Yellow birds are common in Illinois in spring and summer when the warblers arrive, but in winter, only the American Goldfinch is a commonly spotted yellow bird here.
This guide will help you identify yellow birds in Illinois that you have spotted by giving you pictures, identification information, song recordings, and when they migrate in and out.
Most yellow birds in Illinois are warblers, orioles, or tanagers, and sometimes they are female birds that look very different from the male of their species.
Identifying yellow birds will be a lot easier with all the information in this guide. I have listed these yellow birds in the order of which are most commonly spotted in Illinois according to ebird checklists in spring and summer (May and June).
Yellow birds in Illinois all year: American Goldfinch
Yellow birds in Illinois in summer: Common Yellowthroat, Cedar Waxwing, Baltimore Oriole, Eastern Meadowlark, Yellow Warbler, Dickcissel, Scarlet Tanager, Orchard Oriole, Yellow-throated Vireo, White-eyed Vireo, Summer Tanager, Prothonotary Warbler, Yellow-throated Warbler, Hooded Warbler, Yellow-headed Blackbird, Prairie Warbler, Western Meadowlark, Western Kingbird
Yellow birds in Illinois in winter: Evening Grosbeak
Yellow birds in Illinois during migration: Yellow-rumped Warbler, Palm Warbler, American Redstart, Magnolia Warbler, Nashville Warbler, Black-throated Green Warbler, Wilson’s Warbler, Orange-crowned Warbler, Cape May Warbler, Canada Warbler, Pine Warbler, Blue-winged Warbler
So read on to identify those yellow birds you have spotted.
32 Yellow Birds In Illinois:
1. American Goldfinch
American Goldfinches can be spotted in Illinois all year, but their numbers increase during the breeding season, from July to October. They are recorded in 44% of summer checklists and 25% of winter checklists submitted by bird watchers for the state.
American Goldfinches are popular birds, especially due to the males’ bright yellow and black coloring in spring. The females are duller brown, as are males in winter.
- Spinus tristis
- Length: 4.3-5.1 in (11-13 cm)
- Weight: 0.4-0.7 oz (11-20 g)
- Wingspan: 7.5-8.7 in (19-22 cm)
American Goldfinches can be found in most of North America and are usually resident all year. However, those that breed in Canada and the Midwest migrate to southern US States for winter.
You can find American Goldfinches in weedy fields and overgrown areas foraging for sunflower, thistle, and aster plants. They are also common in suburbs, parks, and backyards.
American Goldfinch Song:
Nests of American Goldfinches are usually in shrubs and are made from rootlets and plant material woven together and held firm to the branch with spiders’ webs. They lay up to seven eggs which take up to two weeks to hatch and two or two and a half weeks for the young to leave the nest.
Attract American Goldfinches to your backyard by planting thistles and milkweed. They will visit most bird feeders and prefer sunflower seed and nyjer seed.
Fun Fact: Cowbirds have no luck in getting the American Goldfinch to raise their young as their solely vegetarian diet is no good for cowbird chicks, and they die within a few days.
2. Common Yellowthroat
Common Yellowthroats are frequently spotted during the breeding season in Illinois. They are mainly spotted from mid-April to October and appear in 33% of summer checklists.
Common Yellowthroats are small songbirds that are brownish on the back and bright yellow underneath, with long tails. The males have black masks across their faces. The brightness of the yellow can vary geographically, and they may be more olive in parts underneath.
- Geothlypis trichas
- Length: 4.3-5.1 in (11-13 cm)
- Weight: 0.3-0.3 oz (9-10 g)
- Wingspan: 5.9-7.5 in (15-19 cm)
Common Yellowthroats spend the summer breeding over most of North America, except Alaska and northern Canada. Some remain all year along the Gulf Coast and Pacific Southwest. Then, they migrate south for winter.
You can find Common Yellowthroats often in marshy or wetland areas and brushy fields living in thick, tangled vegetation.
Common Yellowthroat Song:
Nests of Common Yellowthroats are built by females near the ground in marshy areas and supported by reeds. The nest is made from grass and sedges supported on a platform of leaves and grass. They lay up to six eggs which take around twelve days to hatch and the same for the young to leave the nest.
Attract Common Yellowthroats to large backyards with dense vegetation and native plants to attract insects.
Fun Fact: The black mask of Common Yellowthroats is a sign to courting males that that bird is male, and they attack when fake birds are used, but they do not attack when the bird has no mask.
3. Yellow-rumped Warbler
Yellow-rumped Warblers spend winter in Illinois, but their numbers increase during migration from April to May and September to October. They are recorded in 2% of winter checklists but up to 43% of checklists during migration.
Yellow-rumped Warblers are gray with flashes of yellow on the face, sides, and rump and white in the wings.
Females may be slightly brown, and winter birds are paler brown with bright yellow rumps and sides turning bright yellow and gray again in spring.
- Setophaga coronata
- Length: 4.7-5.5 in (12-14 cm)
- Weight: 0.4-0.5 oz (12-13 g)
- Wingspan: 7.5-9.1 in (19-23 cm)
Yellow-rumped Warblers breed predominantly in Canada and parts of the Rockies and the Appalachian mountains.
They can be seen in the Midwest during migration before overwintering in southern and southwestern US states and the Pacific Coast, and into Mexico and Central America.
You can find Yellow-rumped Warblers in coniferous forests, especially during the breeding season. During winter, they can be found in open areas with fruiting shrubs. In summer, they eat mostly insects and on migration, and in winter, they eat mostly fruit, including bayberry and wax myrtle.
Yellow-rumped Warbler Song:
Nests of Yellow-rumped Warblers are made by females in conifer trees from twigs, pine needles, and grass and lined with soft grass, moss, and hair. They lay up to six eggs which take around two weeks to hatch and a further two weeks to leave the nest.
Attract Yellow-rumped Warblers to your backyard with sunflower seeds, suet, raisins, and peanut butter.
