Yellow is a color that is somewhat not as commonly seen in birds as some of the other colors we’ve looked at. The reason behind this may be due to the fact that birds often obtain this coloration due to the consumption of plant material, such as carotenoids (a type of pigment), a method not seen as much in some of the other colors.
In this article, we’ll be looking specifically at 17 yellow birds in Minnesota, which, although it seems very specific, actually generated quite a number of bird species.
1. American Goldfinch
Scientific Name: Spinus tristis
Range: North America, Occasionally in Mexico
The American goldfinch is a small finch with a broad, sharp beak that ranges from pink in the summer to grayish-brown in the winter. Other features among all American goldfinches are a small head, long wings, and a short, notched tail.
Adult males are a brilliant yellow with a black forehead and wings in the spring and summer, while adult females are a light yellow below and olive green above with two contrasting wing bars. Both genders become a reddish-brown color in the winter.
Common habitats for the American goldfinch include weedy fields, cultivated areas, roadsides, orchards, and suburban backyards. These birds are relatively common in urban areas and can be seen in large numbers at or around bird feeders.
American goldfinches consume almost entirely seeds, with insects only being consumed accidentally. Seeds of the daisy family and those from weeds, grasses, and trees (such as elm, birch, and alder) are especially preferred. They may also occasionally consume the buds and bark of young twigs.
2. Yellow Warbler
Scientific Name: Setophaga petechia
Range: North, Central, and Northern South America, Occasionally in Western Europe
The yellow warbler is a small warbler that is bright yellow overall, with uniform plumage, a plain yellow face, and a relatively stout beak. Adult males have several reddish-brown streaks below, while adult females are plainer in general and have a duller shade of yellow. Juveniles can sometimes be completely gray in color.
Typical habitats for the yellow warbler include bushes, swamp edges, streams, and gardens. They are overall fans of any brushy habitat near water, where they can forage in the low-lying shrubs. “Mangrove” yellow warblers, often considered a subspecies, are commonly found in the mangroves and adjacent brush of Mexico and Ecuador.
Insects, such as caterpillars, mayflies, moths, mosquitoes, beetles, damselflies, treehoppers, and many others, make up the majority of the yellow warbler’s diet. Caterpillars, in particular, can make up roughly two-thirds of a yellow warbler’s diet. The rest of their diet consists of spiders and berries.
3. Wilson’s Warbler
Scientific Name: Cardellina pusilla
Range: North and Central America, very rarely in northern South America, Ireland, and the UK
The Wilson’s warbler is a small and active warbler consisting mainly of bright yellow plumage, with most of the species having a black cap (only juvenile females lack this trait).
The bird also has a characteristically long tail that is flipped around while foraging. Compared with the yellow warbler, Wilson’s warbler is smaller overall, has a smaller beak, and has a somewhat longer and thinner tail.
The Wilson’s warbler can often be found inhabiting dense thickets that contain willows and alders. Migrants and wintering birds can be seen in almost any brush wooded habitat.
The Wilson’s warbler feeds mainly on insects, such as bees, wasps, beetles, caterpillars, and aphids. They may sometimes supplement their diet with spiders and berries.
4. Common Yellowthroat
Scientific Name: Geothlypis trichas
Range: North and Central America, rarely in Western Europe
The common yellowthroat is a small warbler with mostly light green plumage and a bright yellow throat. Adult males have a black mask with a white band bordered on top, while females and juveniles have an even lighter shade of green, though they retain the yellow throat and undertail coverts.
Typical habitats for the common yellowthroat include shrubby wet areas, such as marshes, forest edges, and fields. The bird can often be found hiding in thick vegetation, though males will sometimes visibly perch while singing.
Common yellowthroats usually forage on or near the ground, eating a variety of insects, such as small grasshoppers, dragonflies, damselflies, mayflies, beetles, and others. They may also consume spiders from leaves, bark, branches, or flowers. Seeds are occasionally eaten as well.
