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27 Yellow Birds in Massachusetts

yellow birds in massachusetts
Prairie Warbler in Norfolk, Massachusetts: Photo by Evan Lipton

Introduction

Massachusetts, a state with a rich historical past, is also home to a diverse array of bird species. Among them, the yellow-hued avians stand out, brightening the landscape with their vibrant plumage. Whether you’re an avid birder or someone with a casual interest in our feathered friends, spotting these yellow birds can be an absolute delight. Let’s dive deep into some of the most notable yellow birds found in the Bay State.

Yellow-bellied Flycatcher (Empidonax flaviventris)

  • Features: As its name suggests, this bird has a bright yellow belly contrasting with its olive-green back. Their eye ring is bold and white, and they have a soft, whispery song.
  • Locations: Bogs and moist, dense forests, especially in the western parts of Massachusetts during migration.
  • Fun Fact: Their call sounds somewhat like a soft “chu-wee.”

Acadian Flycatcher (Empidonax virescens)

  • Features: A light olive-green upper body with a pale yellow belly. Their eye rings and wing bars are whitish, providing a contrast.
  • Locations: Deciduous forests with a dense understory, particularly in the Connecticut River Valley.
  • Fun Fact: They have a distinctive “peet-sa” call that reverberates through their woodland habitats.

Great Crested Flycatcher (Myiarchus crinitus)

  • Features: A sizable flycatcher with a bright yellow belly, contrasting against a brownish head and ash-gray wings. Their throat and breast are grayish.
  • Locations: Woodlands and forests throughout Massachusetts.
  • Fun Fact: They often use snake skins to line their nests, even if snakes aren’t common in the area.

White-eyed Vireo (Vireo griseus)

  • Features: A striking bird with olive-green upperparts, yellow flanks, and white underparts. Their white eyes are a standout feature, contrasting with a yellow “spectacle” around them.
  • Locations: Thickets and shrubby areas in the southeastern parts of Massachusetts.
  • Fun Fact: Their complex song can mimic parts of the songs of other bird species.

Yellow-throated Vireo (Vireo flavifrons)

  • Features: With a bright yellow throat and breast, they contrast beautifully with their olive-green back and white belly. The yellow extends as a “spectacle” around their eyes.
  • Locations: Woodlands, particularly in areas with tall deciduous trees, such as around the Boston suburbs.
  • Fun Fact: They sing a series of burry notes, often described as being unhurried compared to other vireos.

Blue-headed Vireo (Vireo solitarius)

  • Features: A mix of blue-gray on the head and greenish on the back. They sport a white belly, yellow flanks, and distinct white “spectacles.”
  • Locations: Coniferous and mixed forests, particularly in the Berkshires.
  • Fun Fact: Their song is more musical than other vireos, with a mix of short and long phrases.

American Goldfinch (Spinus tristis)

  • Features: Often referred to as the “wild canary,” the American goldfinch boasts a brilliant yellow body in the summer, complemented by a black forehead and black wings with white markings. During winter, they molt to a more subdued olive-brown. Their flight is notably undulating, creating a wave-like pattern against the sky.
  • Locations: Commonly found in weedy fields, meadows, and gardens throughout Massachusetts, especially in areas like the Ipswich River Wildlife Sanctuary.
  • Fun Fact: They undergo a complete molt in late summer, changing their vibrant summer feathers to a more muted winter plumage.

Ruby-crowned Kinglet (Regulus calendula)

  • Features: Although tiny, this bird captures attention with its rapid movements and continuous song. They sport olive-green feathers with a white eye ring. The males possess a concealed ruby-red crown, which, when raised, is absolutely stunning.
  • Locations: Forests, woodlands, and gardens across Massachusetts, especially in parks like the Blue Hills Reservation.
  • Fun Fact: Despite their small size, their song is loud, complex, and carries far, often surprising those new to birdwatching.

Golden-crowned Kinglet (Regulus satrapa)

  • Features: Slightly more muted than its ruby-crowned cousin, this bird has olive-green plumage. Its standout feature is the blazing golden crown stripe on males, and a more yellowish one on females.
  • Locations: Coniferous forests, especially during winter. The Quabbin Reservoir is a prime location for sightings.
  • Fun Fact: They’re among the smallest birds in North America and can survive in extremely cold temperatures, even below freezing.