Fun Fact: Yellow-rumped Warblers form flocks numbering thousands in the winter, and they can be aggressive to any other species getting too close.
4. Cedar Waxwing
Cedar Waxwings are mainly spotted in Illinois during summer from July to September and occur in 15% of checklists at this time. However, some do remain here all year.
Cedar Waxwings are elegant social birds that are pale brown on the head, chest, and crest, which fades to gray on the back and wings, and tail. Their belly is pale yellow, and there is bright yellow on the tip. They have a narrow black mask over their eyes and bright red on the wingtips.
- Bombycilla cedrorum
- Length: 5.5-6.7 in (14-17 cm)
- Weight: 1.1 oz (32 g)
- Wingspan: 8.7-11.8 in (22-30 cm)
Cedar Waxwings breed in Canada before heading to the southern US, Mexico, and Central America for winter. They are resident all year in northern US states.
You can find Cedar Waxwings in berry bushes, woodlands, grassland, in towns, and along streams. They feed mainly on fruit but also eat insects in summer.
Cedar Waxwing Call:
Nests of Cedar Waxwing are in trees from twigs, grass, hair, and plant material and lined with pine needles and soft grass. They lay up to six eggs which take around twelve days to hatch and a further sixteen or so days for the young to leave the nest.
Attract Cedar Waxwings to your backyard try planting native trees and shrubs that have small fruit, such as serviceberry, dogwood, juniper, winterberry, and hawthorn. You can also try fruit on platform feeders.
Fun Fact: Cedar Waxwings give gifts when courting a potential mate, which they pass between them.
5. Baltimore Oriole Female
Baltimore Orioles are the third most frequently spotted yellow bird during the breeding season in Illinois. You can spot them from May to September, and they appear in 26% of summer checklists.
Baltimore Orioles are a colorful sign of spring in the east of North America. The adult males are bright orange and black with white wing bars on the black wings.
Females are yellowish underneath and on the head and grayish-brown on the wings, their backs or brownish-yellow. They are about the size of a Robin but more slender and are members of the blackbird family.
- Icterus galbula
- Length: 6.7-7.5 in (17-19 cm)
- Weight: 1.1-1.4 oz (30-40 g)
- Wingspan: 9.1-11.8 in (23-30 cm)
Baltimore Orioles breed in Eastern and Central States, including central-southern Canadian provinces and along the southern border with the US.
Baltimore Orioles then migrate to Florida, Central America, and the Caribbean for winter, leaving as early as July.
Baltimore Orioles can be found high up in open woodland, riverbanks, and forest edges foraging for insects and fruit, and they often come to parks and backyards.
Their diet is insects such as beetles, crickets, grasshoppers, spiders, and snails. They also help eat pest species and eat a wide variety of fruits, but they can damage crops such as raspberries, mulberries, cherries, bananas, and oranges.
Baltimore Oriole sounds: The flute-like sound of Baltimore Orioles is one of the joys of spring. They also make chattering and sharp alarm calls.
Attract Baltimore Orioles to your backyard with oranges cut in half on a platform feeder or hanging them from trees. Also, try oriole feeders filled with sugar water. Planting some fruiting plants and nectar plants such as raspberries, crab apples, and trumpet vines should also attract them.
Fun fact: Baltimore Orioles make incredible hanging bag-like nests woven from fibers.
6. Eastern Meadowlark
Eastern Meadowlarks are near-threatened species, but they can be spotted during the breeding season in Illinois and are recorded in 13% of summer checklists. However, some also hang around all year.
Eastern Meadowlarks are medium-sized songbirds that are bright yellow underneath and pale brown with black marks on the back. They have a distinctive black band across the chest.
- Sturnella magna
- Length: 7.5-10.2 in (19-26 cm)
- Weight: 3.2-5.3 oz (90-150 g)
- Wingspan: 13.8-15.8 in (35-40 cm)
Eastern Meadowlarks are found across eastern US states all year, but they will also breed in the Northeast and Canada before migrating south.
Spring in the East has arrived when the Eastern Meadowlark starts singing and putting on a display, but unfortunately, they are now classed as near-threatened.
You can find Eastern Meadowlarks on the ground in grasslands and prairies, eating insects. They gather in large flocks in fields in winter, looking for seeds.
Eastern Meadowlark sounds: They make flute-like whistles that are clear and melodious.
Nests of Eastern Meadowlarks are on the ground and can be pretty amazing constructions and include tunnels and roofs made of woven grasses.
Fun fact: Eastern Meadowlarks can sing more than 100 songs
7. Yellow Warbler
Yellow Warblers are spotted from April to October in Illinois and occur in 21% of summer checklists.
Yellow Warblers are small bright yellow birds with a yellow-green back, and the males have chestnut streaks on the breast. Females and juveniles are not as bright as males.
- Setophaga petechia
- Length: 4.7-5.1 in (12-13 cm)
- Weight: 0.3-0.4 oz (9-11 g)
- Wingspan: 6.3-7.9 in (16-20 cm)
Yellow Warblers migrate a long distance to breed in Canada and the US, except for southeastern states, before heading back into Central and South America for winter. However, they can be seen during migration in southeastern US states.
You can find Yellow Warblers along streams and wetlands in thickets and along the edges of fields foraging for insects, including caterpillars, midges, beetles, bugs, and wasps.
Yellow Warbler Song:
Nests of Yellow Warblers are in small trees or shrubs and made from bark, grass, and plant material woven together and secured with spider webs to form a cup. It is then lined with softer material such as hair, feathers, and plant down.
They lay up to seven eggs which take around twelve days to hatch and a further ten days for the young to leave the nest.
Attract Yellow Warblers to your backyard with suet, oranges, peanut butter, and plants with berries. Also, plant native plants that attract insects without pesticides or being too tidy! Also, try birdbaths with fountains near secluded planting to provide protection.
Fun Fact: Cowbirds often lay their eggs in Yellow Warblers’ nests, and if detected, then the Yellow Warblers build a new nest on top of the old nest and eggs and start again – up to six times!
