If you’ve spent anytime birdwatching in your backyard, you have probably seen a songbird with yellow feathers. Yellow is a common color in birds, especially among smaller songbirds. In this article we will take a look at 24 small yellow birds, with pictures and descriptions to help you learn to identify them.
24 Types of Small Yellow Birds
Warblers, finches and vireos are among the small birds that are often yellow. It is thought this might be because yellow helps them blend into the colors of light among tree-leaves, where many of them search for insects.
1. American Goldfinch
Scientific name: Spinus tristis
The well-known American goldfinch is probably the most popular and best-recognized yellow songbird across the United States. Spot this bird from coast to coast, north into Canada during the spring, and south into Mexico, Florida, and the Pacific coast during the winter.
2. Yellow Warbler
Scientific name: Setophaga petechia
The yellow warbler’s bright yellow color can be spotted from a tree, bush, or other perch around foliage throughout North America during the breeding season. These small, insectivorous songbirds prefer to live in woodlands, where they eat insects in the trees and thickets. They are so small that sometimes, they can be caught in spiders’ webs!
Because of their diet, it’s hard to attract a yellow warbler to your backyard. However, having a water feature or planting trees that can provide habitat may entice them to visit over time.
3. Scarlet Tanager
Scientific name: Piranga olivacea
Male scarlet tanagers are only yellow for part of the year, while females boast bright yellow-green plumage year round. During the non-breeding season, males molt back to look similar to females. Their dusky yellow belly and greenish wings help them blend into the forest canopy.
Spot scarlet tanagers during the breeding season in the eastern United States. While the bird’s primary food source consists of insects, they may be attracted to a yard with berry bushes.
4. Prothonotary Warbler
Scientific name: Protonotaria citrea
Look for this sweetly singing warbler during the breeding season in swamp forests of the southeastern United States. Males and females both have yellow heads, gray wings, and gray tails. Their beaks and eyes are gray too. They may stick around for the winter along the Gulf of Mexico in Louisiana and Texas.
Depending on their perch, prothonotary warblers can appear very fat and fluffy, or sleek and streamlined. They are a great subject for paintings and photography. They get their name from the yellow ‘hood’ of feathers, which was reminiscent of Roman Catholic scribes called prothonotaries, who wore yellow hoods.
5. Summer Tanager
Scientific name: Piranga rubra
While males are known for their bright red plumage, females are entirely yellow. The summer tanager spends winters from Mexico to northern South America, then travels up to the U.S. to spend the summer breeding season. They can be found in the states along the southern boarder, as well as the southeastern states up to about Pennsylvania and Iowa.
While they are fairly common, they can be hard to spot since they like to remain at the tops of leaf-heavy trees searching for insects.
6. Wilson’s Warbler
Scientific name: Cardellina pusilla
While they spend the breeding season in Alaska and Canada, Wilson’s Warblers migrate through the United States to reach their wintering grounds in Mexico and Central America. They make a return trip north in the spring, too. This means that they are plentiful and easy to spot during migrations.
Both males and females are yellow, but males are brighter and have a circular black patch on the crown of their heads. Since they eat insects, they probably won’t stop at feeders, but they will perch in trees.
7. Lesser Goldfinch
Scientific name: Spinus psaltria
Like its bold black and yellow cousin the American goldfinch, the lesser goldfinch is also a seed-eating finch that makes its home in woodlands. However, this goldfinch prefers the West Coast, Mexico, Central America, as well as South America.
To identify a lesser goldfinch, listen for songs that sound nasal or wheezy. Look for flocks that group together in open woodland habitats with deciduous trees. They love to stop at bird feeders, and they’ll eat most kinds of sunflower seeds.
8. Magnolia Warbler
Scientific name: Setophaga magnolia
Striped and spirited, the magnolia warbler makes its home in eastern North America. It spends the breeding season in Canada and New England, after which it migrates south to Central America and most Caribbean islands. So most of the eastern half of the U.S. can only catch them during migration.
They prefer to breed in pine forests and glean insects from the ends of tree branches.
Both sexes have yellow bellies, but females lack the distinct black stripes that the males have. They won’t stop at feeders, but they might overnight during migration season if you have native trees and bushes planted.
9. Baltimore Oriole
Scientific name: Icterus galbula
Both the male and female are brightly colored, but the male is more orange than yellow. Females, however, are dusky yellow. She uses her calmer-colored foliage to blend in with the trees when she builds her nest in the spring.
Baltimore orioles prefer fruit over seeds. They love to eat oranges or sugar water. If you want to foster plants that can provide self-sustaining food, berries and high-nectar flowers are a great idea.
10. Nashville Warbler
Scientific name: Leiothlypis ruficapilla
Another warbler that breeds in the north and migrates south to Central America, the Nashville warbler is a creative, oft-singing bird which eats insects and lives in forests. They are very adaptable to habitat change, however. Because they prefer shrubbery and successional forests, they have succeeded in many areas where other warblers would have left.
The Nashville warbler has a yellow body, gray head, white eye-ring, and grayish wings tinged with yellow.
11. Hooded Warbler
Scientific name: Setophaga citrina
Once you see the cute black hood of the male Hooded Warbler, it’s impossible to miss! This yellow insect-eater lives primarily in the Southeast, ranging as far north as southern New York and southern Michigan. It migrates south across Florida and the Gulf coast of Mexico to spend winters on the coast of Central America.
Females look quite similar to the male, but lack the black hood.
