11 Species of Yellow Birds Found in Michigan

Michigan is home to a diverse variety of yellow birds dwelling in woodlands, open fields, and the Great Lake banks. Being one of the greatest places for birders to explore different species, the state is home to over 450 different types of birds documented by the Michigan Bird Records Committee.

Warblers, flycatchers, kingbirds, and a number of Michigan goldfinches are some of the birds that fancy the varied Michigan habitats, where birding has turned into a national pastime.

Today, the network of birding trails, beyond 100 state parks, more than 3200 miles of island and lake shoreline, and five national parks continue to expand. Therefore, if probing for some of the most rousing yellow-colored birds is on your to-do list, we have listed some of the amazing species of yellow birds you must look for!

Following are the 11 yellow birds are found in Michigan:

  1. American Goldfinch
  2. Yellow-breasted Chat
  3. Townsend’s Warbler
  4. Bullock’s Oriole
  5. Western Tanager
  6. Painted Bunting
  7. Worm-eating Warbler
  8. Hooded Oriole
  9. Bell’s Vireo
  10. Yellow-bellied Flycatcher
  11. Couch’s Kingbird

Let’s discuss these yellow-colored birds in detail.


American Goldfinch

American Goldfinch

Scientific name: Spinus tristis
Average weight: 0.39–0.71 oz
Wingspan: 7.5 – 8.7 inches
Lifespan: 1 – 3 years
Appearance: Tiny-bodied, yellow profile, conical bill, long wings
Diet: Insects, seeds, maple sap, twigs
Conservation status: Least concerned
Best time to see them in Michigan: All year long

The American Goldfinch is a typical summer sight that dazzles under the sun, producing a “perchikory” sound while bouncing up and down in the air. During winter months, flocks of this bird gather in weedy fields and backyard feeders, singing plaintive and musical notes.

In most areas, this creature begins nesting in mid-summer, which is quite late as compared to other birds. A reason might be so that it can garner an abundant supply of late-summer seeds and grains to feed its young.

This small finch bears a shortened, conical bill with a tiny head, elongated wings, and a notched tail. In the spring, males are coated with a bright yellow overall, blackish wings with white marks, and a black forehead.

Also, their tails are patched with white marks; both above and underneath. Females, on the other hand, exhibit a duller yellow underbody with an olive upper body. Their diet mostly comprises of insects and seeds.

Clinging to seed socks and weeds, the ever-acrobatic and active American Goldfinch flies with an undulating, bouncy pattern. The natural habitats of these birds are predominantly floodplains, that frequently house plants like asters and thistles. You can also find these handsome, little fellows along roadsides, cultivated areas, backyards, and orchards.


Yellow-breasted Chat

Yellow-breasted Chat

Scientific name: Icteria virens
Average weight: 0.71 to 1.19 oz
Wingspan: 9.1 to 10.6 inches
Lifespan: 5 – 8 years
Appearance: Small profile, long tail, heavy bill, large head, olive-green upper body, yellow breast
Diet: Insects and berries
Conservation status: Least concern
Best time to see them in Michigan: May – July

An uncanny series of whistles, hoots, and clucks embarks the arrival of the Yellow-breasted Chat. Apart from the spring season, rarely is this bird heard during the rest of the year. This is the period when both the sexes silently skulk under the shadows of dense woods, feasting on berries and insects.

These birds are the largest among all the warblers, and a widespread species throughout North America, flying as far as Central America to spend their winters.

Ideally, this small songbird bears a small frame, which is fairly bulky when compared to others. It features a large head, elongated tail, and a heavy, thick bill.

The Yellow-breasted Chat carries an olive-green upper body and washed with a vibrant yellow breast. It is boldly marked on its grey face with a white eyering that joins with the bill, almost as if the bird’s wearing a pair of “spectacles.” Another distinguishing characteristic is the presence of a mustache stripe or white malar on the cheek.

These loud birds prefer inhabiting low, dense thickets, and other types of regrowing areas. Some of these are powerline corridors, bramble bushes, and scrubs along rivers.

The Yellow-breasted Chat usually feeds on berries in insects, such as beetles, moths, ants, bugs, bees, grasshoppers, and more. Some of its choicest berries include elderberries, blackberries, and wild grapes.