8. Palm Warbler
Palm Warblers can be spotted in Illinois during migration from April to May and from September to October. They are most common during the spring migration in May and occur in 36% of checklists at this time.
The palm warbler has a rusty red patch on the top of its head and is a browny-olive color over the rest of its body. They breed in Canada, but they can be found in eastern states during the migration and all year along the far south coast and Florida.
- Setophaga palmarum
- Length: 4.7-5.5 in (12-14 cm)
- Weight: 0.3-0.5 oz (7-13 g)
- Wingspan: 7.9-8.3 in (20-21 cm)
Palm Warblers breed predominantly in Canada and can be seen during migration in eastern US states. Some winter in Florida and along the southeastern coast.
You can spot Palm Warblers mainly during the spring and fall migration in weedy fields, forest edges, and scrubby areas. They are often found foraging along the ground for insects, mixed in with other birds such as Sparrows, Juncos, and Yellow-rumped Warblers.
Palm Warbler song:
Nests of Palm Warblers are in bogs and boreal forests on the ground and are made from grass, sedge, and ferns woven into a cup shape and lined with soft grass, feathers, and animal hair. They lay around five eggs.
Attract Palm Warblers to your backyard by planting native plants that attract insects and also plant bayberry or hawthorn for their berries.
Fun Fact: Unlike most warblers, Palm Warblers usually walk on the ground bobbing their tails while looking for insects.
9. American Redstart Female
American Redstarts spend the breeding season in Illinois, but they are more common during migration in May and September.
Male American Redstarts are mostly black with bright orange patches and a white belly. Females are olive-gray instead of black and have lots of yellow patches.
- Setophaga ruticilla
- Length: 4.3-5.1 in (11-13 cm)
- Weight: 0.2-0.3 oz (6-9 g)
- Wingspan: 6.3-7.5 in (16-19 cm)
American Redstarts breed in eastern US states and Canada and into northwestern US states. They may also be seen during migration in central and western US states.
You can find American Redstarts in deciduous woodlands eating insects and also in backyards and thickets eating berries such as serviceberry and magnolia.
American Redstart song: Their song drops in pitch at the end.
Nests of American Redstarts are close to the trunk in trees or large shrubs and are made from bark, grass, and other plant material. They lay up to five eggs which take just under two weeks to hatch and a week or two for the young to leave the nest.
Attract American Redstarts to your backyard with berry plants such as magnolia and serviceberry.
Fun Fact: American Redstart parents only feed certain chicks each rather than feeding them all.
10. Magnolia Warbler
Magnolia Warblers are mainly spotted in Illinois during spring and fall migration in May and from mid-August to October.
Magnolia Warblers males are black on the back and yellow underneath. They have black streaking forming a ‘necklace’ on their necks and down over their bellies. Females are grayer on the back and lack the distinctive streaking down the belly.
- Setophaga magnolia
- Length: 4.3-5.1 in (11-13 cm)
- Weight: 0.2-0.5 oz (6-15 g)
- Wingspan: 6.3-7.9 in (16-20 cm)
Magnolia Warblers breed across Canada and northeastern US states. They can be seen during migration in the eastern US. They spend the winter in Central America and the Caribbean.
You can find Magnolia Warblers on low branches in forests or parks, so it’s easier to spot them during migration. Their diet is insects and spiders.
Magnolia Warbler song:
Nests of Magnolia Warblers are a loose construction of grass and weeds built close to the trunk of conifer trees. They lay around four eggs that take about twelve days to hatch and a further nine days for the young to leave the nest.
Attract Magnolia Warblers to your backyard with native shrubs and trees for them to rest in during migration.
Fun Fact: Magnolia Warblers show off the white spots on their tails to attract females and to warn off rivals.
11. Nashville Warbler
Nashville Warblers are mostly spotted in Illinois during spring and fall migration from April to May and again from September to October.
Nashville Warblers are mostly yellow underneath but with white lower bellies. They have a greenish-yellow back and gray head with a white eyering. Females and juveniles are less bright than males.
- Leiothlypis ruficapilla
- Length: 4.3-5.1 in (11-13 cm)
- Weight: 0.2-0.5 oz (6.7-13.9 g)
- Wingspan: 6.7-7.9 in (17-20 cm)
Nashville Warblers breed in northeastern US states and Canada, and there is a smaller population in northwestern US states and into British Columbia. They can also be seen during migration in most US states. They spend the winter mainly in Mexico.
You can find Nashville Warblers in scrubby habitats and low deciduous forests hunting for insects.
Nashville Warbler song:
Nests of Nashville Warblers are hidden in shrubs close to the ground. The nest is built from bark, grass, and moss woven into a cup lined with softer material. They lay around four eggs which take about twelve days to hatch and ten days for the young to leave the nest.
Attract Nashville Warblers to your backyard in winter in southern US states with suet.
Fun Fact: Nashville Warbles migrate along the Atlantic Coast in their first year but only migrate inland after that.
Dickcissels are mainly spotted in Illinois during the breeding season from May to September and appear in 9% of checklists at this time.
The male Dickcissel is a striking, chunky bird with its identifiable black throat patch and yellow chest. The yellow eyebrow line is stark against their grayish head. The female also has the same markings but with a slightly paler or duller tone. However, she does not have a black throat patch, and there is only a faint hint of the yellow chest.
- Spiza americana
- Length: 5.5-6.3 in (14-16 cm)
- Weight: 0.9-1.4 oz (25.6-38.4 g)
- Wingspan: 9.8-10.2 in (24.8-26 cm)
Dickcissels breed in the Central and Great Plains of the US before migrating to Mexico, Central America, and northern South America.
You can find Dickcissel in meadows and prairies, tall grasslands, light-grazed pastures, and roadsides.
Dickcissel feed on insects and seeds. In the summer, they feed on grasshoppers, caterpillars, beetles, and crickets. At other times of the year, they may feed on seeds, weeds, grasses, and cultivated grain.
