Did you see a YELLOW bird in North Carolina?
I’m guessing you need some help figuring out which species you saw. Well, you’ve come to the right place!
Today, we will review 20 types of birds that are YELLOW in North Carolina.
To help you make an identification, I have included several photographs of each species and detailed range maps.*
#1. American Goldfinch
- Spinus tristis
- Adults are 3.9-4.7 in (10-12 cm) long and weigh 0.4-0.7 oz (11-20 g).
- In summer, males are a vivid yellow with a black cap and black wings. Females are a duller yellow without a black cap.
- Both sexes look the same in winter and turn a pale brown/olive color. They’re identified by their black wings and white wing bar.
These small yellow birds are prevalent in North Carolina.
American Goldfinch Range Map
American Goldfinches are one of the most commonly seen backyard birds. So if you have yellow birds in your backyard, it’s likely it was an American Goldfinch!
To attract these yellow birds, include bird feeders specially designed for goldfinches since they’re easily scared off by larger “bullies.” Goldfinches appreciate having places that only they can use! Interestingly, seeds from garden plants and bird feeders make up their entire diet since they’re strict vegetarians.
One of my favorite traits about these birds is that they can feed in any position, even upside down.
#2. Wilson’s Warbler
- Cardellina pusilla
- Adults are 3.9-4.7 in (10-12 cm) long and weigh 0.2-0.3 oz (6-8 g).
- Greenish and yellow coloring across the body, with gray-brown wings. Males have a black cap.
The males of this species also have a unique feature that makes them easy to spot. Look for their distinct small and round black cap, resembling a toupee! Females may have dark spots or a greenish wash on their heads, but only the males have the black cap.
Unlike most yellow birds in North Carolina, Wilson’s Warblers are more comfortable on the ground or the forest understory. As a result, they’re easier to spot without craning your neck! They often nest on the ground, concealed in shrubs at forest edges.
#3. American Yellow Warbler
- Setophaga petechia
- Adults are 4.7-5.1 in (12-13 cm) long and weigh 0.3-0.4 oz (9-11 g).
- Lemon-yellow across the whole body, with light chestnut streaks on the chest. Males are brighter than females.
These bright yellow birds are found all over North Carolina.
American Yellow Warblers are frequent victims of brood parasitic Brown-headed Cowbirds, that lay their eggs inside the nests of these warblers! But they have a unique way of combating this. They’re known to build a new nest directly on top of their old one, smothering their eggs in addition to the cowbirds’ eggs. As a result, researchers have found nests up to six layers deep!
With its bright yellow coloring and relatively large population, this is one yellow bird you shouldn’t have trouble finding.
#4. Myrtle Warbler
- Setophaga coronata coronata
- Adults are 4.7 to 5.5 inches long and weigh 12 to 13 grams.
- Gray, with white wing bars and black on the chest. Patches on the rump and under the wing are yellow.
Myrtle Warblers, also called Yellow-Rumped Warblers, are named for the bright yellow patch above their tails.
There are two subspecies of this warbler, the Myrtle Warbler, and the Audubon’s Warbler. Only the Myrtle subspecies lives in North Carolina.
They are an active species known for catching insects in midair. During winter, they visit feeders with sunflower seeds, raisins, suet, and peanut butter. They also eat winter berries.
Myrtle Warblers are the most versatile foragers of the warblers in North Carolina.
They often search for food in trees but will venture to the ground to forage in leaf debris, and they’ve been known to pick through seaweed in coastal areas!
Listen for the Myrtle Warbler’s loud, clear song, which sounds like “tsee-tsee-TSEE-TSEE-tsee.” It starts soft at the beginning, gets louder in the middle, and then ends quietly.
#5. Nashville Warbler
- Leiothlypis ruficapilla
- Adults are 4.3-5.1 in (11-13 cm) long and weigh 0.2-0.5 oz (6-14 g).
- Their coloring is yellow below with gray upper parts and a white patch near the legs.
Nashville Warblers are easily identified by their gray hood, which is present in both males and females. These yellow birds have the interesting habit of using porcupine quills in their nest bedding. I can’t imagine they make a comfortable mattress!
Look for Nashville Warblers during migration, when they often travel in mixed flocks. Chickadees, titmice, and kinglets are all frequent traveling companions!
#6. Common Yellowthroat
- Geothlypis trichas
- Adults are 4.3-5.1 in (11-13 cm) long and weigh 0.3 oz (9-10 g).
- Males and females have distinctly different coloring; although both sexes are yellow and gray, males have a black mask on the eyes that sets them apart.
One look at a male Common Yellowthroat will tell you why this species is also called the “Yellow Bandit”! The male has a distinctive black mask that sets it apart from other yellow birds in North Carolina.
Like most warblers, Common Yellowthroats migrate at night during the fall. Nighttime migration helps them avoid predators and poor weather conditions like excessive heat and wind.
An advantage for bird enthusiasts is that these species are much easier to spot during migration while resting during the day! With patience, you might also catch a flock in migration at night, visible against a full moon.
