Yellow-breasted Chat (Icteria virens)

Yellow-breasted Chat

[order] PASSERIFORMES | [family] Parulidae | [latin] Icteria virens | [UK] Yellow-breasted Chat | [FR] Sylvette polyglotte | [DE] Gelbbrust-Waldsanger | [ES] Reinita Grande | [NL] Geelborstzanger


Genus Species subspecies Breeding Range Breeding Range 2 Non Breeding Range
Xenoligea virens
Icteria virens NA, MA widespread
Icteria virens auricollis
Icteria virens tropicalis
Icteria virens virens

Physical charateristics

Note the white “spectacles,” bright yellow throat and breast. No wing bars. Size (very large for a warbler), bill, long tail, actions, and habitat suggest a mimic thrush.

Listen to the sound of Yellow-breasted Chat

[audio: Chat.mp3]

Copyright remark: Most sounds derived from xeno-canto

wingspan min.: 23 cm wingspan max.: 27 cm
size min.: 17 cm size max.: 19 cm
incubation min.: 11 days incubation max.: 12 days
fledging min.: 8 days fledging max.: 9 days
broods: 1   eggs min.: 3  
      eggs max.: 6  


North America, Middle America : widespread


Brushy tangles, briers, stream thickets.
Breeds in very dense scrub (such as willow thickets) and briery 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 o
pen scrub and woodland edges in the lowlands.


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. Occasi
onally 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.
Eggs: 3-4, up to 6. Eggs large, creamy white, with brown spots at large end. Incubated by female only, 11 days. Commonly parasitized by Brown-headed Cowbirds.
Young: Fed by both parents. Leave the nest about 8 days after hatching. Normally 2 broods per year.

Feeding habits

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 black
berries, elderberries, wild grapes, and others.
Behavior: Forages by searching foliage in 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.


This species has an extremely large range, and hence does not approach the thresholds for Vulnerable under the range size criterion (Extent of Occurrence <20,000 km2 combined with a declining or fluctuating range size, habitat extent/quality, or population size and a small number of locations or severe fragmentation). The population trend appears to be stable, and hence the species does not approach the thresholds for Vulnerable under the population trend criterion (>30% decline over ten years or three generations). The population size is extremely large, and hence does not approach the thresholds for Vulnerable under the population size criterion (<10,000 mature individuals with a continuing decline estimated to be >10% in ten years or three generations, or with a specified population structure). For these reasons the species is evaluated as Least Concern.
Yellow-breasted Chat status Least Concern


Southern Canada to central Mexico. Winters southern United States to Panama. Migration:
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.

Distribution map

Yellow-breasted Chat distribution range map

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