Nests of Dickcissel can be found in thick but small shrubs, grasses, and trees, up to four feet high. The bulky nests are made out of weeds, grass, and leaves and made soft by fine grass and animal hair. The female may lay up to six eggs that hatch in two weeks. The young are ready to fly after around ten days.
Fun fact: When it’s time to migrate during the fall, the Dickcissels come together, and their numbers can reach from thousands to millions when they reach their winter grounds.
13. Black-throated Green Warbler
Black-throated Green Warblers are seen in Illinois during the spring and fall migration and are mainly spotted here in May and September.
Black-throated Green Warblers are small yellow songbirds with a yellow face and head and olive-yellow back. They have black streaking on the sides and wings and are whitish underneath. Males have large black patches on their throats, but on females and juveniles, this is smaller.
- Setophaga virens
- Length: 4.3-4.7 in (11-12 cm)
- Weight: 0.3-0.4 oz (7-11 g)
- Wingspan: 6.7-7.9 in (17-20 cm)
Black-throated Green Warblers can mostly be seen during their long migration over the eastern US up to their breeding grounds in northeastern US states and Canada. Their winter grounds are in Mexico, northern South America, and the Caribbean.
You can find Black-throated Green Warblers high up in forests eating insects, and their black throat is an easier way to tell them apart from other small yellow birds.
Black-throated Green Warblers song:
Nests of Black-throated Green Warblers are in small trees and close to the truck. The nest is made from twigs and bark woven together with spiders’ webs and lined with animal hair, moss, and feathers. They lay around four eggs, which take twelve days to hatch and an additional ten days for the young to leave the nest.
Attract Black-throated Green Warblers to your backyard with mature trees.
Fun Fact: Male Black-throated Green Warblers can sing over 400 times in an hour and perform a ‘gloating’ flight when they have chased off rivals.
14. Scarlet Tanager Female
Scarlet Tanagers spend summer in Illinois, but they are mainly spotted during the spring migration in May and occur in 17% of checklists at this time.
Females Scarlet Tanagers are yellow with darker wings and tails, as are the males after molting.
Male Scarlet Tanagers are bright red birds with black wings and tails. Their bills are thick, and they have pretty short tails.
- Piranga olivacea
- Length: 6.3-6.7 in (16-17 cm)
- Weight: 0.8-1.3 oz (23-38 g)
- Wingspan: 9.8-11.4 in (25-29 cm)
In summer, Scarlet Tanagers breed in eastern forests before migrating to western South America. They can be spotted in southeastern states during their migrations.
Scarlet Tanagers can be hard to spot as they stay high in the forest canopy, but you may see a flash of red as they walk along branches looking for insects.
Scarlet Tanager Song:
Nests of Scarlet Tanagers are built by females in only around four days from loosely woven twigs, grass, and plant material. The inside is lined with soft grass, pine needles, and other soft material. They lay around four eggs, which take two weeks to hatch and up to two weeks for the young to fledge.
Attract Scarlet Tanagers by planting berry plants such as blackberries, raspberries, huckleberries, juneberries, serviceberries, mulberries, strawberries, and chokeberries.
Fun fact: Male Scarlet Tanagers have singing battles which sometimes spill over into actual fighting.
15. Orchard Oriole Female
Orchard Orioles can be seen in Illinois during the breeding season from April until September, and they occur in 6% of summer checklists.
Orchard Orioles females are greenish-yellow overall, paler underneath and darker on the back, with darker wings and white wingbars.
Males look very different with very bold coloring. They have black heads and backs and reddish undersides.
- Icterus spurius
- Length: 5.9-7.1 in (15-18 cm)
- Weight: 0.6-1.0 oz (16-28 g)
- Wingspan: 9.8 in (25 cm)
In summer, Orchard Orioles breed in the eastern half of the United States before migrating south to Mexico and Central America.
Preferring open woodland, Orchard Orioles can also be found along river banks and open shrubland and farms as well as backyards. They build hanging pouch-like nests.
Their diet is mostly insects such as ants, caterpillars, beetles, and grasshoppers, as well as spiders. They will also drink nectar from flowers and eat fruit such as mulberries and chokeberries.
Orchard Oriole sounds: They make a jumbled series of whistles that lasts about 3 to 4 seconds.
Nests of Orchard Orioles are a cup made from long grasses suspended from small branches of trees. They lay 4 – 6 eggs, which take about two weeks to hatch.
Attract Orchard Orioles to your yard with hummingbird feeders or platform feeders with cut oranges or mango. Also, plant native berry plants such as mulberries or chokeberries.
Fun fact: Orchard Orioles are the smallest species of blackbird in North America
16. Yellow-throated Vireo
Yellow-throated Vireos spend the breeding season in Illinois, and they can be spotted here from April to October. They are recorded in 4% of summer checklists.
Yellow-throated Vireoes are bright yellow and gray birds with olive-colored heads. Their throats and chest are bright yellow, and they have white bellies and grayish-brown backs with white streaks.
- Vireo flavifrons
- Length: 5.1-5.9 in (13-15 cm)
- Weight: 0.5-0.7 oz (15-21 g)
- Wingspan: 9.1 in (23 cm)
Yellow-throated Vireos breed in eastern US states and spend the winter in Central and South America and the Caribbean.
You can spot Yellow-throated Vireos in mixed woodland hunting for insects and sometimes berries.
Yellow-throated Vireos song:
Nests of Yellow-throated Vireos are hanging cups built high up in trees. The cup is attached to a fork in a tree and made from bark, grass, pine needles, and other plant material held together and attached with spider webs and insect silk.
They lay around four eggs which take about two weeks to hatch and a further two weeks for the young to leave the nest.
Fun Fact: Male Yellow-throated Vireos place little piles of twigs in several locations, and when females arrive, they pretend to build nests hoping to attract the females.
