Common Yellowthroat

The common yellowthroat (Geothylpis trichas) is considered one of the more common of the warblers, inhabiting most of North America during the summer. This little bird can be a long-distance migrant moving from northern Canada and northern United States to Central America. The more southern populations are resident. According to the range maps, we (Modoc County CA) live in an area where the migratory and summer populations overlap. The common yellowthroat may live up to its name elsewhere, but Leonard and I rarely see this attractive bird.

Living amid tangled vegetation and dense thickets in open areas, mostly around wetlands and marshes, common yellowthroats can be difficult to see. They spend their time near the ground searching for spiders and insects, which, with some seeds, comprise the bulk of their diet. Often common yellowthroats are easier to locate by their soft call rather than sight.

The male common yellowthroat has a bright yellow throat, breast and undertail, olive upper parts, a grey belly, pink legs and a black bill. His most distinctive feature is a black face mask covering the sides of the neck and going across the eyes and forehead. The face mask is bordered above with white. Research has shown that females prefer males with larger face masks. The female common yellowthroat is a plain olive brown above with yellow on the throat and undertail. She lacks a face mask.

This common yellowthroat male was photographed along Ash Creek (Lassen County CA) and he foraged amid several clumps of willows along the creek. I tried for nearly an hour to photograph this “constantly in motion” bird with only moderate success. No female yellowthroats were visible, perhaps because males arrive first in the spring to claim and defend their territory.

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