#7. Evening Grosbeak
- Coccothraustes vespertinus
- Adults are 6.3-7.1 in (16-18 cm) long and weigh 1.9-2.6 oz (54-74 g).
- Both sexes have a large, thick, conical beak and are the size of an American Robin.
- Males are yellow and black with a prominent white patch on the wings and a bright yellow stripe over the eye.
- Females are mostly gray with white and black wings and a greenish-yellow tinge on their neck and sides.
Evening Grosbeaks are one of the most beautiful yellow birds in North Carolina!
Typically, Evening Grosbeaks are found in the northern coniferous forests, and in winter, they can be found pretty much anywhere in North Carolina as they search for food.
Evening Grosbeaks are known for their large and strong beak. They use their robust beaks to crack open shells that other birds cannot open.
Evening Grosbeak Range Map
This species will occasionally show up at feeders in North Carolina, far south of their normal winter range, which provides a treat for backyard birders. You can attract them with sunflower seeds placed onto a large platform feeder, allowing ample room for them to land and eat.
#8. Yellow-Breasted Chat
- Icteria virens
- Adults are 7.1 in (18 cm) long and weigh 0.8-1.1 oz (23-31 g).
- Olive-gray on the back with a bright yellow breast and white lower body.
- These yellow birds are larger and bulkier than most warblers, with an especially long tail and big head.
Yellow-Breasted Chats are easily identified by the white “spectacles” around their eyes.
These songbirds prefer living in the dense vegetation of thickets and brambles. You’re most likely to see or hear a Yellow-Breasted Chat in the spring since they’re silent and shy during the rest of the year.
Pay close attention to exposed perches on power lines and in trees to spot this yellow bird in North Carolina.
#9. Magnolia Warbler
- Setophaga magnolia
- Adults are 4.3-5.1 in (11-13 cm) long and weigh 0.2-0.5 oz (6-14 g).
- Males have yellow chests and bellies with bold black stripes, a black mask with white “eyebrows,” and black and white wings.
- Females are similarly patterned but much paler.
Magnolia Warblers have the most distinctive color pattern of any yellow bird in North Carolina!
To identify this species, look for the stripey pattern of yellow, gray, black, and white. Males have a black mask and white eyebrows, while females have a less-prominent gray cap.
This species spends winters south of the U.S. in the Caribbean and Mexico. Then, it travels nearly the entire way through the country to get to its northern breeding grounds!
#10. Northern Parula
- Setophaga americana
- Adults are 4.3-4.7 in (11-12 cm) long and weigh 0.2-0.4 oz (6-11 g).
- Males are blue-gray above and white below, with yellow patches on the chest and back.
- Females are similarly patterned but paler.
Northern Parulas live in forests with hanging mosses like Spanish moss and beard lichen. They use these plants as nest bedding and spend most of their time high in the forest canopy. So looking for these little birds can easily give you a case of “warbler neck!”
Even though this yellow bird doesn’t visit feeders much in North Carolina, it may still visit yards with native plants and a water source during migration. So, if you have a fountain or birdbath with a bubbler, keep an eye out for Northern Parulas!
#11. Blue-Winged Warbler
- Vermivora cyanoptera
- Adults are 4.3-4.7 in (11-12 cm) tall and weigh up to 0.3 oz (9 g).
- Males are a beautiful bright yellow with contrasting gray-blue wings and a black eye streak.
- Females are slightly lighter yellow with a gray eye streak.
Look for Blue-Winged Warblers in abandoned fields at the edge of forests.
This beautiful bird gets its name from its blue-gray wings, especially visible against its yellow body. If you live on the edge of a mature forest, you may even spot the Blue-Winged Warbler in your yard!
Although this species primarily eats insects, it is a generalist and will change its diet based on what is available. For example, the Blue-Winged Warbler might dine on spiders almost exclusively during one season and switch to aphids the next season if they’re more plentiful. This little bird isn’t picky!
#12. Canada Warbler
- Cardellina canadensi
- Adults are 4.7-5.9 in (12-15 cm) long and weigh 0.3-0.5 oz (9-14 g).
- Their coloring is slate gray above, yellow below, and they have a black “necklace” of streaks around their throat.
Look for Canada Warblers in mixed forests with a dense, shrubby understory. They’re most often found where rhododendrons are growing.
This species has two striking features that help to distinguish it from other yellow birds in North Carolina. The bright whitish eye-rings give this bird a permanently surprised expression, and its “necklace” of black markings helps it stand out among its relatives. These features are most evident in males, and while females have a necklace, it generally isn’t as defined or dark.
#13. Hooded Warbler
- Setophaga citrina
- Adults are 4.7-5.1 in (12-13 cm) long and weigh 0.3-0.4 oz (9-11 g).
- Predominately brown and yellow, males have a black “hood” encircling their yellow faces.
Male Hooded Warblers are easily recognized by their ski-mask type markings. Unfortunately, this species is shy and almost always hidden in dense tree growth. Hikers may spot them flitting from tree to tree in the forest understory.
Although the distinctive black hood can help you identify male Hooded Warblers, females and younger individuals are harder to spot because they have a gray head cap. As a result, they appear similar to other, more common yellow birds in North Carolina.