Townsend’s Warbler

Townsend’s Warbler

Scientific name: Setophaga townsendi
Average weight: 0.31 oz
Wingspan: 8 inches
Lifespan: 9 – 10 years
Appearance: Yellow breast, golden face, black throat, olive-green back
Diet: Small insects and larvae
Conservation status: Least concern
Best time to see them in Michigan: Late September – Late October

The ethereal, buzzing calls of the Townsend’s Warbler blowing through aged coniferous forests offer a dreamy soundtrack. On high treetops, these birds appear as tiny colorful embellishments while they forage in dense foliage, where they mostly feed on larvae and small insects.

These birds usually scavenge food by hovering, hawking, and gleaning. They also bear an uncanny resemblance with the Black-throated Green Warbler, which is their eastern kin.

Adult males possess a black-colored throat and head affixed to a gleaming golden face, with a black patch on the cheek. Their bright yellow breast is covered with black flank ridges. A pair of grey wings and white wing bars are attached to its olive green rear end. A female Townsend’s Warbler also appears similar. However, it is much less strongly marked when compared with its male counterpart.

Mostly, this bird uses the upper third half of old-growth conifer trees and mixed forests for nesting. While migrating, it occupies a wide range of habitats, varying from parks, chaparral, and cloud forests to backyards near the Pacific Coast.

It’s interesting to know that at times, a female Townsend’s Warbler partly builds its nest on a tree, and then relocate all materials to another and finishing its nest at a new spot.


Bullock’s Oriole

Bullock’s Oriole

Scientific name: Icterus bullockii
Average weight: 1.0 – 1.5 oz
Wingspan: 12.2 inches
Lifespan: 12 years
Appearance: Medium-long tail, sturdy body, orangish profile, pointy bill
Diet: Caterpillars, fruit and nectar, insects
Conservation status: Least concern
Best time to see them in Michigan: May – July

Agile canopy gatherers of open lands, the Bullock’s Oriole heaps upside down from tree branches as it forages and constructs its extraordinary hanging nests. The adult male features a flame-orange colored body with a clear-cut line that passes through the eye and a whitish wing patch. The female is coated in yellow and orange.

Apart from insects, this species also preys on fruit and nectar, which is a trait many birders capitalize on by providing jelly, nectar, and fruits during summers. This bird can be easily distinguished by its chuckling, whistling songs that it performs on tall trees along streams and rivers.

This medium-sized songbird is characterized by its sturdy body and medium-long tail. It is believed that orioles are distant relatives to blackbirds, which explains their thick-based, elongated, and pointed bills.

Furthermore, many believe that the Bullock’s Oriole belongs to the same species as the Baltimore Oriole, which is an eastern native. This is because both these species interbreed at the common range of contact on the Great Plains.

These active creatures act fastidiously and are able to stretch their bodies to reach their prey. You can look for them in plain woodlands near water bodies, especially in cottonwoods. They also make homes in parks, orchards, and mesquite or oak forests.


Western Tanager

Western Tanager

Scientific name: Piranga ludoviciana
Average weight: 0.8 – 1.3 oz
Wingspan: 11.5 inches
Lifespan: 7.9 years
Appearance: Orange head, yellow body, black wings, tail, and back
Diet: Berries and fruits, insects, ants, wasps
Conservation status: Least concern
Best time to see them in Michigan: Spring season (February – March)

Looking at the Western Tanager is like gazing at the flame; a fiery orange head, brilliant yellow body, and blackish tail, wings, and back. Females, on the other hand, are covered in a blackish, yellow-green body.

These birds inhabit open woodlands across the West, especially the evergreens. There, they prefer to remain hidden in the canopies. These quintessential woodland creatures brim the woods with their short chuckling calls during summer.

This stocky songbird bears a small frame. Nonetheless, it is larger in size than most warblers. It possesses a tiny, thick-based bill and medium-sized tail. Its wings are marked by two bold wingbars, out of which the lower one is white, and the upper is yellowed out.

The Western Tanager forages methodically and strategically, along with the leaves and branches of trees. Primarily, it feeds on insects and fruit halves during fall and winters. These species are also adept at catching insects midair.

In spring and summers, you can hear the males singing in their hoarse voices, resembling the songs of the American Robin.

Although it’s not particularly choosy about the kind of coniferous species, the Western Tanager mostly breeds in conifer forests. It also breeds in juniper-pine woods located at low elevation and goes up as high as spruce-fir mixtures. When migrating, you might locate these creatures in any wooded or shrubby areas, even in airy country lands.