17. Wilson’s Warbler
Wilson’s Warblers are spotted migrating across Illinois in May and September.
Wilson’s Warblers are tiny round yellow warblers with a large black cap in the males and a smaller black cap in females.
- Cardellina pusilla
- Length: 3.9-4.7 in (10-12 cm)
- Weight: 0.2-0.3 oz (5-10 g)
- Wingspan: 5.5-6.7 in (14-17 cm)
Wilson’s Warblers breed in Canada, Alaska, and northwestern US states but can also be seen across all US states during migration. They winter in Mexico and Central America.
You can find Wilson’s Warblers along streams in thickets and near forest edges foraging for insects and their larvae and spiders.
Wilson’s Warblers song:
Nests of Wilson’s Warblers are well hidden on the ground near trees or shrubs and made from leaves and sedges for the base. Grass, bark, moss, and plant material are woven into a cup shape and lined with soft grass and animal hair. They lay around five eggs which take about eleven days to hatch and an additional ten days for the young to leave the nest.
Attract Wilson’s Warblers to your backyard with native trees and shrubs, but they do not visit feeders.
Fun Fact: Wilson’s Warblers distract potential nest predators by pretending to have a broken wing and drawing the predator away before flying off.
18. White-eyed Vireo
White-eyed Vireos spend the breeding season in Illinois and are mainly seen from April to September. They occur in 2% of summer checklists.
White-eyed Vireos have a gray head with yellow around their forehead and white eyes. Their chests and throats are white, and they have yellow sides, greenish backs with darker wings, and two white wingbars.
- Vireo griseus
- Length: 4.3-5.1 in (11-13 cm)
- Weight: 0.3-0.5 oz (10-14 g)
- Wingspan: 6.7 in (17 cm)
White-eyed Vireos spend the summer across the southeastern United States, hidden in thickets out of sight. Those near the coast remain all year. They winter along the southeast coast of Mexico and the Caribbean.
You can find White-eyed Vireos in overgrown pastures and brambles, feeding on insects, flies, and spiders. In winter, they also eat berries.
White-eyed Vireo song:
Nests of White-eyed Vireos hang from branches in shrubs. They use spiders’ webs to make the initial shape and stick leaves, bark, and plant material to it to form a hanging cup.
They lay around four eggs which take two weeks to hatch and ten days for the young to leave the nest.
Fun Fact: Both male and female White-eyed Vireos sing in winter, but in spring and summer, only the males sing, and oh boy, does he sing from dawn until lunchtime.
19. Orange-crowned Warbler
Orange-crowned Warblers are spotted migrating across Illinois and are mainly spotted from mid-April to May and from September to November.
Orange-crowned Warblers are not as brightly colored as other warblers with their yellow-olive coloring, which is more yellow on the Pacific Coast. Their orange crown is rarely seen.
- Leiothlypis celata
- Length: 4.3-5.5 in (11-14 cm)
- Weight: 0.3-0.4 oz (7-11 g)
- Wingspan: 7.5 in (19 cm)
Orange-crowned Warblers breed in Canada and western US states before migrating to the Pacific, East and Gulf Coasts, and Mexico. They can also be seen during migration in all US states, except the northeastern.
You can find Orange-crowned Warblers in shrubs and low vegetation, but they breed in open woodland. Their diet consists mainly of spiders and insects such as caterpillars and flies. They will also eat fruit, berries, and seeds and regularly visit backyard feeders.
Orange-crowned Warbler Song:
Nests of Orange-crowned Warblers are near to or on the ground and made from dead leaves, twigs, and stems and then lined with soft grass and animal hair. They lay up to six eggs.
Attract Orange-crowned Warblers to your yard with suet and peanut butter or hummingbird feeders filled with sugar water nectar.
Fun Fact: Orange-crowned Warblers will drink from the sapwells of sapsuckers and woodpeckers.
20. Cape May Warbler
Cape May Warblers are spotted in Illinois during spring and fall migration.
Male Cape May Warblers have distinctive heads with chestnut cheeks, dark caps and are framed in a ring of yellow around the neck. They are mottled yellow-olive above and yellow with dark streaks below.
The tiger stripes on the Cape May Warblers chest and unusual dark crown set this warbler apart from other warblers. Female and immature Cape May Warblers are less bright and lack the head coloring of the males.
- Setophaga tigrina
- Length: 4.7-5.1 in (12-13 cm)
- Weight: 0.4-0.5 oz (10.2-15.2 g)
- Wingspan: 7.9-8.7 in (20-22 cm)
Cape May Warblers migrate to breeding grounds in Canada, passing over eastern US states. They spend the winter in the Caribbean and a narrow band of the coast on the Yucatan Peninsula and Central America.
You can find Cape May Warblers in spruce forests in their breeding grounds. However, during migration, they can be spotted in any habitat, especially near the edges of woods and scrub, where they can find the most insects.
Cape May Warbler song:
Nests of Cape May Warblers are built high up in spruce trees and near the truck. The nest is made from twigs, pine needles, and bark formed into a cup lined with animal hair, feathers, and other soft plant material. They lay up to nine eggs.
Attract Cape May Warblers to your backyard with native shrubs and trees that attract insects, and they may come for fruit and hummingbird feeders.
Fun Fact: Cape May Warblers have specially shaped tongues used for lapping up nectar; it is curled to form a tube shape.
21. Summer Tanager Female
Summer Tanagers are commonly spotted in Illinois during the breeding season from April to October and are recorded in 2% of checklists at this time.
Summer Tanager males are bright red birds with large chunky beaks. Females and juveniles are mainly yellow with hints of green on their backs.
- Piranga rubra
- Length: 6.7 in (17 cm)
- Weight: 1.1 oz (30 g)
Summer Tanagers breed in southern and eastern states before heading to Central and South America for winter.
You can find Summer Tanagers in open woodlands, and they feed on bees and wasps in mid-flight. They catch them and kill them by beating them against a branch and rubbing the stinger off before eating them.
