Saturday, February 2, 2013

What Is That Yellow Bird?

Years ago, I was birding in the Big Bend area; Fort Davis state park to be exact. I was lucky enough to encounter a park ranger who was leading a bird identification class. The first thing the ranger had us do was to put our bird ID books away. Ack! He said by the time we all fumbled in our books, the LBB (little, brown bird) will have flitted away.

A lot of folks identify a bird by its color and that is OK when the bird is colorful. But depending on the season, many birds aren't in their breeding plumage and are very drab. Things to consider when trying to ID are: type of bill, facial markings, plumage patterns, shape, size, habitat, field marks, voice, call, activity and flying pattern. All must be taken into consideration to make a good identification.

Do as I say; not as I do.

I see a bird in the backyard and say to my hubby, “we have a yellow bird out here.” It was a pine warbler to be exact. I consulted a couple of books to be sure.


Pine warblers are small active birds with short pointed bills. Birds with thin, short, pointed bills are generally insect eaters. Warblers catch insects on the fly or creep along branches. In winter, they dine on fruits, berries, sunflower seeds and suet.

Can you see the eyering?
The Pine Warbler is about 5 ½” and both male and female have plain unstreaked bellies, dark legs, white wing bars and white spots on the corner of the tail. This little bird also has a “spectacled,” face with a pale eyering connected to a pale stripe in front of the eye. 

The male has a yellow throat and breast, indistinct black streaks on breast sides and is bright olive green on its back. The female is similar but paler with a buff yellow breast.

Unstreaked belly

See the side black streaks?

Undertail feathers

The undertail coverts (coverts cover other feathers) are white. Why do you need to know about undertail feathers? Because generally that is all you see when the bird is flying away. Speaking of flying, the pine warbler’s flight is strong and slightly undulating.

The nest is a cup of pine needles out on a limb of pine tree and the female lays 3-5 eggs that are whitish with brown speckles.

The song is a trill and the call is a sweet “chip.”

One of my books identifies the habitat of the Pine Warbler as pine forests. Well, duh!

What birds do you have at your feeders right now?


  1. Another informative and enjoyable post, Ann. Saw a Red Bird (Robin?) today on my hike. Our birds here are in short supply due to cold temps, but hope to go bird watching once spring arrives. I will look for the Pine Warbler. Ev

  2. Thank you for sharing. I also grab the book to identify the birds while they are feeding. I will never forget my husbands words of "that's probably a yellow bellied sap sucker". Then one day as I grabbed the bird book, lo and was a Yellow Bellied Sap Sucker and Dick didn't pull that out of his hat again. lol. Cleone

  3. What a sweet little bird! I'm going to have to look for this bird - we have lots of pine trees! Great info. I think I could identify one conclusively from your description.

  4. I always enjoy your blogs here. Lovely photos.
    I have not seen the Pine Warblers here this year. I guess that they are all at you feeders.
    I have suet there for them, but they, along with a lot of other birds, are absent this year.

  5. What a cute bird and such great photos. Looks like this will work. Sonnia

  6. That Pine Warbler is exquisite. I have Cardinals, House Finches, Black-capped Chickadees, Northern Bobwhite Quail (beneath) and I heard the Eastern Bluebirds scouting for nests the other day. Birds make winter bearable don't you think?

  7. Dont you just love this time of year. It seems like every other week a new bird shows up at the bird feeder and like you I pull out the book.

    Great photos