#14. Pine Warbler
- Setophaga pinus
- Adults are 5.1-5.5 in (13-14 cm) long and weigh 0.3-0.5 oz (9-14 g).
- Their coloring is yellow, white, and black. Males have more yellow than females and are usually brighter.
- Both sexes have two white wing bars on a dark background.
Unlike other warblers, this yellow bird will eat seeds from bird feeders and has been known to visit them during migration and in winter. Offer cracked corn, millet, peanuts, and suet to attract these bright songbirds. Their summer diet is mostly pine seeds, which they pick from pinecones with their long, pointed beaks.
Pine Warblers migrate, but their range is much more restricted than most warblers. They spend the entire year in the continental U.S., flying to southern states for winter and breeding in northern states during the summer.
#15. Prothonotary Warbler
- Protonotaria citrea
- Adults are up to 5.1 in (13 cm) long and weigh up to 0.44 oz (12 g).
- Lemon-yellow bodies and heads with blue-gray wings. Males have an orange cast on the head.
- Black eyes, beak, and legs.
Instead of using the ground or a low bush, Prothonotary Warblers build nests in unused woodpecker holes or tree cavities. Look for these yellow birds in North Carolina in mature forests near densely forested streams. You may catch one foraging on the bank for insects and snails!
These yellow birds are also distinctive while in flight because of their two-toned tail feathers. The base of the tail is white, and the tips are dark gray.
#16. Eastern Meadowlark
- Sturnella manga
- Adults are 7.5-10.2 in (19-26 cm) long and weigh 3.2-5.3 oz (90-150 g).
- Their mottled brown, gray, and white back is effective camouflage for foraging in dirt and dry grass.
- From below, you can see their bright lemon-yellow bellies and throats and the bold black band on their chest.
You’re most likely to find an Eastern Meadowlark in farmland or grassy meadows.
These yellow birds forage insects in the dry grass and dirt clods of open fields. Typically, when Eastern Meadowlarks aren’t foraging, they perch on telephone wires or lampposts.
In addition to spotting Eastern Meadowlarks near farms and meadows, you can attract them to your yard by offering food. Try placing cracked corn and hulled sunflower seeds in a tray on the ground, which is their preferred feeding location.
It can be difficult to tell the difference between Eastern and Western Meadowlarks. The easiest way to differentiate these two yellow birds in North Carolina is by location. Their ranges rarely overlap, but Eastern and Western Meadowlarks fight over territory where they can both be found.
#17. Prairie Warbler
- Setophaga discolor
- Adults are 4.3 in (11 cm) long and weigh 0.2-0.3 oz (6-8 g).
- Primarily yellow, with heavy black streaks. Males usually have a chestnut patch on their backs.
Even though their name suggests fields and grassy areas, this yellow bird lives primarily in wooded habitats in North Carolina.
Prairie Warblers are at home in stands of young pine trees and second-growth forests. One of the best places to spot this species is at Christmas tree farms! Look for a smaller yellow bird that constantly bobs its tail up and down.
#18. Yellow-Throated Warbler
- Setophaga dominica
- Adults are 5.1-5.5 in (13-14 cm) long and weigh 0.3-0.4 oz (9-11 g).
- Their coloring is gray, black, and white with a bright yellow throat.
Yellow-Throated Warblers in North Carolina prefer tall trees with an open understory. You’ll have the most luck finding this yellow bird in pine and cypress forests.
In comparison with other warbler species, Yellow-Throated Warblers have a reduced range. They spend their breeding season farther south and winter farther north than most of their relatives, and individuals in the middle of their range have been known to skip migration altogether!
#19. Cape May Warbler
- Setophaga tigrina
- Adults are 4.7-5.1 in (12-13 cm) long and weigh 0.4-0.5 oz (11-14 g).
- Yellow, olive green, and brown with a red eye patch.
Look for these yellow birds in North Carolina at the edge of coniferous woods. They prefer to nest near the trunk of black spruce trees. Cape May Warblers lay the most eggs of any warbler, up to nine in a single brood!
This species eats spruce budworm, a type of caterpillar plentiful in their breeding area. The spruce budworm is an extremely destructive pest to spruce-fir forests, so Cape May Warblers are essential to their ecosystem!
The reddish patch near the eye on males of the species is a sure sign you’ve seen a Cape May Warbler. On both male and female birds, look for a tiger-striped yellow belly and white bars on the black and yellow wings.
#20. Kentucky Warbler
- Geothlypis formosa
- Adults are 5.1 in (13 cm) long and weigh 0.5 oz (13-14 g).
- Their coloring is yellow and olive green with some black on the head.
- Yellow bands run from the beak, across the brow, and around the eyes, giving this species a spectacled appearance.
Their olive-green back and wings help them to blend in with foliage on the forest floor, where they spend most of their time foraging for insects. If you spot one, try to catch a glimpse of its eye markings, which wrap around the eyes in yellow and look like a pair of glasses!
What types of yellow birds in North Carolina have you seen?
Let us know in the comments!
*The maps are generously provided with permission from the Cornell Lab of Ornithology. I visit this site often to learn even more about interesting species!