Yellow-throated Warbler

Setophaga dominica

  • Version: 2.0 — Published January 27, 2012
  • Bailey McKay and George A. Hall

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Figure 1. Distribution of the Yellow-throated Warbler in North and Middle America.
Adult Yellow-throated Warbler, Quintana Island, TX, 16 March.

Yellow-throated Warblers are relatively early spring migrants, moving through the Gulf Coast region in March and April. Birds in the western portion of the range tend to have whiter lores and shorter bills, and this bird is a good example of a white-lored individual. In the eastern portion of the range, most birds have yellow lores, but there is a smooth cline from white to yellow moving from west to east. These are sometimes described as distinct subspecies, but currently they are lumped together as a single taxon with smooth clinal variation. The following is a link to this photographer's website:, Mar 16, 2009; photographer Ed Schneider

This attractive warbler is a common woodland bird of the southeastern United States, where its loud, clear song filtering down from leafless trees is one of the earliest signs of spring. The Yellow-throated Warbler occupies a variety of breeding habitats including wooded stream bottomlands, cypress (Taxodium) swamps, and dry upland pine (Pinus) and mixed pine-deciduous forests. It nests and performs most of its daily activities high in the canopy of these forests. The exact location of nests is usually hard to determine.

This warbler differs from typical Setophaga (formerly Dendroica) warblers in several ways. Its breeding range is more southerly, its wintering range more northerly, and it has a more extensive resident population in the southern United States than other members of the genus. Its movements are uncharacteristically deliberate for a warbler, and its principal foraging method is creeper-like, resembling that of the Black-and-white Warbler (Mniotilta varia). Sexual dimorphism, compared with other Setophaga warblers, is slight.

The Yellow-throated Warbler is now expanding its breeding range northward, recovering some of the range from which it retreated (for unknown reasons) in the early twentieth century. This warbler has been little studied, probably owing to the difficulty of finding its nests in the canopy of tall trees and the even more difficult task of studying the nesting events. Aspects of its biology on its tropical wintering grounds are better known.

Although the Yellow-throated Warbler was first mentioned by Mark Catesby, who called it the Yellow-throated Creeper in reference to its foraging habits, it was first described in a report of a wintering bird on the island of Hispaniola; hence the specific name dominica.

Recommended Citation

McKay, B. and G. A. Hall (2012). Yellow-throated Warbler (Setophaga dominica), version 2.0. In The Birds of North America (A. F. Poole, Editor). Cornell Lab of Ornithology, Ithaca, NY, USA.