5. Nashville Warbler
Scientific Name: Leiothlypis ruficapilla
Range: North and Central America
The Nashville warbler is a small warbler with a sharp beak, a gray head, a white eye ring around each eye, yellow underparts and throat, and olive-green upperparts. The bird sometimes pumps up its tail. Nashville warblers are sometimes confused with similarly gray-headed warblers, but the former is significantly smaller, shorter-tailed, and has a sharper beak.
The Nashville warbler breeds in coniferous and mixed forests, often near clearings, secondary growth, or bogs. During colder seasons, this bird will migrate to patchy woodlands or brushy areas, such as field edges and thickets.
Nashville warblers consume almost entirely insects, such as beetles, caterpillars, grasshoppers, leafhoppers, aphids, their eggs and larvae, and others. Nestlings are fed mainly caterpillars, small beetles, flies, and other smaller insects. They may occasionally supplement their diet with nectar and berries in the winter.
6. Magnolia Warbler
Scientific Name: Setophaga magnolia
Range: North and Central America, rarely in Iceland
The magnolia warbler is a small and very active warbler that, for breeding males, consists of two white wing patches, a gray head, a black mask with partial eye rings, a yellow throat, and thick black streaks that contrast its otherwise yellow underparts.
Females and juveniles are duller overall and can sometimes be mistaken for the Canada Warbler (though the gray head, yellow underparts, white wing bars, and some dark streaks easily separate the two). The bird has a unique tail pattern where its basal half is white, and the tip is black.
The magnolia warbler breeds in dense groups of young conifer trees, such as spruce in the north and hemlock in the south. They forage in the dense areas adjacent to forest edges, woodlots, and parks during migration.
Caterpillars, with spruce budworms in particular, make up most of the magnolia warbler’s diet. They also consume other insects, such as beetles, moth caterpillars, leafhoppers, aphids, spiders, and some fruit in the fall.
7. Northern Parula
Scientific Name: Setophaga americana
Range: United States, southern Canada, Central America, rarely in Western Europe
The northern parula is a small warbler with a short tail, a bi-colored beak (gray on top, yellow on bottom), blue-gray plumage above with a yellow-green patch on the back, white eye-arcs, and a yellow breast.
Adult males have a very contrasting black and rusty breast band, while young females are plain yellow throughout. Similar to the Tropical Parula, but the latter has a purely yellow or orange breast and lacks the white eye arcs.
The northern parula typically breeds in mature coniferous or deciduous forests that are adjacent to some water source. They will use moss in these habitats to build their nests. They may be found in any wooded habitat during migration.
The northern parula feeds mainly on insects, such as small beetles, flies, moths, caterpillars, true bugs, ants, and others. They may supplement their diet with the occasional spider or berry.
8. Canada Warbler
Scientific Name: Cardellina canadensis
Range: North America, Central America, and northern South America
The Canada warbler is a somewhat stout warbler consisting of pale orange legs, blue-gray plumage above, and yellow plumage below, with corresponding yellow spectacles that contrast with the black streaks on the head. It also has a rather wide necklace of black streaks across its yellow chest. Females usually have a fainter necklace compared to males.
Typical habitats for the Canada warbler include places containing low vegetation, such as forested swaps, shrub thicket swamps, riparian woodlands, and brushy ravines. They build their nests on the ground.
Insects, such as beetles, mosquitoes, flies, moths, and caterpillars, make up the majority of the Canada warbler’s diet. Flying insects are highly preferred. Other types of food that typically supplement their diet include spiders, snails, worms, and seasonal fruits.
9. Mourning Warbler
Scientific Name: Geothlypis philadelphia
Range: North America, Central America, and northern South America
The mourning warbler is a small plump warbler that has yellow plumage below with a blue-gray head and an olive green back. Adult males have a black chest patch, while females are paler on the head.
Juveniles are overall greener with a yellowish throat. The mourning warbler is sometimes confused with the MacGillivray’s Warbler and the Common Yellowthroat (in the fall), but the former’s shorter tail, absence of white eye-arcs, larger frame, and thicker pink beak separates it from the two similar species.