Painted Bunting

Painted Bunting

Scientific name: Passerina ciris
Average weight: 0.46 – 0.67 oz
Wingspan: 8.3 – 9.1 inches
Lifespan: 10 years
Appearance: Medium-sized body, stubby bill, yellowish-green underparts
Diet: Insects, seeds, berries
Conservation status: Near threatened
Best time to see them in Michigan: May – July

With its striking fusion of green, blue, red, and yellow, the male Painted Bunting appears to have fluttered right out of a coloring book. Females carry a distinctive bright green body. These songbirds are fairly common across the south-central US and the Southeast coast, where they often visit feeders.

In the past few years, these birds have been caught and illegally sold in areas such as the Caribbean and Mexico, a system that has put excessive restraint on their breeding populations.

This medium-sized bird resembles that of a finch with its thick and stubby bill. Although their bodies are fairly unpatterned, their overall body color is more vibrant than other similar songbirds.

Usually, they can be seen foraging on the ground in dense woods, at seed feeders, or among the grasses. When migrating, they unite with other seed-eating species and form loose flocks, and prefer inhabiting weedy habitats.

A breeding male Painted Bunting often perches in the open as it sings its sweet and jumbled songs, which is also another prominent distinguishing factor. It is quite secretive, maintaining its eerieness by staying in dense cover. This bird mostly feeds on insects and seeds, primarily those of weeds and grasses. It occasionally eats fruits and berries.


Worm-eating Warbler

Scientific name: Helmitheros vermivorum
Average weight: 0.4 – 0.5 oz
Wingspan: 7.9 – 8.7 inches
Lifespan: 8 years
Appearance: Sluggish, plainly-colored body, brown-black stripes on the head, pink legs
Diet: Insects, caterpillars, larvae, bees
Conservation status: Least concern
Best time to see them in Michigan: Not known

A tiny, drab, but gorgeously marked bird, the Worm-eating Warbler is a creature of the eastern deciduous forests. This bird is often spotted on steep slopes covered with dense understory.

It’s far less colorful than most of its other bird-friends and far more sluggish. You can often find it foraging on the ground or the forest understory as it probes its food among dried leaves with its elongated bill.

Despite its name, it never feeds on earthworms. Rather, this bird fancies eating caterpillars. It is also characterized by dry trilled songs that it sings under the summer sun in densely covered forests. It echoes a “chip or tseet” call that’s extremely similar to a Chirping Sparrow.

This plainly-colored bird exhibits slight hues of yellows mostly dressed in an olive-brown upperpart and lighter underparts. It bears brownish-black stripes on its head and carries pink legs with a slender, pointy bill.

The Warm-eating Warbler mostly eats insects. It also enjoys tiny grasshoppers, ants, bees, bugs, beetles, sawfly larvae, and more.

During the later months of incubation, females tightly sit on their nests. Their cryptically colored bodies make their immobility a foolproof strategy. If flushed, they fly across the land with their tail and wings unfurled, acting helpless so that they can lure their predators away from their nest.


Hooded Oriole

Hooded Oriole

Scientific name: Icterus cucullatus
Average weight: 0.8 oz
Wingspan: 9.8 – 11 inches
Lifespan: 6 years
Appearance: Delicate body, elongated neck, rounded tail, orangish-yellow profile
Diet: Insects, fruits, sugar-water, berries
Conservation status: Least concern
Best time to see them in Michigan: April – May

The Hooded Oriole is present in Southwest’s hot lowlands, accommodating the trees along rivers and streams. This bird is likely to be spotted around palms and hooks its hanging nest to its underside.

In gardens and yards, it often arrives at hummingbird feeders to gulp down the sugar-water, nectar, and fruits. The melodious, jumbled song of the male bird sometimes involves imitation of other songbirds.

The adult male Hooded Orion carries a black throat and tail with a white shoulder patch. Its black throat extends towards the face, giving the impression of a little mask circling the eye down its chest to form a bib-like shape.

Females exhibit a dull yellow color with greyish nape and back. These species are a little smaller and longer-tailed than the Bullock’s Oriole. Also, they possess a slightly curved bill. Don’t get confused with their variable color intensity, though. This is because while some birds are coated with a richer yellow, others touch a slightly orangish profile.

What sets this bird apart from other orioles is its more delicate body and the presence of the bill that’s curved more downwards than in most other birds.

A noteworthy attribute of the Hooded Oriole is its Californian nickname “palm-leaf oriole” due to its tendency to create nests in the palm trees. The diet of these species includes insects, nectar, and berries. These birds especially prefer feasting on caterpillars, wasps, beetles, ants, and many other insects.


