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24 Yellow Birds in New England

yellow birds in new england
Prothonotary Warbler in Cumberland, Maine: Photo by Doug Hitchcox

Introduction

From tiny palm warblers scurrying through scrub thickets to brilliant male American goldfinches visiting backyard feeders, a diversity of yellow birds grace New England’s landscapes. The region’s forests, fields, and wetlands provide prime habitat for these cheery golden-hued species. Read on to learn about some of the vivid yellow birds that bring color to the skies and trees of New England.

Yellow Birds in New England

Yellow-bellied Flycatcher (Empidonax flaviventris)  

  • Features: The yellow-bellied flycatcher is a small songbird with olive to grayish upperparts, a yellowish throat and breast, and pale yellow belly. Two white wingbars are visible on the wings. It is less active in movement than other Empidonax flycatchers.
  • Locations: This species is found in coniferous and mixed forests across northern New England. It breeds in Canada and migrates through the New England region.
  • Fun Fact: The song is a soft, whistled “che-bek” which is unlike the “fitz-bew” song of the similar looking Acadian flycatcher.

Golden-crowned Kinglet (Regulus satrapa)

  • Features: This tiny songbird has olive-gray upperparts, a bright yellow crown stripe on the head, and a pale underside. It constantly moves and fans its tail. The thin pointed bill is suited for catching insects.  
  • Locations: The golden-crowned kinglet can be found in coniferous and mixed forests across New England year-round, becoming more common in winter.
  • Fun Fact: Its impossibly small nest woven from mosses, spider webs and lichens is tucked into dense spruce or fir tree branches.

Yellow-throated Vireo (Vireo flavifrons)

  • Features: This songbird has yellow-olive upperparts, bright yellow throat and breast, white belly, and white spectacles around the eyes. The stout bill has a hooked tip.
  • Locations: It is found in mature deciduous and pine forests across New England during the spring and summer breeding season, migrating to the southeastern U.S. for winter.
  • Fun Fact: The song is a burry, hoarse series of short phrases with an alternating pattern that sounds like “here I am where are you.”

Blue-headed Vireo (Vireo solitarius)

  • Features: The blue-headed vireo is a small songbird with a blue-gray head, white spectacles, yellow-olive upperparts, and white underparts. It slowly and methodically picks through leaves when foraging. 
  • Locations: This species breeds in mature forests across northern New England during summer. It winters in southern Florida and the Caribbean.
  • Fun Fact: The meandering song consists of a mix of short whistled phrases with an ascending pitch at the end. The song can last up to 10 seconds.

American Goldfinch (Spinus tristis)

  • Features: The male American goldfinch in breeding condition has vivid lemon-yellow plumage on the body, black cap, black wings, and short conical bill. Females are more olive-yellow overall.
  • Locations: This finch is found statewide across New England in weedy fields, farmlands, orchards, and backyards year-round. 
  • Fun Fact: Breeding is timed for late summer when thistle and other seed-bearing plants have matured. The male’s bouncy flight and sweeping song are hallmarks of summer.

Eastern Meadowlark (Sturnella magna)

  • Features: This medium-sized songbird has brown and black streaked upperparts, a black “V” on its bright yellow breast, and white outer tail feathers. The pointed bill is suited for eating seeds and insects. 
  • Locations: Meadowlarks are found in grasslands, meadows, and open fields across most of New England during warmer months. They migrate south for winter.
  • Fun Fact: The flute-like song rings out over open areas with a series of liquid, whistled notes ending in a triplet.

Tennessee Warbler (Leiothlypis peregrina)

  • Features: This small warbler has olive green upperparts, white underparts, and faint white eye rings. Males have gray heads while females are greener overall. Constantly moves and pumps tail.
  • Locations: It breeds across northern New England and southern Canada before migrating to winter in Mexico and farther south. Found in coniferous and mixed forests.
  • Fun Fact: Its fast paced staccato song ends abruptly, sounding like sewing machine stitches suddenly stopping.

Orange-crowned Warbler (Leiothlypis celata

  • Features: This warbler has olive green upperparts, yellow underparts, blurry streaking on the breast, and a thin pointed bill. True to its name, male’s orange crown feathers are rarely visible.
  • Locations: It breeds in shrubby areas across northern New England and winters along the Pacific Coast into Mexico. 
  • Fun Fact: Lacks bright color patches, making identification tricky. Best identified by its bland overall greenish appearance and habitat.

Nashville Warbler (Leiothlypis ruficapilla)

  • Features: This small songbird has dull olive upperparts and bright yellow underparts with some reddish on the breast. It has a gray head and white eye ring. The thin pointed bill is well-suited for catching insects while hopping along branches. Juveniles are brighter yellow below with streaking. 
  • Locations: It breeds across northern New England before migrating to winter in southern U.S. states and Mexico. Found in shrubby early successional forests. 
  • Fun Fact: The simple repetitive song is described as sounding like “sweet, sweet, sweet, I’m so sweet.”