The mourning warbler will often breed in brushy and weedy clearings within mixed or coniferous forests. They are particularly fond of raspberry thickets, but they’ll often remain hidden in low vegetation, making them hard to spot.
Mourning warblers feed mainly on insects, such as caterpillars, beetles, and other arthropods. Depending on season and availability, they’ll also consume spiders and plant material, such as fruits. Fruits make up a good portion of their diet during winter.
10. Pine Warbler
Scientific Name: Setophaga pinus
Range: United States, rarely in southern Canada and northern Mexico
The pine warbler is a medium-sized warbler that has a long narrow tail with a shallow notch, a short wide beak, two white wing bars, and light streaks on the sides of the breast. Plumage varies from bright adult males with a bright yellow throat to a very light grayish-brown color in juvenile females.
Per its name, the pine warbler can often be found in mature jack pine and pitch pine woodlands, especially those mixed with hardwoods. They are short-distance migrants that always winter in the United States. They may visit bird feeders at times, mainly for suet.
The typical diet for the pine warbler includes mainly seeds and insects, along with millet, cracked corn, sunflower seeds, peanuts, and suet from bird feeders. Common insects include grasshoppers, caterpillars, moths, beetles, ants, and bugs. They may also eat fruits from bushes and vines, such as those of the bayberry, flowering dogwood, sumac, and persimmon.
11. Western Meadowlark
Scientific Name: Sturnella neglecta
Range: North America, Mexico
The western meadowlark is a medium-sized icterid bird that has brown streaks above and yellow below with a contrasting black “v” shape on the breast. Its short wings and spiky tail with white outer feathers are evident during flight. Appears very similar to the Eastern Meadowlark, but this bird has a different voice, and its plumage is paler and more washed-out than the Eastern Meadowlark’s during winter.
The western meadowlark breeds in the fields and grasslands of western North America (typically as far east as Michigan). It may winter in a large range of open habitats, including agricultural fields and along roadsides.
The western meadowlark consumes mainly insects and seeds. Insects are largely consumed in the summer and typically include beetles, grasshoppers, crickets, caterpillars, ants, and true bugs, among others. Seeds and waste grains make up roughly one-third of the bird’s annual diet and are eaten mainly in the fall and winter seasons. Other animal matter often includes spiders, snails, and sowbugs.
12. Kirtland’s Warbler
Scientific Name: Setophaga kirtlandii
Range: Eastern United States
The Kirtland’s warbler is a large and rarely seen warbler, with blue-gray plumage above and bright-yellow plumage below, broken white eye-rings, narrow white wing bars, and black spots on the sides. Females are slightly browner than males. The bird often bobs its tail up and down. The Kirtland’s warbler highly resembles the female or juvenile Magnolia Warbler, but the former is larger with a gray back and unique tail-bobbing behavior.
The Kirtland’s warbler breeds only in the young jack pine forests in Michigan and adjacent areas in Wisconsin and Ontario. The bird winters in the Bahamas but can rarely be seen during migration.
The Kirtland’s warbler’s diet consists mainly of insects and small fruit. Common insects include spittlebugs, aphids, ants, wasps, beetles, and caterpillars. They are particularly fond of blueberries. Insects make up most of their diet in the summer, while their winter diet consists of both insects and fruit.
13. Western Kingbird
Scientific Name: Tyrannus verticalis
Range: North and Central America
The western kingbird is a relatively large flycatcher with a bright lemon-yellow belly, a pale gray head, a white throat and breast, and a black tail with narrow white edges. Compared with the similar-appearing Cassin’s Kingbird, the western kingbird has a lighter and less contrasting pattern on the head.
The western kingbird can be found in various open habitats containing tall shrubs and trees, where it’s often perched up on a telephone wire or fence post. Other examples of where you may find this bird include grasslands, desert shrublands, pastures, croplands, and some urban areas. They tend to use trees and shrubs for nesting and perching, making them likely to be spotted near woodland edges.
