Yellow Birds in North Carolina – Picture and ID Guide

pine warbler

Yellow birds are more common in North Carolina in spring and summer when the warblers and tanagers arrive.

In winter Yellow-rumped Warblers and American Goldfinch are the most commonly spotted yellow birds in North Carolina. 

In Summer Great-crested Flycatchers, Summer Tanagers, Scarlet Tanagers, Hooded Warblers, Orchard Orioles, American Redstart, Prothonotary Warblers breed here.

Common_birds_-_part_1 x

American Goldfinch, Common Yellowthroats, Pine Warblers, White-eyed Vireo, Cedar Waxwing and Eastern Meadowlarks remain all year in North Carolina.

This guide will help you to identify yellow birds of North Carolina that you have spotted by giving you pictures, identification information and when they migrate in and out.

These yellow birds in North Carolina are those that are most commonly spotted according to ebird checklists.

So read on to identify those yellow birds you have spotted.

Yellow Birds in North Carolina in Spring/Summer

  1. American Goldfinch 28%
  2. Great Crested Flycatcher 23%
  3. Common Yellowthroat 19%
  4. Pine Warbler 17%
  5. summer tanager female 13%
  6. White-eyed Vireo 11%
  7. Hooded Warbler 10%
  8. Cedar Waxwing 9%
  9. Scarlet Tanager female 9%
  10. Orchard Oriole Female 8%

Yellow Birds in North Carolina in Winter

  1. Yellow-rumped Warbler 30%
  2. American Goldfinch 27%
  3. Yellow-bellied Sapsucker 16%
  4. Pine Warbler 15%
  5. Cedar Waxwing 6%
  6. Eastern Meadowlark 5%

1. Yellow-rumped Warbler

yellow rumped warbler

Yellow-rumped Warblers spend the winter in North Carolina. They arrive here from late September and leave in April and May.

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.

After breeding predominantly in Canada, they migrate in large numbers south across most of the southern and central states and the Pacific Coast and throughout Mexico and Central America. 

  • 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 can be found in coniferous forests, especially during the breeding season. During winter, they can be found in open areas with fruiting shrubs. In summer, they eat insects primarily and on migration and in winter, they mostly fruit, including bayberry and wax myrtle. 

You can attract Yellow-rumped Warblers to your backyard with sunflower seeds, suet, raisins, and peanut butter.

2. American Goldfinch

American goldfinch male

American Goldfinch are common yellow birds in North Carolina all year.

American Goldfinches are popular birds with the males bright yellow and black coloring in spring.  The females are more dull brown, as are males in winter.

  • 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. They breed in Canada and the Mid-West and Canada before migrating to southern states. They remain all year in the rest of the US.

They can be found in weedy fields and overgrown areas foraging for sunflower, thistle, and aster plants. They are also common in suburbs, parks, and backyards.

To attract more American Goldfinches to your backyard, try planting thistles and milkweed.  They will visit most bird feeders and prefer sunflower seed and nyjer seed. 

3. Great Crested Flycatcher


Great Crested Flycatchers migrate into North Carolina in April for breeding and leave in September.

Great Crested Flycatchers are brown on the back with a yellow belly and gray throat. They have reddish flashed in the wing and tail feathers. The crest is not very obvious.

  • Length: 6.7-8.3 in (17-21 cm)
  • Weight: 0.9-1.4 oz (27-40 g)
  • Wingspan: 13.4 in (34 cm)

Great Crested Flycatchers breed over much of Eastern North America and spend the winter in southern Florida, southern Mexico, and Central America.

They sit perched up high in woodland, waiting for large insects flying, such as butterflies, grasshoppers, moths, wasps, and spiders. They can be found in mixed woodlands and at the edges of clearings, parks, and tree-lined neighborhoods or perched on fenceposts or other artificial structures.  They will also eat berries and small fruit.

To attract more Great Crested Flycatchers to your backyard, try planting native plants and leaving brush piles to attract insects.  plant berry-producing plants and put up a nest box as they readily take up residence in them. 

4. Common Yellowthroat

Common Yellowthroat

Common Yellowthroats are common yellow birds in North Carolina all year, but they are more common during migration and in the summer.

Common Yellowthroats are small songbirds that are brownish on the back and with bright yellow breasts and with paler yellow bellies and with long tails.  The males have a black mask across the face.  The brightness of the yellow can vary geographically and they may be more olive in parts underneath.

  • 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.

They can be found in the spring and summer, often in marshy or wetland areas and brushy fields living in thick, tangled vegetation. 

They eat mostly insects and will be found in large backyards that have dense vegetation.

5. Pine Warbler

pine warbler

Pine Warblers are common yellow birds in North Carolina all year. However, their numbers also swell during March and September, with migrating Pine Warblers passing through.

Pine Warblers are small plump yellow birds with olive backs, yellow throats, chests and upper bellies and white lower bellies, and gray wingbars.  Females can appear browner and have more white on the belly.

  • 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)

They breed in Northeastern US states before heading south. Some remain all year in Southeastern US states.

Pine Warblers can be found 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.

You can attract more Pine Warblers 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.

6. Summer Tanager Female

summer tanager

Summer Tanagers breed in North Carolina and they are common between April and October. Some Summer Tanagers will stay here all year.

Summer Tanager males are bright red birds and females are yellow. 

  • Piranga rubra
  • Length: 6.7 in (17 cm)
  • Weight: 1.1 oz (30 g)

They breed in southern and eastern states before heading to Central and South America for winter.

