- Minnesota Breeding Bird Distribution
- Breeding Habitat
- Population Abundance
- Literature Cited
A regular breeding resident and migrant; the Common Yellowthroat was a very abundant species during the Minnesota Breeding Bird Atlas (MNBBA).
The Common Yellowthroat’s breeding range stretches from the southeast coast of Alaska through the boreal forests and parklands of Canada. In the United States it occurs from the Pacific Northwest to the Atlantic Coast, but its distribution is spotty in the southwestern United States. Populations also occur further south in Mexico. High breeding densities occur in southeastern Canada and in the northern United States, from the Great Plains east across the Ohio River valley and New England (Figure 1). Within this core area the highest breeding densities are attained in central Minnesota.
Assigned a Continental Concern Score of 9/20 by Partners in Flight.
A short- to long-distant migrant throughout most of its range, the Common Yellowthroat winters in the southeastern United States, the Caribbean Islands, and Central America. In the southeastern United States, southern California, and Mexico, the Common Yellowthroat is a year-round resident.
An insectivore that gleans prey items from foliage, hovers to snatch items from the vegetation, or catches items in midair.
An open-cup nest usually located on or just a few centimeters above the ground; the structure may include a slight overhang or roof. In very wet habitats the nests are usually placed a bit higher to prevent flooding (up to 3 feet above the ground) and are anchored to the surrounding vegetation.
Since Hatch first wrote his account of the Common Yellowthroat’s status in Minnesota in 1892, the species has been known to be widespread throughout all corners of the state. Even 40 years later, Roberts (1932) wrote:
Rare indeed would it be to find a bushy meadow by brook or lake-side, anywhere within the confines of our state, where the cheery and forcible ditty—witch-t-te witch-t-te—of the beautiful and animated little male Northern Yellow-throat would not greet the late spring and early summer visitor.
At the time of his writing, nesting had been confirmed(nests with eggs or young) in 8 counties across western and central Minnesota: Cass, Douglas, Grant, Hennepin, Isanti, Jackson, Otter Tail, and Pennington. Breeding was inferred in Goodhue and Scott Counties, where nests had been built or were under construction.
Little changed 40 years later, when Green and Janssen (1975) prepared an updated account of the species, noting that the little yellowthroat was the most “widespread and numerous warbler species in the state.” Janssen (1987) added that it was “probably one of the most evenly distributed breeding species in the state.” He included a statewide distribution map that identified 28 counties where the species had been documented nesting since 1970. Hertzel and Janssen (1998) later added 5 more counties to the list. The Minnesota Biological Survey further confirmed the species’ statewide abundance. Through 2014, the 4,616 breeding season locations the survey documented were more than the number of locations tallied for any other breeding bird in the state (Minnesota Department of Natural Resources 2016).
MNBBA participants reported a total of 9,609 Common Yellowthroat records in 80.6% (3,881/4,814) of the surveyed atlas blocks and in 95.5% (2,232/2,337) of the priority blocks. Breeding was confirmed in 291 blocks (Figures 2 and 3; Table 1). The birds were observed in all 87 Minnesota counties and were confirmed breeding in a total of 68 counties. Breeding was less frequently confirmed in the heavily cultivated counties south of the Minnesota River. The Common Yellowthroat was the second most abundant species during the MNBBA, second only to the American Robin, with 10,227 records.
The MNBBA predicted breeding distribution map confirms the abundance of the species documented across Minnesota by previous surveys (Figure 4). High breeding densities are predicted throughout the state; even the intensely cultivated regions of the Red River valley and the upper Minnesota River valley support moderate breeding densities. The only two regions where breeding densities are predicted to be low are the core of the Twin Cities metropolitan region, where suitable habitat is less abundant, and in the more densely forested landscapes of northeastern Minnesota.
In Minnesota little seems to have changed regarding the distribution of the Common Yellowthroat during the past hundred years. Today the Common Yellowthroat appears as widely distributed and as exceedingly common as it did in Roberts’s day. It is as likely to be found in an extensive prairie wetland in Rock County in southwestern Minnesota as it is to be found in a tiny, low-lying, wet opening in the forested landscape of St. Louis County in northeastern Minnesota. But despite its abundance, the significant loss of wetland habitat, especially in the southern and western regions of the state, has no doubt negatively impacted abundance levels. Nevertheless, the little yellowthroat still finds enough suitable habitat in Minnesota’s most intensely cultivated counties to thrive. The same is true throughout its breeding range, where few changes to its overall distribution have been noted (Guzy and Ritchison 1999).
*Note that the definition of confirmed nesting of a species is different for Breeding Bird Atlas projects, including the definition used by the Minnesota Breeding Bird Atlas, compared with a more restrictive definition used by the Minnesota Ornithologists’ Union. For details see the Data Methods Section.