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Yellow-breasted Chat Icteria virens


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Yellow-breasted Chat
credit: Jim Conrad

© Lang Elliot/ (audio)

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Family: Parulidae, Wood Warblers view all from this family

Description ADULT MALE Has gray-olive back, wings, and tail (with a warmer brownish tint in western birds than eastern ones). Face is grayish overall, but dark eye is emphasized by broken white eyering and upper part leading to base of upper mandible; has black lores. White malar stripe defines margin of yellow throat; yellow breast and flanks; belly and undertail coverts are white. Legs are dark. ADULT FEMALE Similar, but markings on head show less contrast. IMMATURE Similar to adult female, but duller overall.

Dimensions Length: 6 1/2-7 1/2" (17-19 cm)

Habitat Local summer visitor (present mainly May-Aug) to dense shrubby habitats, especially areas where secondary vegetation colonizes damp ground. Winters mainly in Central America.

Observation Tips Learn to recognize the species' song and then patient, quiet observation may pay off. Until you are familiar with the species' habitat requirements it is hard to know if you are in a suitable location if birds are silent.

Range Great Lakes, Western Canada, California, Florida, Mid-Atlantic, Southeast, Eastern Canada, New England, Northwest, Rocky Mountains, Texas, Southwest, Plains

Voice Song is varied and includes a wide range of harsh chatters and fluty notes (sometimes repeated three or so times) and shrill whistles; call is a harsh chew.

Discussion Another secretive and furtive wood-warbler, the observation of which is made all the more challenging by the dense nature of its preferred habitat and the near impossibility of exploring it without causing disturbance. Once seen, the species is distinctive on account of its striking plumage, relatively large size, thick bill, and long tail. Sexes are separable with care, although opportunities seldom occur for direct comparison.