Common Yellowthroat: Warbler of Wetlands

By Dave Hanks

“Wich-i-ty, Wich-i-ty, Wich-i-ty” resounds from the bulrushes and cattails. I examine the vegetation very carefully to see if I can find the source. Finally, I discover a small bird with a yellow chest and throat, and a greenish back and tail. The most striking feature is the broad black band across its eyes – like a masked bandit. Whenever I walk a marsh trail, that call stirs my curiosity. It’s the call of the Common Yellowthroat, a warbler that lives in marshes, of all places! A species that is widespread from the Yukon to Newfoundland and from Florida to Mexico.

They shun the tall trees, preferring dense, low growing vegetation for nesting and feeding. Many insects inhabit marsh vegetation, and this bird readily picks them off – occasionally going airborne to catch some. With a handy food source low down, it facilitates building their nests in the low, dense shrubbery. Research shows that females seem to prefer males with larger masks. Males will perform a flight display, especially in the late afternoon, by rising to about 20 feet in the air, uttering some short, sputtering notes followed by song. They then return to the ground. Three to five eggs are laid in a cup-shaped nest, and both parents feed the babies. The young leave the nest just 8 days after hatching, but the parents feed them for another 3 weeks. When a second nest is built, the male will often assume the care of the first brood.

The yellowthroat is one of my favorites of the Warbler Family. There is something about that bright chest, big black mask, and perky nature that I find appealing. It’s species like this one that causes us to support “Ducks Unlimited”. Waterfowl are not the only species that live in wetlands. Hunting groups have some “pull” politically, and the saving of marshes benefits many other animals besides ducks.

(His big mask appeals to the “girls”)