Tennessee Warbler (Oreothlypis peregrina)

  • Features: These birds exhibit olive-green upperparts and white underparts with a hint of yellow wash on their throat and undertail coverts. Their face is grayish with a pronounced white eye-ring.
  • Locations: Forests during migration. Although not frequent, they’ve been spotted in areas like the Mount Auburn Cemetery in Cambridge.
  • Fun Fact: Despite their name, they don’t primarily reside in Tennessee. The name originated because the first described individual was found in the state.

Nashville Warbler (Oreothlypis ruficapilla)

  • Features: A combination of a gray head with a distinctive white eye-ring, olive-green back, and a yellow belly makes this bird hard to miss. Males may exhibit a rusty crown patch.
  • Locations: Scrubby areas and forests, particularly during migration. Notable spots include the Broadmoor Wildlife Sanctuary.
  • Fun Fact: Like the Tennessee warbler, they aren’t primarily found in Nashville. Their naming is attributed to the location of the first specimen described.

Cape May Warbler (Setophaga tigrina)

  • Features: These warblers have a streaked, tiger-striped appearance. Males have a chestnut cheek patch and a pronounced yellow neck patch. Their wings showcase unique white patches.
  • Locations: Wooded areas during migration, especially places like the Parker River National Wildlife Refuge.
  • Fun Fact: Their unique semi-tubular tongue allows them to feed on nectar during certain times of the year.

Palm Warbler (Setophaga palmarum)

  • Features: Recognized by their constantly bobbing tail, these birds have a rusty cap and a bright yellow undertail. The rest of their body is brownish with light streaking.
  • Locations: Open areas including fields, especially during migration. They’re frequent visitors to places like Plum Island.
  • Fun Fact: Despite their tropical-sounding name, they breed in the far North, in the bogs of Canada.

Black-throated Green Warbler (Setophaga virens)

  • Features: Sporting a bright yellow face, they have a black throat and streaks running down their sides. The rest of their upperparts are an olive-green, giving them their name.
  • Locations: Woodlands, especially coniferous areas in western Massachusetts.
  • Fun Fact: Their buzzing song is often associated with northern pine forests in summer.

Canada Warbler (Cardellina canadensis)

  • Features: With a necklace of short black stripes against a yellow front, and a blue-gray back, these birds are unmistakably beautiful. They have a distinct white eye-ring, giving them a spectacled look.
  • Locations: Dense, wet woodlands, often near water bodies. Spots like the October Mountain State Forest are good for sightings.
  • Fun Fact: Despite the name, more of them breed in the U.S. than in Canada.

Common Yellowthroat (Geothlypis trichas)

  • Features: This small warbler has a bright yellow throat and belly, contrasting with an olive back. The males are distinguished by a black “bandit” mask across their eyes, giving them a unique appearance. They are active and often seen flitting among low shrubs and grasses.
  • Locations: Wetlands, marshes, and brushy areas such as the Great Meadows National Wildlife Refuge.
  • Fun Fact: Despite their bright colors, they’re skilled at staying hidden and often make their presence known through their distinctive “wichity-wichity-wichity” song.

Prothonotary Warbler (Protonotaria citrea)

  • Features: A gem among North American birds, the prothonotary warbler has a golden-yellow head and neck, combined with blue-gray wings. Their song is a series of sweet, repeated notes that add melody to their habitats. Unlike many other warblers, they’re more likely to be seen at eye level or even on the ground.
  • Locations: Although they’re more southern in distribution, they can be occasionally spotted in wooded swamps and riverine forests in Massachusetts during migration.
  • Fun Fact: They are named after the yellow-hooded robes worn by papal clerks, known as prothonotaries, in the Roman Catholic Church.

American Yellow Warbler (Setophaga petechia)

  • Features: Sporting a uniformly bright yellow body, the male American yellow warbler is distinguished by reddish streaks on its belly. Their cheerful song, described by some as “sweet-sweet-sweet, I’m so sweet,” resonates through their habitats during the breeding season.
  • Locations: Found in shrubby areas, wetlands, and along streams, particularly in spots like the Assabet River National Wildlife Refuge.
  • Fun Fact: They often fall victim to the parasitic Brown-headed Cowbird, but have been observed building a new layer over a parasitized nest, “burying” the cowbird egg.