Connecticut Warbler (Oporornis agilis)

  • Features: The Connecticut warbler is an elusive species with olive upperparts, gray hood, and yellow underparts including throat and chin. Broken white eye rings give it a worried expression. It has a thin pointed bill and pink legs. Forages on the ground in dense thickets.
  • Locations: A rare breeder in northern New England bogs and boreal forests. Winters in northern South America.
  • Fun Fact: One of the last warbler species to arrive on the breeding grounds in late May or early June.

Prothonotary Warbler (Protonotaria citrea)

  • Features: This warbler has uniformly bright golden yellow head and body plumage, with olive-green wings and tail. The black eyes and short black bill stand out sharply. Males have brighter orange hues on the head.
  • Locations: Found in wooded swamps and bottomland forests in southern New England. Nests in tree cavities. Winters in tropical South America.
  • Fun Fact: The name means “first notary” referring to their yellow head plumage resembling the parchment paper used for notary public seals.

Mourning Warbler (Geothlypis philadelphia

  • Features: This warbler has olive upperparts with a gray hood and throat. The underside is bright yellow. It has prominent black patches on the breast and in front of the eye. The pink legs and short bill are good for ground foraging. 
  • Locations: Found in overgrown fields and shrubby early successional habitat across northern New England. Winters in Central America. 
  • Fun Fact: Takes its name from the male’s mournful, whistled song. Often skulks in dense vegetation.

Common Yellowthroat (Geothlypis trichas)

  • Features: The male common yellowthroat has a black face mask over its bright yellow throat and breast, contrasting with olive upperparts. Females lack the mask and are more subdued overall. Both sexes have a short conical bill suited for catching insects in thick vegetation. They are active and easily startled into flying short distances.
  • Locations: Found in marshes, swamps, wet meadows, and other dense low vegetation across New England during summers. Winters in southern U.S. and south to Central America.
  • Fun Fact: The male’s distinctive song sounds like “wichity, wichity, wichity” as he searches for mates hidden in thick bushes and reeds.

Hooded Warbler (Setophaga citrina)

  • Features: Male hooded warblers have a striking yellow face surrounded by a black hood that extends down the neck and onto the breast. Females have a duller greenish-yellow face without the hood. Both have white tail patches visible when flying. They forage actively in shrubs and saplings.
  • Locations: Found in forested wetlands and shrubby early successional habitat across southern New England. Winters in Mexico and the Caribbean. 
  • Fun Fact: The male’s loud, ringing “wheeta wheeta” song echoes through the territory. Nests on or near the ground.

Cape May Warbler (Setophaga tigrina

  • Features: This warbler has an olive green back with black streaks, yellow rump patch, yellow throat and breast, and chestnut ear patches. The male has a bold black throat and cheek patch. Females are duller with faint streaking below. 
  • Locations: Coniferous and mixed forests across northern New England, nesting in spruce-fir boreal habitat. Winters in Central America and the Caribbean.
  • Fun Fact: Numbers fluctuate widely from year to year during spring migration depending on habitat conditions on the wintering grounds.

Magnolia Warbler (Setophaga magnolia)

  • Features: This warbler has a striking color pattern with a gray back, black streaks on the yellow underparts, and a black necklace across the yellow throat and breast. Males have black Masks with white eyebrows while females have gray heads. The tail is dark with white spots. Forages actively fluttering through branches.
  • Locations: Breeds in coniferous and mixed forests across northern New England. Winters in Mexico, Central America, and the Caribbean. 
  • Fun Fact: One of the most common and widespread warbler species seen during the spring migration across New England.

Blackburnian Warbler (Setophaga fusca

  • Features: The male Blackburnian warbler has bright golden-orange throat, face, and sides set against jet black crown, neck, back, and throat. Females are duller with a yellowish wash below and olive upperparts. This tiny warbler constantly flits through high treetops.
  • Locations: Found breeding in mature evergreen and mixed forests across northern New England and southern Canada in summer. Winters in South America.
  • Fun Fact: The signature high-pitched song rings through the canopy like a laser beam. Earns its name from Lady Anne Monson Blackburn, who described an early specimen.

American Yellow Warbler (Setophaga aestiva)

  • Features: Males are bright golden yellow overall with reddish streaks on the breast. Females are paler with an olive wash above. Both have thin pointed bills. They move rapidly while picking insects from vegetation, fanning tails. 
  • Locations: Found in wetlands and streamside habitat with shrubs and small trees across most of New England during summer breeding season. 
  • Fun Fact: The male’s sweet and musical song sounds like “Sweet sweet I’m a little sweet sweet sweet.”

