Beak of the Week – Yellow Warbler

Yellow Warbler (Setophaga petechia)

Family: Parulidae

The Yellow Warbler is a small songbird with medium-length tails and a round head. The bill is relatively large for a warbler species.  Males are a bright yellow with reddish streaks on its underside.  Both males and females have yellow patches on their tail.  Their face is unmarked, allowing you to see their large black eyes.  Yellow Warblers will be near the tops of tall shrubs and small trees.  Common trees include willows, alders, and cottonwoods.

They eat mostly insects and up to two-thirds of their diet may consist of caterpillars.  They also feed on mayflies, moths, mosquitoes, beetles, and damselflies.  Yellow Warblers will take insects from twigs and hover briefly to take insects from the undersides of leaves.  They forage from low levels up to the treetops.  Males tend to forage higher and in more open foliage than females.

Yellow Warbler males will actively court females for 1-4 days.  They breed in shrubby thickets and woods, especially along wetlands.  Their nests are places in forks of branches in shrubs and trees.  The female builds the nest composed of an open cup of weed stalks, shredded bark, and grass.  The males assist the females on trips to the nest.  There are usually 4-5 greenish-white eggs in a clutch.  The young are fed by both parents and the young leave the nest 9-12 days after hatching.

Greg Lavaty
Greg Lavaty
Anthony Rathbun

Our Beak of the Week is one of 12 birds featured in Confluence, a public art installation along the Bayou Greenway trail at the confluence of White Oak and Buffalo Bayous. The 223-foot mural, created by artist Jane Kim, founder of Ink Dwell Studio, showcases the birds that call Houston’s bayous home. Confluence is commissioned by Houston Parks Board and hosted in collaboration with Buffalo Bayou Partnership. Houston Audubon is pleased to provide ornithological expertise and collaborate on programming and promotion of the mural. Learn more about Confluence here. 

 Visit our Bird Gallery to read about other Texas birds! 

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