Yellow birds are common in Montana in spring and summer when the warblers arrive, but in winter, there are only a few species of yellow birds here.
This guide will help you identify yellow birds in Montana that you have spotted by giving you pictures, identification information, song recordings, and when they migrate in and out.
Most yellow birds in Montana 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 Montana according to ebird checklists in spring and summer (May and June).
Yellow birds in Montana in summer: Western Meadowlark, American Goldfinch, Yellow Warbler, Yellow-rumped Warbler, Cedar Waxwing, Evening Grosbeak, Western Tanager, Yellow-headed Blackbird, Common Yellowthroat, Western Kingbird, Orange-crowned Warbler, Wilson’s Warbler, American Redstart, Nashville Warbler, Baltimore Oriole, Orchard Oriole, Dickcissel
Yellow birds in Montana in winter: Lesser Goldfinch
Yellow birds in Montana during migration: Magnolia Warbler, Palm Warbler, Cape May Warbler, Canada Warbler, Scarlet Tanager
So read on to identify those yellow birds you have spotted.
23 Yellow Birds In Montana:
1. Western Meadowlark
Western Meadowlarks are frequently spotted during the breeding season in Montana. They are recorded in 27% of summer checklists submitted by bird watchers for the state.
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.
2. American Goldfinch
American Goldfinches spend the breeding season in Montana, but they also remain in the south of the state all year. They are recorded in 16% of summer checklists and 7% of winter checklists 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.
3. Yellow Warbler
Yellow Warblers are the most frequently spotted yellow birds in Montana during the breeding season. They are mainly spotted from May to October and occur in up to 30% 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 spiders 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!
4. Yellow-rumped Warbler
Yellow-rumped Warblers can be spotted during the breeding season in western Montana, but their numbers increase during the migration in May and September. They are recorded in 21% of summer checklists and up to 39% 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.
5. Cedar Waxwing
Cedar Waxwings are mainly seen in Montana during the breeding season, but some also remain here all year. They are recorded in 16% of summer checklists and 2% of winter checklists.
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 plant 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.
6. Evening Grosbeak
Evening Grosbeaks are vulnerable species in Montana but they can be spotted here during the breeding season in the west of the state and some even remain in the northwest all year. They occur in 8% of summer checklists.
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.
7. Western Tanager
Western Tanagers are spotted in Montana during the breeding season and are mainly seen from May to September, but a few stay until January. They are recorded in 12% of summer checklists.
Western Tanagers have a flaming orange-red head, yellow body, and black wings. Females have only red faces, and their bodies are yellow-green.
- Piranga ludoviciana
- Length: 6.3-7.5 in (16-19 cm)
- Weight: 0.8-1.3 oz (24-36 g)
Western Tanagers breed in western US states and western Canada. They can be seen during migration in the east and south of this range. Winter is spent in Mexico and Central America.
You can find Western Tanagers in open conifer forests, but they stay hidden in the canopy, despite their bright coloring. Their numbers are actually increasing in the last forty years.
They eat mainly insects in summer, such as wasps and grasshoppers, and in the fall and winter, they also eat fruit.
Western Tanager Song:
Nests of Western Tanagers are built by females in open areas of trees and are made from large twigs and then roots and smaller twigs to weave them into a sturdy cup shape. The nest is lined with soft grass, pine needles, hair, and other plant materials. They lay around four eggs which take around two weeks to hatch.
Attract Western Tanagers with dried fruit, cut oranges, and other fruits from bird feeders.
Fun fact: Western Tanagers’ red coloring probably comes from eating insects that produce a pigment that they cannot produce themselves.
8. Yellow-headed Blackbird
Yellow-headed Blackbirds spend summer in Montana and are mainly spotted from April to October. They appear in 11% of summer checklists.
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.
9. Common Yellowthroat
Common Yellowthroats are mainly spotted in Montana during the breeding season and appear in 11% of summer checklists. They arrive in May and start to migrate in October.
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.
10. Western Kingbird
Western Kingbirds are spotted in Montana during summer from May to September and occur in 7% of checklists at this time.
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.
11. Orange-crowned Warbler
Orange-crowned Warblers spend the breeding season in western Montana and are spotted during migration across the rest of the state. They are recorded in 4% of summer checklists and up to 10% of checklists during migration.
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.
