • Features: Male is bright yellow below with gray back and conspicuous black hood extending down breast. White tail edges. Female is duller. 
  • Locations: Localized summer breeder in southern Indiana’s sycamore-lined bottomlands and mature forests. Winters to Mexico and beyond.
  • Fun Fact: Favors dense broadleaf understory vegetation with moist soils. Nest placed low in sapling or shrub.

Cape May Warbler (Setophaga tigrina

  • Features: Male has yellow underparts with black and brown streaked back, cheek patches and throat. Yellow-green rump patch. Female is duller with less streaking. 
  • Locations: Uncommon spring and fall migrant across Indiana. Breeds in northern boreal forests. Winters in the West Indies.
  • Fun Fact: Agile forager, able to hang upside-down along branches to pick insects. Thought to eat spruce budworm caterpillars in breeding season. 

Magnolia Warbler (Setophaga magnolia)

  • Features: Black banded yellow underparts. Gray back, black-streaked cheeks and white tail spots. Male has black throat patch. Rapid tweeting song. 
  • Locations: Common spring and fall migrant across Indiana. Breeds farther north in coniferous forests. Winters to Central America and Caribbean.
  • Fun Fact: Arrives early April just as magnolia trees start blooming. Hops between branches eating insects like a chickadee.

Blackburnian Warbler (Setophaga fusca)  

  • Features: Tiny songbird with orange or yellow-orange throat patch on male. Black cheek stripe and face. Yellow underside. Very high thin buzzy song.
  • Locations: Uncommon spring and fall migrant across Indiana. Breeds in northern pine forests. Winters to South America. 
  • Fun Fact: Energetic and aggressive forager, chasing other warblers from its territory. One of the most strongly migratory wood-warblers. 

Palm Warbler (Setophaga palmarum)

  • Features: Yellow underparts with rusty crown and eye line. Constantly pumps tail while walking. Flies low with faster wing beats interspersed with brief gliding. Musical trilled song.
  • Locations: Common migrant across Indiana. Breeds in boreal bogs and winters along the U.S. Gulf Coast.
  • Fun Fact: Ground forager, walking while wagging tail to stir up insects. Occasionally visits feeders. Named for tropical wintering habitat.

Pine Warbler (Setophaga pinus)

  • Features: Yellow face and underparts with yellow-olive upperparts. Males show subtle rufous spotting. White wing bars. Trilling vocalization almost indistinguishable from chipping sparrow. 
  • Locations: Uncommon localized summer breeder in scattered pine stands statewide. Winters in southeastern U.S.
  • Fun Fact: Drills into pine cones to eat seeds. Will visit suet feeders. Favors open pine forests and plantations.

Prairie Warbler (Setophaga discolor)

  • Features: Olive back with black streaks and yellow underparts with dark cheek patches. Male has rufous streaks on back. Song is a rapid trill ending on upslurred note.
  • Locations: Localized summer resident in southwestern Indiana. Favors old overgrown fields and dry upland woods. Winters along the southeastern U.S. coast. 
  • Fun Fact: Original habitat was likely pine barrens before fire suppression allowed hardwood encroachment. Returns in early April.

Black-throated Green Warbler (Setophaga virens)  

  • Features: Bright yellow face with olive-green back. Male has thick black throat patch and white wing bars. Sharp buzzy song with ending flourish. 
  • Locations: Fairly common migrant across Indiana. Breeds in northern coniferous forests. Winters mainly in Mexico and the Caribbean.
  • Fun Fact: Forages actively in treetops picking insects from pine needles and branches. Nest built near tree trunks.

Canada Warbler (Cardellina canadensis

  • Features: Bright yellow necklaces across breast and cheek. Blue-gray back with white eye ring. Pink legs. Loud musical song carries through forest.
  • Locations: Uncommon spring and fall migrant across Indiana. Breeds in moist northern forests. Winters to northern South America. 
  • Fun Fact: Forages on ground and low in dense shrubs. Population declining potentially due to deforestation in South America.

Wilson’s Warbler (Cardellina pusilla)

  • Features: Small warbler with bright yellow head and underparts. Male has black cap extending down neck. Active forager, frequently along the ground. Loud ringing song.
  • Locations: Abundant spring and fall migrant across Indiana. Breeds farther north, winters along Pacific coast through Mexico.
  • Fun Fact: Tilts tail sideways characteristically. Nests in dense shrubs and thickets. Young hatch ready to leave the nest. 

Summer Tanager – female (Piranga rubra

  • Features: Medium songbird with bright yellow-orange body and olive-gray wings and tail. Paler than male. Stout pointed bill. Melodic phrases interspersed with buzzes.
  • Locations: Nests in mature upland forests across Indiana. Winters in South America. 
  • Fun Fact: Uncommon in northern Indiana. The male has red plumage above and below. This species eats wasps, bees and other flying insects.

Scarlet Tanager – female (Piranga olivacea)

  • Features: Medium olive-yellow songbird with darker olive-gray wings and tail. Paler bill than Summer Tanager. Song faster and more hurried than male’s. 
  • Locations: Nests in mature deciduous and mixed coniferous forests across northern Indiana. Winters in South America.
  • Fun Fact: The male is brilliant scarlet with black wings. The female alone builds a sturdy cup nest high in a tree on a horizontal branch.  

Threats and Conservation

Many of Indiana’s songbirds face substantial threats on their breeding grounds, migratory routes, and wintering grounds. Habitat loss from development and agricultural expansion reduces suitable nesting areas and migratory stopover sites. Pesticides diminish insect food sources. Collisions with buildings and towers are a major hazard. Climate change de-synchronizes migration timing and food availability.

Conserving patches of wetland, forest and successional habitat provides vital havens during migration. Reducing collisions through bird-friendly architecture and lighting helps reduce mortality. Keeping cats indoors protects billions of birds. Using natural landscaping and reducing pesticide usage around homes maintains food and cover.

Citizen Science

Indiana birders make essential contributions to knowledge and conservation:

  • eBird sightings inform scientific understanding of species distribution, abundance, migration timing, and population trends. Photos document rare visitors.
  • Nest box programs gather breeding data on cavity nesters like eastern bluebirds while also boosting populations. Monitoring provides information on nest success.
  • Banding and bird survey programs yield data on survivorship, migratory connectivity, demographics, and long-term trends.
  • Workshop and field trainings help birders master identification skills to contribute high quality data.
  • Engaging fellow community members in birding fosters appreciation and commitment to conservation.

Conclusion

Exploring Indiana’s mosaic of woodlands, wetlands and restored prairies offers ample opportunities to observe spectacular yellow-plumaged birds, from tiny kinglets foraging high in hemlocks to sturdy meadowlarks bounding through grassy fields. Protecting habitat locally and throughout their migration routes will help ensure the survival of these special species passing through the Hoosier state.