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Species Description

Yellow-breasted Chat

Icteria virens

Species Image


Phylum: Chordata
Subphylum: Vertebrata
Class: Aves
Order: Passeriformes
Family: Parulidae


Dark olive-brown head, back, wings, and tail; white stripe from bill to eye and around eye; black eyes, bill, and legs; yellow throat and breast; white lower belly and undertail coverts. 19 cm (7.5 in) in length. This is the largest warbler in the United States. The song is a variable series of whistles, clucks, and other noises.

Life Cycle

The breeding season begins in mid-May, peaks from then until early June, and extends until early July. Nesting habitat includes most areas with a very dense shrub or understory layer. The nest is located in a shrub 0.3-2 m (1-8 feet) above the ground. The nest is cup-shaped and built by the female. Grasses, dead leaves, weeds, and other plant material are used to construct the cup, and fine grasses, and other materials line the cup. The female lays 3-6 (usually 3-4) eggs that she incubates for approximately 11 days. The young are altricial and fledge approximately 8 days after hatching. Both adults care for the young while they are in the nest and for a while after leaving the nest.

Natural History

The Yellow-breasted Chat is commonly seen in areas with thickets or a dense shrubby layer, including fence rows, hedgerows, overgrown fields, and forest edges. The diet of this species includes insects and fruit, which it gets by searching the ground and vegetation. Most individuals of this species are long distance migrants.


Yellow-breasted Chat Region Map The Yellow-breasted Chat occurs in appropriate habitat throughout the United States, including the Southeast, during the breeding season. This species also occurs in the coastal areas of the Southeast during the winter. The migrants of this species that leave the country may winter as far south as southern Panama.

Conservation Status

This species is a common host for the Brown-headed Cowbird, and will frequently raise cowbird young along with or instead of its own. This species is common in the Southeast in appropriate habitat and is not listed as Threatened or Endangered in any part of the Southeast.

Similar Species

Because of its large size, this species is not commonly misidentified as any other warbler. Its bright yellow color also eliminates the probability of being any of the larger birds that occupy shrub habitats.