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Natural North Dakota

Common Yellowthroat


Here is a bit of a description of a bird from John James Audubon’s Birds of America:  “The notes of this little bird render it more conspicuous than most of its genus, for although they cannot be called very musical, they are far from being unpleasant, and are uttered so frequently during the day, that one, in walking along the briary ranges of the fences, is almost necessarily brought to listen to its whitititee, repeated three or four times every five or six minutes…”

Here it is: “Call of the common yellowthroat”

That call has also been described as loud, spunky, distinct. It has been further described as a “witchety-whitchety-whitchey” or “looky here-looky here-looky here.” The call of the common yellowthroat is unmistakable. This bird is much more frequently heard than seen. Over the course of the summer, you are bound to hear this call emanating from the vegetation near the edge of a marsh or other wetland, or perhaps a thicket of shrubs in the uplands.  

The common yellowthroat nests over much of North America.  Some of you may have learned this bird as a Maryland yellowthroat, which is now considered to be one of many subspecies.  It is interesting to note that the species was first described by Linnaeus in 1766 based on a specimen from Maryland.  It was among the first North American birds to be described to science.    

The common yellowthroat is a warbler. They are only about four and one-half inches long. And although they often stay hidden in the vegetation, if the male does present himself, he is easily identified by a conspicuous black mask, bright yellow throat and breast, with olive-yellow above. Like many other birds, the females are more drab to give them protective coloration during nesting. They lack the mask and are more of an olive-yellow with perhaps some yellow around the throat.

So listen for that “witchety-whitchety-whitchey” amongst the wetland vegetation or shrubby thickets this summer. And if you hear the common yellowthroat, make a point to get a look at this interesting and colorful warbler. You will be richly rewarded! 

-Chuck Lura

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