Summer Tanager Song:
Nests of Summer Tanagers are made by the females from grass and other plant material towards the end of overhanging branches. The nest is not very well constructed, but they hold around four eggs. The eggs hatch in about ten days, and the young take another ten days to leave the nest.
Attract Summer Tanagers to your backyard with berry bushes and fruit trees.
Fun fact: Young Scarlet Tanagers are fed by their parents for another three weeks after leaving the nest, as they cannot fly very well for a few more weeks.
22. Canada Warbler
Canada Warblers can be spotted in Illinois during spring and fall migration. However, they are most common in May and occur in 12% of checklists at this time.
Canada Warblers are similar in appearance to the Magnolia Warbler and have a similar range. However, they are grayish-black on the back, and the black ‘necklace’ in the males, does not extend over the belly, only over the chest. They have yellow chests, bellies, and throats.
Females and immatures are similar but paler on the back and with a less prominent ‘necklace.’
- Cardellina canadensis
- Length: 4.7-5.9 in (12-15 cm)
- Weight: 0.3-0.5 oz (9-13 g)
- Wingspan: 6.7-8.7 in (17-22 cm)
Canada Warblers breed in Canada and northeastern US states, but they can also be seen during migration across the eastern half of the US. They winter in western South America.
You can find Canada Warblers in rhododendron-filled conifer forests or aspen and poplar forests, foraging for insects and spiders. They are difficult to find as their numbers have been declining.
Canada Warbler song:
Nests of Canada Warblers are built near the ground in shrubs or ferns and woven into a cup from grass, bark, leaves, and other plant material. They lay up to six eggs, which take about twelve days to hatch and a further eight days for the young to leave the nest.
Fun Fact: Canada Warblers are flying machines that travel over 3000 miles each way from their winter to summer grounds.
23. Prothonotary Warbler
Prothonotary Warblers spend the breeding season in Illinois from April to September and occur in 2% of summer checklists.
Prothonotary Warblers are bright yellow with blue-gray wings and tails. They are large for Warblers and have thick black beaks, and are white under their tails. Females are less bright than males.
- Protonotaria citrea
- Length: 5.1 in (13 cm)
- Weight: 0.44 oz (12.5 g)
- Wingspan: 8.75 in (22 cm)
Prothonotary Warblers breed in eastern US states, and they spend the winter in Mexico and down to northern South America.
You can find Prothonotary Warblers near streams and wet woodlands foraging for spiders, insects, and snails. In winter, they will also eat fruit and seeds.
Prothonotary Warblers song:
Nests of Prothonotary Warblers use abandoned woodpecker nest holes in trees that are near water. Males place moss in the hole, and then the female makes a cup-shaped nest from grass and leaves, and other plant material.
They lay up to seven eggs which take about two weeks to hatch and an additional ten days for the young to leave the nest.
Attract Prothonotary Warblers to your backyard with a nest box if you live near wet areas.
Fun Fact: Prothonotaries are the bright yellow robes worn by members of the Roman Catholic church, and that is how the Prothonotary Warblers got their name.
24. Pine Warbler
Pine Warblers can be spotted in Illinois during spring and fall migration. However, they are most common in April and occur in 5% of checklists at this time.
Pine Warblers are small plump yellow birds with olive backs, white lower bellies, and gray wingbars. Females can appear browner and have more white on the belly.
- Setophaga pinus
- Length: 5.1-5.5 in (13-14 cm)
- Weight: 0.3-0.5 oz (9-15 g)
- Wingspan: 7.5-9.1 in (19-23 cm)
Pine Warblers breed in northeastern US states before heading to southeastern US states. Some remain all year in southeastern US states.
You can find Pine Warblers in pine forests, as their name would suggest, often high up in the trees. They eat caterpillars, beetles, spiders, and other insects and larvae, and when the weather is colder, they will eat fruit and seeds.
Pine Warbler Song:
Nests of Pine Warblers are, as you would expect, in pine trees! They are made from twigs, bark, pine needles, and grass, bound with spider silk and lined with feathers and animal hair. They lay up to five eggs which take up to two weeks to hatch and another ten days for the young to leave the nest.
Attract Pine Warblers to your yard with tube feeders and platform feeders with millet, cracked corn, sunflower seeds, peanut hearts, and suet. Also, plant native fruits and vines such as bayberry, grape, sumac, and Virginia creeper.
Fun Fact: Pine Warblers are one of the only warblers to eat seeds mainly, and so you are more likely to see them at backyard feeders.
25. Blue-winged Warbler
Blue-winged Warblers are commonly spotted in Illinois during the spring and fall migration.
Blue-winged Warblers are named for the bluish-gray color of their wings. Adults are yellow-green on top, with a black eye line extending from their long bill across the eye, making them look angry.
Their breast and belly are mostly bright yellow, with females having a slightly paler shade but, more often, indistinguishable from the males. Adults have two white wing bars while juveniles have them too, but they’re so thin, they’re almost invisible.
- Vermivora cyanoptera
- Length: 4.75 inches (12 cm)
- Weight: 0.3 oz (9 g)
- Wingspan: 6.75 – 7.5 inches (17 – 19 cm)
Blue-winged Warblers breed in eastern US states, except southern states, but they can be spotted here during their migration to Mexico, Central America, and the Caribbean for winter.
You can find Blue-winged warblers in abandoned, brushy fields and pastures, forest edges, and thickets. They usually settle in higher elevation areas with a lot of grass and canopy cover.
Blue-winged Warblers feed on insects and spiders they find in various plants and trees. They will even hang upside down from tree branches to check under leaves for insect larvae to feed their young.
Blue-winged Warbler Song:
Nests of Blue-winged Warblers are often found on the ground, in thick bushes, or in the undergrowth. Nests are cup-shaped and made of dead leaves. The female lays four to seven eggs, taking about 12 days to incubate.