Pine Warbler (Setophaga pinus)

  • Features: The pine warbler showcases olive-yellow plumage, more vibrant in males and subdued in females. As one of the few warblers that eat seeds, they can often be seen on feeders, especially during winter.
  • Locations: Predominantly in pine forests, such as Myles Standish State Forest in southern Massachusetts.
  • Fun Fact: Unlike most warblers that switch to insects and spiders during summer, Pine Warblers eat seeds throughout the year.

Wilson’s Warbler (Cardellina pusilla)

  • Features: These tiny warblers have a cheerful lemon-yellow body and males flaunt a distinct black cap. Their zesty demeanor and quick movements make them a joy to spot.
  • Locations: Thickets and understory of wooded areas during migration. They’re often seen in places like the Wompatuck State Park.
  • Fun Fact: Despite their small size, they migrate all the way from Central America to northern parts of North America, including Massachusetts.

Magnolia Warbler (Setophaga magnolia)

  • Features: These striking warblers have a yellow belly and throat, contrasted with a gray crown, black mask, and a black-streaked back. Their tail showcases a unique black and white pattern that can help in identification.
  • Locations: Mostly in coniferous forests during migration. Places like the Cape Cod National Seashore offer glimpses of this species.
  • Fun Fact: Despite their name, they don’t have any special affinity for magnolia trees. They were named in 1810 when Alexander Wilson collected a specimen from a magnolia in Mississippi.

Blackburnian Warbler (Setophaga fusca)

  • Features: With a fiery orange throat and face, the Blackburnian warbler is a sight to behold. The males have a black crown, back, and streaking that contrasts with their blazing face and throat.
  • Locations: Primarily in mature coniferous and mixed forests, especially in the Berkshire Mountains during breeding season.
  • Fun Fact: They often forage high in the canopy, earning them the nickname “tree-top gem.”

Prairie Warbler (Setophaga discolor)

  • Features: This small warbler has a warm yellow underside with black streaks on its sides. Males have a distinct black pattern on their face, and their song, a series of ascending notes, is distinctive.
  • Locations: Dry, brushy fields and clearings, including areas in the southeastern part of the state and the sandplain grasslands of Martha’s Vineyard.
  • Fun Fact: Despite the name “Prairie,” they don’t live in the prairies of the Midwest but are named for their preferred habitat in the eastern U.S.

Hooded Warbler (Setophaga citrina)

  • Features: This warbler has a yellow face and underparts. Males have a distinctive black hood and bib which contrasts sharply against the yellow, giving them a masked appearance.
  • Locations: Deciduous woodlands with a thick understory, especially in the southwestern regions of Massachusetts during migration.
  • Fun Fact: Females lack the striking black hood but may have a shadow of the pattern, especially around the throat.

Orchard Oriole (Female) (Icterus spurius)

  • Features: The smallest of North America’s orioles, males have a rich chestnut body with a black head, while females and immature males are bright yellow-green. Their fluty, whistled song is a summer treat in orchards and fields.
  • Locations: Open areas with scattered trees, especially orchards and overgrown fields, places like the Arcadia Wildlife Sanctuary.
  • Fun Fact: The Orchard Oriole switches its diet from insects to fruit as the season progresses, often feeding on berries.

Eastern Meadowlark (Sturnella magna)

  • Features: Although not entirely yellow, the eastern meadowlark sports a bright yellow chest with a distinctive black “V” on its breast. Their outer tail feathers flash white during their buoyant flight.
  • Locations: Grasslands, fields, and meadows such as those in Westport and Dartmouth.
  • Fun Fact: Despite their name, they are not related to true larks and are actually part of the blackbird family.

Scarlet Tanager (Female) (Piranga olivacea)

  • Features: While the male is a vivid red, the female is olive-yellow. She possesses wings that are slightly more brownish and a subtle facial pattern.
  • Locations: Wooded areas across Massachusetts, particularly in places like the Harold Parker State Forest.
  • Fun Fact: Scarlet Tanagers have a unique song that sounds like a robin with a sore throat.

You may have noticed that over half of this list is made up of warbler species in their beautiful, bright breeding plumage (try saying that fast five times). But why are warblers, wood warblers in particular, so brightly adorned? The answer may lie in simple genetics.

Conclusion

Massachusetts, with its varied habitats ranging from coastal areas to dense forests, provides an ideal home for these yellow avians. Their lively songs and striking colors add charm to any birdwatching expedition in the state. The presence of these birds reminds us of the beauty of nature and the importance of conserving the diverse habitats that Massachusetts offers.