Icteria Virens – Yellow-Breasted Chat

Icteria virens - Yellow-breasted chat.

The yellow-breasted chat (Icteria virens) is a large songbird that can be found in North America. It is the only member of the Icteriidae family. It was previously thought to be the largest member of the family Parulidae, but some researchers believe it should now be considered a member of the monotypic family Icteriidae.

Quick Overview: Icteria Virens – Yellow-Breasted Chat
Body size: Around 7.25 in (18 cm) in length and weighed 26 g (0.9 oz)
Main colors: Yellow-orange, White, Gray, Black, Yellow
Range: United States introduced in Canada to central Mexico
Migratory Bird: Yes
Best time of the year to see in the U.S.: June, July, August, September
Conservation Status: Least Concern

Yellow-breasted chat Description

These birds have yellow-orange chins and throats. Their colors and plumage reflect a lot of UV light. This reflection has two peaks in the ultraviolet and 570-590 nm yellow light. Their eyes are white with gray flecks on their lower lids. Males and females have solid black bills during the breeding season, but small light stripes or dots on either side of the lower mandible near the base of the bill. This bill becomes more striped as the breeding season ends. Males and females have black foreheads with gray and black facial markings behind the eyes. During the season, males lose a lot of facial colors.

Icteria virens - Yellow-breasted chat.
Icteria virens – Yellow-breasted chat. Photo by: Kris Petersen


These medium-sized birds are 7.25 in (18 cm) in length and weighed 26 g (0.9 oz). Its wingspan could range around 22-25 cm (9-10 in).


Invertebrates, grasshoppers, fruits, and berries are common food sources for adults. Their larvae are fed to their offspring. They can eat beetles, weevils, bees, caterpillars, and wasps with their feet, which they do. Strawberries, blueberries, blackberries, and grapes are also eaten by them.


Green and coniferous forests support yellow-breasted chats. Some of their preferred habitats include shrubby and brushy areas near streams and swamps, burned forests, and upland thickets of recently abandoned farmlands.


Diurnal and social, yellow-breasted chats During the breeding season, their songs are low-pitched and varied. They sing at night and imitate other birds. Their song types range from 41 to 100. Males sing together, allowing counter-singing. A male sings a song and another male responds with the same song. These songs establish territorial dominance. Yellow-breasted chats sing more in preparation than incubation and post-fledging. Males sing more post-paring and pre-nesting than post-fledging.

Icteria Virens Scientific Classification

  • Kingdom: Animalia
  • Phylum: Arthropoda
  • Subphylum: Chelicerata
  • Class: Aves
  • Order: Passeriformes
  • Superfamily: Emberizoidea
  • Family: Icteriidae
  • Genus: Icteria
  • Species: Icteria virens

Best time of the year to see

The best time of the year you could these birds in the United States is during the summer season (June to September).  

Distribution of the Yellow-breasted chat in the USA

A native of North America, the yellow-breasted chat from the southern plains of Canada to central Mexico, it breeds, then migrates south to Mexico and Central America and most part of the United States for the winter. This species inhabits areas with dense shrubbery.

The Yellow-breasted chat can be found in the following states in the United States – Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Florida, Georgia, Hawaii, Idaho, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Vermont, Virginia, Washington, West Virginia, Wisconsin, and Wyoming.

Icteria Virens – Yellow-Breasted Chat

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