Bell’s Vireo

Bell’s Vireo

Scientific name: Vireo bellii
Average weight: 0.3 oz
Wingspan: 6.7 – 7.5 inches
Lifespan: 7 years
Appearance: Extended tail, slender, small bill, olive-green body, yellow flanks
Diet: Large insects, a few berries
Conservation status: Least concern
Best time to see them in Michigan: April – July

When the Bell’s Vireo is seen in bushy thickets, this bird seems entirely nondescript. However, on being heard, it’s way easier to identify with its jumbled clinking calling, as if its mouth is full of marbles. This bird is likely to be found in scrubby, dense vegetation, often residing near water.

The eastern species bear an olive-green back and yellow flanks, making them brighter than their western counterparts. Observe the obscure “spectacles” surrounding the eyes, in addition to a singular white wingbar. The western birds are more grayish towards the upper body with whiter underparts.

These active, long-tailed birds are often cocked and nervously keep flitting around. The bills of these species are quite small when compared to other vireos, yet much thicker and more hooked than that of a warbler’s. When in motion, the Bell’s Vireo fastidiously flicks its tail around in various directions.

During the breeding months, the Bell’s Vireo mostly feeds on large-sized insects, some of which include stink bugs, caterpillars, weevils, bees, and many more. It also likes to engulf spiders and occasionally berries.


Yellow-bellied Flycatcher

Yellow-bellied Flycatcher

Scientific name: Empidonax flaviventris
Average weight: 0.3 – 0.6 oz
Wingspan: 7.1 – 7.9 inches
Lifespan: 4 years
Appearance: Compact, large-eyed, short tail, wide bill, yellowish-olive body
Diet: Insects, and occasionally berries
Conservation status: Least concern
Best time to see them in Michigan: Not known

While some of its other bird friends are often discovered in spacious, sunny areas, the Yellow-bellied Flycatcher is a species that dwells in deep shade. It spends its time amidst spruce bogs and other kinds of damp forests northwards, where it nests on the ground, closer to tree roots.

Although this bird is not as hard to distinguish during spring months, many birders miss identifying it since the bird flies north later than most other spring migrants.

This small-sized flycatcher is usually inconspicuous and shy in nature. It often breeds near boggy lands, particularly in spruce forests. It possesses an olive-green upper body with a characteristic yellow wash on the belly and throat. Its wings are black with eye-catching whitish wingbars. This compact bird is known for its big-eyed appearance and a large head that seldom shows a peak towards the rear.

As the Yellow-bellied Flycatcher perches in the middle to lower levels of thick forests, it instantly flies out to catch insects midair. Also, when it’s perched, it anxiously turns its head and mildly sweeps its tail.

You can find this species in boreal coniferous woodlands, swamps, bogs, and peatlands when it’s breeding. During winters, it lodges in montane evergreen forests, shaded coffee plantations, and pine-oak forests.

Predominantly, its diet mostly consists of a variety of insects, ranging from the flying ones to those present in the foliage. These include small wasps, ants, beetles, caterpillars, moths, and more.


Couch’s Kingbird

Scientific name: Tyrannus couchii
Average weight: 1.4 oz
Wingspan: 15.5 inches
Lifespan: 11 years
Appearance: Yellowish-green breast, short bill, forked tail, grey head
Diet: Large and small insects, fruits, and berries
Conservation status: Least concern
Best time to see them in Michigan: Mostly recorded in November – December

The Couch’s Kingbird is a large, yellowish-grey flycatcher that appears nearly indistinguishable from the more populated Tropical Kingbird. These birds are covered with a slightly green-yellow colored cast towards the upper body and a short-sized bill.

An appropriate way to demarcate this bird from the rest to listen to its calls—a unique, grating “kip-kip-breeer” note. The bird inhabits lightly wooded forests, such as stream edges, thorn forests, and suburbs.

This large-bodied bird features a grey head, and brownish wings and tail. Primarily, this is a Mexican species with a limited range across the US. It is often observed gazing at flying insects while perching in a tree before it swiftly flies out to seize them midair in its bill. Also, it plucks fruits and its prey from vegetation by hovering around.


Final Thoughts

The bird universe is flooded with dynamic birds that joyously chirp their way into your life. There’s absolutely no turning back once you begin exploring these high-spirited, yellow-colored birds in Michigan.

We hope our groundwork on the yellow bird species in Michigan helped you get to know these feathered birdies a little more. The state embraces different kinds of birds, whichever corner you head to.

Considering there are so many of them, you’ll have enough varieties of yellow birds for you to discover all your life. Lastly, many of these birds are backyard visitors, so remember to give them a warm welcome by setting up a feeder on your patio!


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