E-Fauna BC: Electronic Atlas of the Wildlife of British Columbia

Setophaga dominica (Linnaeus, 1766)
Yellow-Throated Warbler
Family: Parulidae

Species account author: Jamie Fenneman
Photo of species

© Nick Saunders  Email the photographer   (Photo ID #10411)

E-Fauna BC Static Map
Distribution of Setophaga dominica in British Columbia
Details about map content are available here.

Species Information

Adult male
The upperparts (back, scapulars, rump) are unmarked grey. The wings are blackish with narrow grey feather edges on the flight feathers and upperwing coverts as well as two bold, white wing bars. The slender, square-tipped or slightly notched tail is blackish with narrow grey outer edges to the feathers and extensive white on the inner webs of all but the central pair of feathers (white patches diminishing in size from outer edge of tail towards central tail feathers). The forehead is black, extending onto the grey crown as narrow black streaks; the nape and hindneck are clear grey. The lores and ear coverts are black, separated from the dark crown by a long, narrow white supercilium, and separated from the grey sides of the neck by an oval-shaped white patch; depending on the subspecies, there may be a yellow loral spot on the front portion of the supercilium between the eye and the bill. The black ‘mask’ extends down the side of the throat and onto the sides of the breast, where it breaks into bold, irregular black streaks and spots that continue down the sides and flanks of the otherwise white underparts. There is a narrow white crescent below the eye. The throat and upper breast are bright yellow, often separated from the bill by a white chin (depending on subspecies). The iris is dark, the short, slender, pointed bill is blackish, and the legs and feet are dusky-grey.

Adult female
The adult female is very similar to the adult male, but is slightly duller overall, with reduced black on the crown and narrower, greyer streaks on the sides and flanks. The white in the outer tail feathers is less extensive than in the male, and is primarily confined to the two outermost feathers.

All immature plumages (which are held throughout the first fall and winter) resemble the adult female, but are even duller (particularly immature females). Immature males are very similar to adult females, and some may not be distinguishable. Immature females, however, have the grey of the face replaced with dark grey, and have less extensive and greyer streaking on the sides and flanks; immature females often have a slight brownish tinge to the plumage as well as reduced yellow on the throat, and the white in the outer tail feathers is even less extensive.

Total Length: 12.5-14 cm
Mass: 9-11 g

Source: Curson et al. (1994); Hall (1996); Dunn and Garrett (1997)



This is a very distinctive warbler and, although there are several closely-related neotropical species that are similar, there are no warblers in B.C. or elsewhere in Canada that could present a problem for identification.

The male’s song is a descending series of clear, slurred notes that usually ends with a single sharply upslurred note: teedle-teedle-teedle-teedle-tsew-tsew-tsew-tsweep. The call note is high, soft chip or tsip; the flight call (which is also given when perched) is a high, clear see.

Source: Hall (1996); Dunn and Garrett (1997)

Breeding Ecology

The Yellow-throated Warbler is a non-breeding vagrant in B.C.
Foraging Ecology

This species usually feeds within the forest canopy, where it creeps methodically amongst the primary tree branches and probes crevices in the bark in a nuthatch-like manner that is reminiscent of the Black-and-white Warbler. It also feeds in a more typical warbler fashion by gleaning prey from twigs and leaves. It feeds primarily on insects and spiders, but will come to bird feeders during the winter, especially if suet is present. The single record for British Columbia was of a bird visiting a bird feeder in a residential area. This species sometimes associates with mixed-species feeding flocks during winter and migration.

Source: Curson et al. (1994); Dunn and Garrett (1997)


The single British Columbia record is from a rural residential area with wet mixed and coniferous forests nearby as well as an abundance of ornamental vegetation. Vagrants could occur in any forested or shrubby habitat, particularly where warblers and other neotropical migrants congregate during migration.


Global Range

Breeds in the eastern United States from southern Wisconsin, southern Michigan, and New Jersey south to central Texas, the Gulf coast, and central Florida; it is rare but regular north into southeastern Canada (especially Ontario) during the spring and fall, but has not been recorded breeding. An isolated resident population is found in the Bahamas. The species winters in southern Florida and the Caribbean, as well as from southern Texas south through eastern and southern Mexico to northern Central America.
BC Distribution

This species is known only from a single long-staying and photo-documented record from the Gulf Islands. This eastern warbler is casual elsewhere throughout western North America, including a single record for Washington, with most observations in Colorado, Arizona, and (especially) California. The single B.C. record is particularly unusual in that it occurred during the winter; most other records from western North America are during spring or fall migration. Curiously, the single Washington record is also from the winter months.

The single British Columbia record of Yellow-throated Warbler is as follows:

1.(1) adult male; January 3-25, 1998; Gabriola Island, near Nanaimo


Population and Conservation Status

This is a vagrant in B.C. (and elsewhere in Canada) and is not recognized as a species of conservation concern by either COSEWIC (Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada) or the British Columbia CDC (Conservation Data Centre).


Four subspecies of Yellow-throated Warbler are currently recognized, although only two are widespread in North America. Most observations of vagrants in western North America are of individuals belonging to the northern and western subspecies (D.d.albilora [Ridgway]), which is widespread west of the Appalachians and is identified by its pure white supercilium and white chin separating the yellow throat from the bill. However, a handful of western records, including the single B.C. record, are referable to the southern and eastern subspecies D.d.dominica, which is distinguished by the yellow loral spot in the supercilium between the eye and the bill and the fully yellow chin.

Recent research has suggested that the currently-recognized subspecies of Yellow-throated Warbler may be indistinguishable over much of their ranges, and some authors (e.g., McKay [2008]) have provided intriguiging evidence in support of merging these subspecies into a single taxon. However, this treatment has yet to gain widespread acceptance and is not followed here.

Source: Hall (1996); Dunn and Garrett (1997); Campbell et al. (2001); McKay (2008)

Status Information

Origin StatusProvincial StatusBC List
(Red Blue List)
NativeSNAAccidentalNot Listed
BC Ministry of Environment: BC Species and Ecosystems Explorer--the authoritative source for conservation information in British Columbia.

Synonyms and Alternate Names

Dendroica dominica (Linnaeus)

Additional Range and Status Information Links

Additional Photo Sources

General References

Recommended citation: Author, Date. Page title. In Klinkenberg, Brian. (Editor) 2021. E-Fauna BC: Electronic Atlas of the Fauna of British Columbia [efauna.bc.ca]. Lab for Advanced Spatial Analysis, Department of Geography, University of British Columbia, Vancouver. [Accessed: 2023-10-02 2:50:46 PM]
Disclaimer: The information contained in an E-Fauna BC atlas pages is derived from expert sources as cited (with permission) in each section. This information is scientifically based.  E-Fauna BC also acts as a portal to other sites via deep links.  As always, users should refer to the original sources for complete information.  E-Fauna BC is not responsible for the accuracy or completeness of the original information.

© E-Fauna BC 2021: An initiative of the Spatial Data Lab, Department of Geography, UBC