Fun Fact: Blue-winged Warblers often hybridize with Golden-winged Warblers to produce Brewster’s and Lawrence’s Warblers.
26. Yellow-throated Warbler
Yellow-throated Warblers are spotted in Illinois during the breeding season and appear in 1% of summer checklists.
Yellow-throated Warblers have gray and white bodies with black stripes and bright yellow throats. They have white bellies and tails when looking from below. Females and juveniles are paler.
- Setophaga dominica
- Length: 5.1-5.5 in (13-14 cm)
- Weight: 0.3-0.4 oz (9-11 g)
- Wingspan: 8.3 in (21 cm)
Yellow-throated Warblers breed across the southeastern US states and spend winter in Florida, the Caribbean, and along the Gulf Coast into Central America. Some birds may remain resident all year in Florida.
You can find Yellow-throated Warblers usually at the top of pine trees looking for insects, but they may forage lower down during migration.
Yellow-throated Warbler song:
Nests of Yellow-throated Warblers are built in Spanish moss hanging from the branches of trees. They make a pocket in the moss and create a nest from grasses, weeds, and moss woven into a cup. They lay around four eggs which take up to two weeks to hatch.
Attract Yellow-throated Warblers to your backyard with native plants and wild and unkept areas of your yard.
Fun Fact: Yellow-throated Warblers are one of the few birds that have increased in number in recent years. Originally their numbers declined, and their range shrank, but they have increased 50% since 1966.
27. Hooded Warbler
Hooded Warblers breed in Illinois and are spotted here from April until mid-October. They appear in 1% of summer checklists.
Male Hooded Warblers have a bright yellow face with a distinctive black hood and throat. They are yellow underneath and olive-green above. They are white under their tail, which is visible when they flick their tails up.
Females and immature are more yellow and without the black face markings.
- Setophaga citrina
- Length: 5.1 in (13 cm)
- Weight: 0.3-0.4 oz (9-12 g)
- Wingspan: 6.9 in (17.5 cm)
Hooded Warblers breed in eastern US states before heading south into Central America and the Caribbean for winter.
You can find Hooded Warblers in forests with dense understories to hunt for insects and spiders.
Hooded Warbler song:
Nests of Hooded Warblers are near forests and clearings and built in shrubs from bark, grass, and plant material woven into a cup. They lay around four eggs, which take twelve days to hatch and a further nine days for the young to leave the nest.
Attract Hooded Warblers to your backyard with native shrubs and plants that attract insects and provide protection.
Fun Fact: Hooded Warblers have white spots on their tails which is thought to startle insects so they can catch them more easily.
28. Yellow-headed Blackbird
Yellow-headed Blackbirds are not very common in Illinois, but they can be spotted here mainly during the breeding season from mid-April to July.
Yellow-headed Blackbirds are striking birds with glossy black bodies, bright yellow heads and chests, and white patches on the wings in males. Females are brown instead of black, and the yellow head is duller. They are larger than the Red-winged Blackbird.
- Xanthocephalus xanthocephalus
- Length: 8.3-10.2 in (21-26 cm)
- Weight: 1.6-3.5 oz (44-100 g)
- Wingspan: 16.5-17.3 in (42-44 cm)
Yellow-headed Blackbirds breed in western and prairie wetlands and nest in the reeds. They forage over surrounding wetlands, grasslands, and fields, mostly for insects in the summer.
After breeding, Yellow-headed Blackbirds migrate to fields and farmland in Southwest states and Mexico for the winter in large flocks.
Yellow-headed Blackbirds feed on insects in summer and seeds and grains in winter.
Yellow-headed Blackbirds sounds: The screeching buzz at the end of a few more musical notes is very distinctive.
Nests of Yellow-headed Blackbirds are made from long wet stems weaved together and attached to cattails or reeds over the water. They lay 2 – 5 eggs taking about two weeks to hatch and another week or two before fledging.
Attract Yellow-headed Blackbirds to your yard with sunflower seeds.
Fun fact: Yellow-headed Blackbirds hunt for insects by flipping over stones to flush them out.
29. Prairie Warbler
Prairie Warblers spend the breeding season in Illinois and are usually spotted here from mid-April to June.
Prairie Warblers are small songbirds that are olive green on the back and yellow on the throat and belly. They have black streaks on the sides and a dark semicircle under the eye. Female Prairie Warblers are duller in color.
- Setophaga discolor
- Length: 4.3 in (11 cm)
- Weight: 0.2-0.3 oz (6.4-8.8 g)
Prairie Warblers breed in eastern and southeastern US states and spend the winter in Florida and the Caribbean and some coastal areas in Central America.
Some remain all year in Florida and are considered separate subspecies, but they are slightly larger.
Although they are called prairie warblers, they actually live in fields and forests where they eat insects, spiders, and snails. You can spot them bobbing their tails while moving along branches looking for food.
Prairie Warbler Song: They have a distinctive rising song.
Nests of Prairie Warblers are hidden in trees and shrubs and made from plant material and leaves and lined with soft feathers and fur. They lay up to five eggs, which take about two weeks to hatch and around ten days for the young to leave the nest.
Fun Fact: Male Prairie Warblers sing two songs, one that is to attract females and one that is to scare off other males.
30. Western Meadowlark
Western Meadowlarks are not very common in Illinois, but they can be spotted here during summer.
With their bright yellow bellies and melodious song, Western Meadowlarks can brighten up your day.
Western Meadowlarks are part of the blackbird family and are about the size of a Robin with shades of brown and white upperparts and a black V-shaped band across the bright yellow chest that turns gray in winter.
- Sturnella neglecta
- Length: 6.3-10.2 in (16-26 cm)
- Weight: 3.1-4.1 oz (89-115 g)
- Wingspan: 16.1 in (41 cm)
Western Meadowlarks that breed in northern US states and Canada migrate to more southern states in winter. However, those in the west and midwest remain all year.
You can find Western Meadowlarks usually on the ground in grasslands, meadows, and fields. They forage for food alone or in small flocks and are not usually found in woods or dense shrubby vegetation.