12. Wilson’s Warbler
Wilson’s Warblers are spotted in Montana during spring and fall migration, but some also spend the breeding season in the west of the state.
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.
13. American Redstart Female
American Redstarts are spotted in Montana during summer from May to September and occur in 4% of checklists at this time.
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.
14. Nashville Warbler
Nashville Warblers can be spotted in western Montana during summer from mid-April until October and occur in 1% of checklists at this time.
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.
15. Baltimore Oriole Female
Baltimore Orioles are not very common in Montana but they spend summer here from May to September.
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.
16. Lesser Goldfinch
Lesser Goldfinches are mainly found in the west and south of Montana from November to May, but some stay all year.
Lesser Goldfinches are tiny bright yellow and black songbirds with long pointed wings and short notched tails. Females have olive backs and are more dull yellow underneath.
- Spinus psaltria
- Length: 3.5-4.3 in (9-11 cm)
- Weight: 0.3-0.4 oz (8-11.5 g)
- Wingspan: 5.9-7.9 in (15-20 cm)
Lesser Goldfinches live in the southwestern US states and the West Coast all year, but those that breed in the interior of western US states migrate for winter.
You can find Lesser Goldfinch in large flocks in open habitats, including thickets, weedy fields, forest clearings, parks, and gardens. They forage for seeds, especially sunflower seeds, but also fruits from elderberry, coffeeberry, and buds from cottonwoods, willows, sycamores, and alders.
Lesser Goldfinch call/Song:
Nests of Lesser Goldfinches are usually near streams, hidden in trees and shrubs, and made from bark, leaves, and other plant material held together in a cup shape by spiders’ webs. They lay up to six eggs which take around two weeks to hatch and the same for the young to leave the nest.
Attract Lesser Goldfinches to your yard with sunflower seeds and nyjer in tube feeders or platform feeders.
Fun Fact: Lesser Goldfinches’ arch rival is the bigger Lawrence’s Goldfinch, and they will chase them away from feeders and nesting areas, but they will mix with other birds.
17. Orchard Oriole Female
Orchard Orioles are spotted in eastern Montana during summer from mid-May to August.
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
18. Magnolia Warbler
Magnolia Warblers are not often seen in Montana but some can be spotted here during migration.
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.
19. Palm Warbler
Palm Warblers are not often spotted in Montana but there have been some sightings here during migration.
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.
20. Cape May Warbler
Cape May Warblers have occasionally been spotted in Montana during 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.
They feed mainly on spruce budworm in summer, but in winter, they will eat fruit and nectar, and they will use hummingbird feeders.
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. Canada Warbler
Canada Warblers are not commonly seen in Montana but a few of them are spotted migrating across the state.
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.
22. Scarlet Tanager Female
Scarlet Tanagers are occasionally spotted in Montana during migration.
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.
Dickcissels are not often seen in Montana but you might get lucky and spot them during summer from June to August.
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.
How Frequently Yellow Birds are Spotted in Montana 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 Montana.
Yellow Birds in Montana in Summer:
Yellow Warbler 30.1%
Western Meadowlark 27.1%
Yellow-rumped Warbler 21.4%
American Goldfinch 16.8%
Cedar Waxwing 16.1%
Western Tanager 12.6%
Yellow-headed Blackbird 11.7%
Common Yellowthroat 11.5%
Evening Grosbeak 8.5%
Western Kingbird 7.9%
Orange-crowned Warbler 4.3%
American Redstart 4.3%
Wilson’s Warbler 2.2%
Nashville Warbler 1.6%
Baltimore Oriole 1.2%
Orchard Oriole 0.7%
Lesser Goldfinch 0.3%
Magnolia Warbler 0.1%
Palm Warbler <0.1%
Cape May Warbler <0.1%
Scarlet Tanager <0.1%
Canada Warbler <0.1%
Yellow Birds in Montana in Winter:
American Goldfinch 7.8%
Cedar Waxwing 2.8%
Evening Grosbeak 2.8%
Western Meadowlark 0.4%
Lesser Goldfinch 0.3%
Yellow-headed Blackbird 0.2%
Yellow-rumped Warbler 0.1%
Western Tanager <0.1%
Common Yellowthroat <0.1%
Orange-crowned Warbler <0.1%
Nashville Warbler <0.1%
Wilson’s Warbler <0.1%