Palm Warbler (Setophaga palmarum)

  • Features: This warbler has a rusty cap, yellow undertail coverts, and olive to yellow-olive upperparts. The underparts are yellow with rusty streaking. They constantly pump their tails while walking along the ground foraging. The bill is thin and pointed. They are a rather plain brownish warbler apart from yellow tail flashing.
  • Locations: Found in bogs, marshes, and boreal forests across northern New England, primarily during spring and fall migrations. Breeds in Canada, winters along Gulf and Atlantic Coasts.
  • Fun Fact: Named for their tropical wintering range, not their breeding habitat. Often seen walking along roads and trail sides during migration.

Pine Warbler (Setophaga pinus

  • Features: This warbler has an overall yellow appearance with faint olive streaking on back and wings. It has conspicuous white wing bars and outer tail feathers. The bill is sharply pointed. Males sing a high, buzzy trill from high perches. They forage actively in pines searching for insects.
  • Locations: Found in pine forests year-round across most of New England. Favors mature pine stands including pitch and white pines.
  • Fun Fact: One of the earliest migrant warblers to arrive in New England in early spring, along with Yellow-rumped Warblers. 

Prairie Warbler (Setophaga discolor)

  • Features: This warbler has an olive green back with black streaks, a yellow underside with bold black streaking on flanks, and yellow arcs over and below the eyes. Males have reddish streaking on the back. Females are paler below with fainter streaking. Song is an accelerating series of buzzy notes. 
  • Locations: Found in old overgrown fields, powerline corridors, and pine barrens across southern New England. Winters in southern Florida and Caribbean.
  • Fun Fact: Favors habitat kept open by disturbances like fire, grazing, or mowing. Population declined with farmland maturation.

Black-throated Green Warbler (Setophaga virens)

  • Features: The male black-throated green warbler has bright golden yellow face and breast contrasting with black throat and olive-green back. The flanks are pale yellow and the bill is thin and pointed. Females are duller with a pale yellow throat and breast. Both have two distinct white wingbars.
  • Locations: This species breeds in mixed deciduous and coniferous forests across New England. It winters in mountain forests of Mexico, Central America, and the Caribbean.  
  • Fun Fact: The buzzy, insect-like breeding song has been likened to stating “I am so very happy, happy, happy, happy.” 

Canada Warbler (Cardellina canadensis

  • Features: The Canada warbler has blue-gray upperparts with a yellow throat, necklace, and breast. The flanks are streaked black and white. There are prominent white eye rings and a short pointed bill. Females are grayer above with fainter necklace and crown markings. 
  • Locations: Northern hardwood and coniferous forests, often near streams and wetlands. Breeds across northern New England, winters in South America.
  • Fun Fact: Walks along branches and ground methodically, rarely hopping and twitching like other warblers. Nicknamed the “necklaced warbler.”

Wilson’s Warbler (Cardellina pusilla)

  • Features: This warbler has olive green upperparts, bright lemon yellow underparts and face, and a black cap on the head. The bill is small and pointed. Males have darker caps that contrast more with the yellow face. Tail often fans and cocks. 
  • Locations: Breeds in wet thickets and boreal forests across northern New England, winters along the Pacific Coast into Mexico.
  • Fun Fact: Last warbler to arrive in spring, sometimes not appearing until early June. Named after early ornithologist Alexander Wilson.

Scarlet Tanager (Female) (Piranga olivacea)

  • Features: The female scarlet tanager differs dramatically from the bright red male. She is olive-yellow overall including the wings and tail, with darker wings. The bill is thick and stout.
  • Locations: Found breeding in mature deciduous forests across New England alongside the red males. Winters in South America. 
  • Fun Fact: Females build the nests in branches high in oak trees, sometimes reusing nests from previous years. The male guards the female and nest area from intruders.

Threats and Conservation  

Habitat loss from development and climate change degradation are major threats for New England’s yellow birds. Some species also face impacts from outdoor cats and collisions. Conserving protected forests and reducing carbon emissions aids populations. Getting involved in citizen science surveys helps monitor trends over time. The Cornell Lab’s eBird project makes reporting observations easy for birdwatchers.

Citizen Science

Birders of all levels can contribute valuable data on New England’s yellow birds through citizen science projects like the Cornell Lab of Ornithology’s eBird program. eBird allows users to log bird sightings and uploads the observations into a massive global database to track migration patterns, population trends, and more. Getting involved in citizen science helps monitor the health of yellow bird populations over time. 

Conclusion

The variety of yellow birds gracing forests, fields, and backyards across New England provide natural beauty to the region. Ensuring healthy habitat remains through conservation initiatives and public engagement will help maintain vibrant yellow bird populations into the future.