Western Meadowlarks’ diet consists of insects and seeds. They eat more insects n summer and more seeds and grain in winter.
Western Meadowlark sounds: They make a pleasant series of tweets, warbles, and whistles.
Check out the video below to hear the beautiful whistles and warbles of this songbird.
Nests of Western Meadowlarks are in depressions in the ground in grasslands. This is filled with soft material such as grass and may have a roof over the top, also made from grass and plant stalks.
Attract Western Meadowlarks to your backyard with sunflower seeds and cracked corn.
Fun fact: Western Meadowlarks have been chosen as the state bird for 6 US states.
31. Western Kingbird
Although not very common here, Western Kingbirds can be spotted in Illinois during the breeding season from May to October.
Western Kingbirds are large flycatchers with yellow bellies, whitish chests, gray heads, grayish-brown wings, and black tails with white edges.
- Tyrannus verticalis
- Length: 7.9-9.4 in (20-24 cm)
- Weight: 1.3-1.6 oz (37-46 g)
- Wingspan: 15.0-16.1 in (38-41 cm)
Western Kingbirds breed in summer in western US states, the plains area, and into Canada. They migrate to Mexico and Central America, but some may overwinter in the south of Florida.
You can find Western Kingbirds in open habitats, and they are often found perched on fences and utility lines, waiting for insects to fly by before catching them in mid-flight.
Western Kingbird call:
Nests of Western Kingbirds are usually built in trees or shrubs, but they also nest in human-made buildings or posts. The nest is made by the female from twigs, grass, and plant material woven into a cup.
They lay up to seven eggs which take two or nearly three weeks to hatch, and the same again for the young to leave the nest.
Attract Western Kingbirds to your yard by making it insect-friendly and planting elderberry or hawthorn, from which they will also eat the fruit.
Fun Fact: Western Kingbird parents will feed their young for a further three weeks after they leave the nest.
32. Evening Grosbeak
Evening Grosbeaks are vulnerable species in Illinois, but they are spotted here in winter.
Evening Grosbeaks are chunky birds with big bills and a striking yellow and black pattern. Adult males have a bright yellow stripe over their eyes, making them look fierce. Their heads are black, with gray necks, and their chest and belly are yellow. They also have a white patch on their wings.
Females and juvenile males have greenish bills, mostly gray bodies, black and white wings, and a yellow tinge to the neck.
- Hesperiphona vespertina
- Length: 16 to 22 cm (6.3 to 8.7 in)
- Weight: 38.7 to 86.1 g (1.37 to 3.04 oz)
- Wingspan: 30 to 36 cm (12 to 14 in)
Evening Grosbeaks remain all year in southern Canada and down the west coast to northern California. However, when cone crops are poor, they will migrate south to most US states.
You can find Evening Grosbeaks in forests and mountain regions. During the winter, they’re often attracted to bird feeders in backyards, most often because it’s an easy food supply.
Evening Grosbeaks naturally feed on flower buds during spring; insect larvae from treetops during the summer; and in the winter, they flock to backyard feeders or feast on seeds, berries, and small fruit.
Evening Grosbeak Song:
Nests of Evening Grosbeaks are usually found up to 100 feet above ground in pine trees. The nests are loosely made, composed of twigs, rootlets, grass, moss, and pine needles. There are usually up to five eggs laid by the female, and she incubates them for two weeks until they hatch.
Attract Evening Grosbeaks to your backyard during winter with sunflower seeds, berries, and maple buds.
Fun fact: Evening Grosbeaks have such powerful bills that they can crush seeds that are too hard to open for other smaller birds, so these birds hang around to eat whatever is left behind.
How Frequently Yellow Birds are Spotted in Illinois in Summer and Winter
Checklists are a great resource to find out which birds are commonly spotted in your state. These lists show which yellow birds are most frequently recorded on checklists on ebird in summer and winter in Illinois.
Yellow Birds in Illinois in Summer:
American Goldfinch 44.8%
Common Yellowthroat 33.7%
Baltimore Oriole 26.8%
Yellow Warbler 21.2%
Cedar Waxwing 15.8%
Eastern Meadowlark 13.1%
American Redstart 11.4%
Yellow-rumped Warbler 10.6%
Palm Warbler 10.6%
Nashville Warbler 7.4%
Scarlet Tanager 7.3%
Magnolia Warbler 7.2%
Orchard Oriole 6.9%
Black-throated Green Warbler 5.9%
Yellow-throated Vireo 4.9%
Wilson’s Warbler 4.3%
White-eyed Vireo 2.9%
Summer Tanager 2.7%
Canada Warbler 2.7%
Prothonotary Warbler 2.5%
Blue-winged Warbler 2.2%
Cape May Warbler 2.0%
Orange-crowned Warbler 2.0%
Yellow-throated Warbler 1.6%
Hooded Warbler 1.2%
Pine Warbler 1.1%
Yellow-headed Blackbird 0.6%
Prairie Warbler 0.5%
Western Meadowlark 0.4%
Western Kingbird 0.2%
Evening Grosbeak <0.1%
Yellow Birds in Illinois in Winter:
American Goldfinch 25.7%
Cedar Waxwing 2.5%
Yellow-rumped Warbler 1.6%
Eastern Meadowlark 1.0%
Evening Grosbeak 0.1%
Pine Warbler 0.1%
Orange-crowned Warbler 0.1%
Western Meadowlark <0.1%
Palm Warbler <0.1%
Cape May Warbler <0.1%
Common Yellowthroat <0.1%
Nashville Warbler <0.1%
Yellow-headed Blackbird <0.1%
Yellow-throated Warbler <0.1%
American Redstart <0.1%
Baltimore Oriole <0.1%
Scarlet Tanager <0.1%
Summer Tanager <0.1%
White-eyed Vireo <0.1%
Wilson’s Warbler <0.1%
Prothonotary Warbler <0.1%