Insects, such as wasps, bees, beetles, grasshoppers, flies, true bugs, and caterpillars (among many others), make up the majority of the western kingbird’s diet. They may also consume some spiders and millipedes, as well as a small number of berries and fruits on occasion.
14. Yellow-Headed Blackbird
Scientific Name: Xanthocephalus xanthocephalus
Range: North and Central America, very rarely in Iceland
The yellow-headed blackbird is a medium-sized blackbird that, for males, consists of black plumage throughout with a golden-yellow head and narrow white patches on the wings. Females are dark brown throughout, with dark yellow areas on the head and breast.
Yellow-headed blackbirds typically nest in large wetlands but may also be found in mountain meadows and by the edges of ponds and rivers. They forage in open areas, as well as on barren dirt or in fields.
The yellow-headed blackbird’s diet consists mainly of insects and seeds. Insects, such as beetles, caterpillars, grasshoppers, ants, and wasps, make up most of their diet in the summer. Other animal material often includes spiders and snails. They may sometimes visit bird feeders to eat seeds and grains, with them having a special preference to sunflower seeds.
15. Evening Grosbeak
Scientific Name: Coccothraustes vespertinus
Range: North America, rarely in Mexico
The evening grosbeak is a rather large finch (roughly twice the size of a goldfinch) with a strong, thick, creamy-colored beak and a short, notched tail. Males consist of various contrasting colors, such as a dark head that fades to bright yellow underparts, along with black wings with white secondaries on top. Females are simpler, with an overall gray plumage with some degrees of white on the wings.
Evening grosbeaks are known inhabitants of coniferous forests, though they may also visit mixed forests and woodlands that can offer decent foraging opportunities. They are typically found in high-altitude habitats up to roughly 10,000 feet. They may sometimes visit bird feeders for sunflower seeds.
Seeds make up most of the evening grosbeak’s diet, along with some berries and insects. Seeds often include those from box elder, ash, maple, locust, and other trees. Other foods that supplement their diet include the buds of deciduous trees, berries, small fruits, and weed seeds.
16. American Redstart
Scientific Name: Setophaga ruticilla
Range: North America, Central America, northern South America, very rarely in Iceland and the UK
The American redstart is a New World warbler that, for adult males, consists of mainly iridescent black plumage with bright orange and yellow flashes on the wings, tail, and sides. Females and juvenile males are of a duller gray and olive-green color with solely yellow patches. The bird often flicks and fans out its tail while it forages for insects.
The American redstart breeds in mainly open-canopy, such as those in deciduous forests, second growth, and along forest edges. During migration, the bird may be found in just about any wooded habitat.
The American Redstart feeds mainly on a large variety of insects, such as beetles, caterpillars, moths, leafhoppers, aphids, midges, and crane flies. Other animal matter includes spiders and daddy long legs. Seeds and berries may be occasionally eaten.
17. Yellow-Throated Vireo
Scientific Name: Vireo flavifrons
Range: United States, southern Canada, Central America, and northern South America
The yellow-throated vireo is a small American songbird with a yellow throat and spectacles, olive-green upper parts, and gray wings with two bright white wing bars each. The thick, slightly hooked beak of this species separates it from the otherwise similarly appearing Pine Warbler.
During the breeding season, the yellow-throated vireo can be seen in mature deciduous forests in eastern North America, typically near water sources. The bird winters within a variety of tropical forests ranging from dry forest to lowland rainforest, up to an elevation of roughly 6,000 feet.
The yellow-throated vireo’s diet consists mainly of insects, such as butterflies, moths, stinkbugs, scale insects, leafhoppers, beetles, and bees. Other foods that supplement their diet include fruits, seeds, and spiders.
Hopefully, you’ve seen from this article just how variable birds can be, with something as specific as yellow birds in Minnesota easily generating over 15 species. Luckily, if any of these birds have piqued your interest, you should be able to spot them relatively easy once you know where to look and are adequately prepared.