Bird GuideYellow-breasted ChatsYellow-breasted Chat

At a Glance

A bizarre series of hoots, whistles, and clucks, coming from the briar tangles, announces the presence of the Yellow-breasted Chat. The bird is often hard to see, but sometimes it launches into the air to sing its odd song as it flies, with floppy wingbeats and dangling legs, above the thickets. This is our largest warbler, and surely the strangest as well, seeming to suggest a cross between a warbler and a mockingbird.
Perching Birds, Wood Warblers
Low Concern
Arroyos and Canyons, Desert and Arid Habitats, Fields, Meadows, and Grasslands, Forests and Woodlands, Shrublands, Savannas, and Thickets
California, Eastern Canada, Florida, Great Lakes, Mid Atlantic, New England, Northwest, Plains, Rocky Mountains, Southeast, Southwest, Texas, Western Canada
Direct Flight, Flitter

Range & Identification

Migration & Range Maps

Most leave our area in fall, to winter in the tropics. Every fall, however, many show up along the northeastern coast, and some of these stay through the winter, even as far north as New England.


7" (18 cm). Much larger than most warblers, with thick bill and long tail. Bright yellow throat and breast (may even look orange) contrasting with white belly, olive back. Sharp white "spectacles" on dark face. Common Yellowthroat much smaller, with different face pattern.
About the size of a Robin, About the size of a Sparrow
Black, Brown, Gray, White, Yellow
Wing Shape
Tail Shape
Rounded, Square-tipped

Songs and Calls

Series of widely spaced croaks, whistles, and short repeated phrases, very unlike a typical warbler's song. Often sings at night. At times it performs a musical display flight, flopping awkwardly up and down with legs dangling, while singing.
Call Pattern
Call Type
Chirp/Chip, Rattle, Whistle


Brushy tangles, briars, stream thickets. Breeds in very dense scrub (such as willow thickets) and briary tangles, often along streams and at the edges of swamps or ponds. Sometimes in dry overgrown pastures, and upland thickets along margins of woods. In winter in the tropics, found in open scrub and woodland edges in the lowlands.



3-4, up to 6. Eggs large, creamy white, with brown spots at large end. Incubation by female only, 11 days. Commonly parasitized by Brown-headed Cowbirds.


Fed by both parents. Leave the nest about 8 days after hatching. Normally 2 broods per year.

Feeding Behavior

Forages by searching among foliage among dense low tangles or by perching to eat berries. Unlike any other warbler, will hold its food with one foot while it feeds. Forages alone during migration and winter, rather than joining feeding flocks.


Insects and berries. Feeds on a wide variety of insects, including moths, beetles, bugs, ants, bees, wasps, mayflies, grasshoppers, katydids, caterpillars, and praying mantises; also spiders. Up to half of diet (or more in fall) may be berries and wild fruit, including blackberries, elderberries, wild grapes, and others. Wintering birds in the Northeast often come to bird-feeders, where they will take many unnatural items such as suet or peanut butter.


During courtship, male displays to female by pointing bill up and swaying from side to side. In flight song display, male flies up singing, hovers, drops slowly with its wings flapping over its back and legs dangling loosely, then returns to perch. Occasionally nests in loose colonies. Nest: Placed 1-8' above the ground, well concealed in dense shrub or tangled vines. Large open cup nest is constructed by female. Outer base of dead leaves, straw, and weeds provides support for a tightly woven inner nest of vine bark, lined with fine weed stems and grass.

Climate Vulnerability

Conservation Status

May have increased historically in the East as clearing of forest created more brushy habitat. Current population probably stable, although it has declined in parts of Southwest and elsewhere.

Climate Map

Audubon’s scientists have used 140 million bird observations and sophisticated climate models to project how climate change will affect the range of the Yellow-breasted Chat. Learn even more in our Audubon’s Survival By Degrees project.

Climate Threats Facing the Yellow-breasted Chat

Choose a temperature scenario below to see which threats will affect this species as warming increases. The same climate change-driven threats that put birds at risk will affect other wildlife and people, too.

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