12. Common Yellowthroat
Scientific name: Geothlypis trichas
The male common yellowthroat boasts a black mask along with his bright yellow throat and olive colored back. Females are maskless, yet they still possess a bright yellow throat and breast. These furtive little songbirds creep through thickets and damp marshy areas.
As their name suggest, they are common across much of the United States during the summer, and remain year-round in some states in the southeast and southern California.
13. Pine Warbler
Scientific name: Setophaga pinus
This warbler lives predictably in – you guessed it – pines! Like most songbirds, the male of the species has the brighter yellow coloring. The female does have a little yellow about her head and throat.
Even though Pine Warblers are insectivorous, they can be attracted to feeders during the wintertime. According to Audubon, they are the only warbler which consumes seeds on a regular basis.
14. Black-throated Green Warbler
Scientific name: Setophaga virens
The name of this small eastern warbler doesn’t let on that it has a bright yellow head and yellow patches along its back. This profuse singer lives in mountain forests as well as the swamps along the coast of Virginia and North and South Carolina.
You won’t see the Black-throated Green Warbler at your bird feeder, since it’s an insect eater. You do stand a chance of spotting one during the spring or fall when the birds fly between their wintering grounds in Central America and the northern United States and southern Canada.
15. Blue-winged Warbler
Scientific name: Vermivora cyanoptera
Blue-winged warblers forage for insects among open woodlands. They love to search for food in the tree canopy with acrobatic hopping, jumping, and fluttering. Males and females look similar, both having yellow heads and bodies and blue-gray wings.
Offer Blue-winged Warblers habitat during migration seasons by planting bushes and trees native to your area. This habitat is called ‘stopover’ habitat, and it will help the health of the birds because they’ll get more rest on their journey.
They spend summers in the northeast, but only pass through the southeast during migration.
16. Eastern Yellow Wagtail
Scientific name: Motacilla tschutschensis
You’re probably not going to spot an Eastern yellow wagtail in the lower 48 states, or even most of North America. It’s a yellow wagtail species that lives in the Siberian arctic and the coast of Alaska during the warmer months. It’s a bright yellow-bellied bird that feasts on insects and open grasslands adjacent to water sources.
The Eastern yellow wagtail winters in southeast Asia when it isn’t spending its time in the warm season up in Alaska and northern Russia.
17. Evening Grosbeak
Scientific name: Coccothraustes vespertinus
Variegated shades of black, white, and yellow adorn this bright songbird in a pattern unique among most small finches. It takes advantage of the seeds in evergreen northern forests of Canada and the northern United States.
With its large beak, the Evening Grosbeak cracks open seeds that other finches can’t open. It has a monopoly on some seeds in the northern forests.
18. Golden-winged Warbler
Scientific name: Vermivora chrysoptera
Golden-winged warblers are a migratory warbler species that fly between Central and northern South America and the northeast United States. On both the male and female, yellow patches on the head, wings, and back disrupt a gray and white wash.
Golden-winged warbler parents are concerned about the areas where they raise their chicks. Thanks to research, ornithologists have discovered that pairs lay eggs and raise chicks in thickets, but only until the chicks fledge. Then, the parents move the family to more mature forests with older trees.
19. Orange-crowned Warbler
Scientific name: Leiothlypis celata
Both male and female orange-crowned warblers look the same, with yellow-olive coloring and a faint black line through the eye. Immature birds are paler with a gray head. These warbler spend the breeding season in some western states, and most of Canada up through Alaska. In winter they head for Mexico and the southern U.S. states. For the rest of the country, you can catch them during the spring and fall migration.
They do sport an orange crown, but it is almost always hidden. Most of them nest on the ground, perhaps to protect their eggs from nest-robbing birds.
20. Kentucky Warbler
Scientific name: Geothlypis formosa
The Kentucky warbler, aptly named for its singular song and summer residence in the southeastern United States, is a yellow warbler that prefers to search for insects on the forest floor.
The Kentucky warbler prefers to live on the ground, separating it from other warbler species in the area. Female Kentucky warblers even build their nests on the ground. Males will sing only one song throughout their entire lives.
21. Warbling Vireo
Scientific name: Vireo gilvus
This sweet little vireo is a common summer visitor across most of the United States. Their plain coloring and habit of staying high in trees means they won’t catch your eye. However they sing frequently and you can often track them down by this common “warbling” song.
They have a dusky gray back tinged with olive, and a pale yellow throat and belly.
22. Eastern Meadowlark
Scientific name: Sturnella magna
The Eastern meadowlark is a bird of grasslands and open landscapes that lives year-round throughout most of the eastern United States and much of the southern Great Plains. It loves to perch on fenceposts and phone lines. It also browses through grass and finds insects to eat.
Both males and females look the same; the yellow feathers are most pronounced on the belly and chest.
23. Kirtland’s Warbler
Scientific name: Setophaga kirtlandii
If you live along the Gulf Coast of Florida or near the Great Lakes region of Michigan and Wisconsin, you have the chance of seeing a Kirtland’s warbler. Most of its habitat was destroyed a century ago with logging and neglective forest fire regimes, but it has made a major recovery recently and was delisted in 2019 from the Endangered Species List.
Kirtland’s warblers winter in the Caribbean Islands. They can be found in the Bahamas.
24. Northern Parula
Scientific name: Setophaga americana
The Northern parula is an eye-catching bird, not just because of its gray-blue, yellow, brown, and white feathers, but because of the arrangement of its white eyepatch and the fluttering way it flies.
Spot Northern parulas in the eastern United States. They love to perch in the forest canopy and search for insects on the ends of branches. They winter down in Central America and the Caribbean Islands.