Bird Database

Yellow Warbler

(Setophaga petechia)

State of the Birds
At a Glance





Strongly Decreasing


Predation, Collisions, Habitat Loss

Conservation Actions

Protect wetlands

Yellow Warbler

(Setophaga petechia)

Unlike most warblers, Yellow Warblers occur in open brushy wetlands rather than forests, thus making them easier to see than many of their relatives. Their bright yellow coloration is an additional identification aid. This is one of the few warblers with breeding populations both in temperate North America and tropical areas, but whereas “our” breeding birds uses shrubs and wetlands those to our south (including the Florida Keys) are restricted to coastal mangroves. In fact, populations of this species in Central and South America, which have solid rusty heads, are colloquially known as “Mangrove Warblers” and may be a separate species. In the winter, the Yellow Warblers that breed in the United States and Canada sometimes share coastal habitats with their non-migratory cousins, but are just as likely to be found in wetlands and shrublands similar to their breeding sites.

Yellow Warblers build their nests of fine bark, other plant fibers, and spider webs, giving them a silvery-gray color. While well-concealed during the breeding season, they are often easy to find in fall and winter when shrubs have lost their leaves. Brown-headed Cowbirds have no problem finding them under the leaves however, and the Yellow Warbler is a frequent host of that brood parasite. The warblers usually recognize the cowbird eggs as unusual and will build a whole new nest over them and lay a new clutch. Cowbirds can be equally stubborn however, and there are records of warbler nests with as many as six layers, each containing eggs of both species.

Populations of Yellow Warblers in much of the Northeast were stable through the late 1900s, only to decline sharply starting around the year 2000. Reasons for this decline are unclear, and populations in the Midwest and West don’t show it as strongly if at all. The good news is that the decline appears to have stopped in the 2010s, and even shows some sign of recovery, but overall there are certainly fewer Yellow Warblers in the region than there were a few decades ago.

Seasonal Abundance

Relative abundance based on eBird data. Numbers indicate likelihood of finding this species in suitable habitat at a given time of year, not actual numbers encountered.

Yellow Warbler
Range Map

Information for the species profiles on this website was compiled from a combination of the sources listed below.

  • The Birds of New Hampshire. By Allan R. Keith and Robert B. Fox. 2013. Memoirs of the Nuttall Ornithological club No. 19.

  • Atlas of the Breeding Birds of New Hampshire. Carol R. Foss, ed. 1994. Arcadia Publishing Company and Audubon Society of New Hampshire

  • Birds of the World. Various authors and dates. Cornell Laboratory of Ornithology.

  • Data from the Breeding Bird Survey

  • Data from the Christmas Bird Count