They are forest songbirds and can be found in open woodlands and feed on bees and wasps in mid-flight. They catch them and kill them by beating them against a branch and rubs the stinger off before eating them.

You can attract more Summer Tanagers to your backyard with berry bushes and fruit trees.

7. White-eyed Vireo

White-eyed Vireo

White-eyed Vireos can be spotted in North Carolina all year, but they are more common in the summer between April and October when more migrate in for breeding.

A small songbird in gray and yellow tones. White-eyed Vireos have a gray head, white chest and throat and yellow sides with darker wings and two white wingbars with black streaking.

They have yellow across the eyes and forehead and a white eye.

  • Length: 4.3-5.1 in (11-13 cm)
  • Weight: 0.3-0.5 oz (10-14 g)
  • Wingspan: 6.7 in (17 cm)

Spending the summer across the southeastern United States, hidden in thickets out of sight. They winter along the southeastern coast, Mexico and the Caribbean.

White-eyed Vireos feed on insects, flies and spiders found in overgrown pastures and brambles.

8. Hooded Warbler

Hooded warbler

Hooded Warblers breed in North Carolina and can be spotted here between April and mid-October.

Male Hooded Warblers are black and yellow birds. Females lack the black face markings that the males have. 

  • Length: 7.1-7.9 in (18-20 cm)
  • Weight: 0.8 oz (24 g)
  • Wingspan: 9.1-11.0 in (23-28 cm)

They breed in the southwestern US states, making hanging nests on the undersides of palm fronds.

They will come to nectar feeders or use fruit to attract orioles.

9. Cedar Waxwing

cedar waxwing

Cedar waxwing remain all year in North Carolina.

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.

  • 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 for winter. They are resident all year in Northern US states.

They make a high-pitched call and can be found in berry bushes, woodlands, and streams.

To attract Cedar Waxwings to your backyard, plant native trees and shrubs with small fruit such as serviceberry, dogwood, juniper, winterberry, and hawthorn. You can also try fruit on platform feeders.

10. Scarlet Tanager Female

scarlet tanager (Piranga olivacea) female

Female Scarlet Tanagers are yellow birds in North Carolina during the summer from April until mid-October for breeding. They are more common in May and late September when their numbers increase with migrating Scarlet Tanagers passing through.

Scarlet Tanagers are bright red birds with black wings and tails. Females are yellow birds with darker wings and 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)

They breed in eastern forests in summer before migrating to South America.

Scarlet Tanagers can be hard to spot as they stay high in the forest canopy. 

You can attract more Scarlet Tanagers by planting berry plants such as blackberries, raspberries, huckleberries, juneberries, serviceberries, mulberries, strawberries and chokeberries.

11. Orchard Oriole Female

orchard oriole female

Orchard Orioles breed in North Carolina and can be spotted here between April and the end of 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 black heads and backs and with reddish undersides.

  • Length: 5.9-7.1 in (15-18 cm)
  • Weight: 0.6-1.0 oz (16-28 g)
  • Wingspan: 9.8 in (25 cm)

Orchard Orioles breed in central and eastern states in summer 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 primarily insects such as ants, caterpillars, beetles, grasshoppers, and spiders. They will also drink nectar from flowers and eat fruit such as mulberries and chokeberries.

To attract Orchard Orioles to your yard, try hummingbird feeders or platform feeders with cut oranges or mango.  Also, plant native berry plants such as mulberries or chokeberries.

12. American Redstart Female

Female American redstart

American Redstarts breed in North Carolina, but their numbers swell during the spring and fall migration. They can be spotted here between April and November.

Female American Redstarts are olive-gray with bright yellow patches on their sides, wings and tail. Male American Redstarts are black and bright orange birds with a white lower belly. 

  • 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)

They have a vast breeding range across eastern US states and Canada and across to northwestern US states and Canada. They may also be seen during migration in central states.

They can be found in deciduous woodlands eating insects and also in backyards and thickets eating berries such as serviceberry and magnolia.

13. Eastern Meadowlark

Eastern meadowlark

Eastern Meadowlarks are yellow birds in North Carolina all year.

A medium-sized songbird that are bright yellow underneath and pale brown with black marks on the back. They have a distinctive black band across the chest.

  • 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)

Found all year across eastern US states, but they will also breed in the northeast and into Canada before migrating south.

They can be found in grasslands and prairies, eating insects. In winter, they gather in large flocks in fields looking for seeds.

14. Prothonotary Warbler

Prothonotary Warbler

Prothonotary Warblers are bright yellow birds in North Carolina that breed here and can be spotted between April and October, but they are more common during the spring migration.

A warbler that breeds in eastern US states, so more chances to spot them. The males are bright yellow and blue-winged, so a bright contrast to watch for. Streams and wet woodlands are your best bet.

Prothonotary Warblers are bright yellow with blue-gray wings and tails. Females are less bright than males.

Unusual for warblers, Prothonotary Warblers breed in eastern and southeastern states before migrating to Central and South America.

They breed in wet wooded areas that are flooded, near streams, or in swamps. 

Prothonotary Warblers eat spiders, insects and snails. In winter, they will also eat fruit and seeds.

15. Yellow-throated Warbler

Yellow throated Warbler

Yellow-throated Warblers can be seen all year in North Carolina but are more common during the summer between March and October. Their number swell, especially during the spring migration.

Similar in appearance to the Common Yellowthroat, the Yellow-throated Warbler has a gray and white body with black stripes rather than a brown body.

  • 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 states and spend winter in Florida, the Caribbean and along the Gulf Coast into Central America. 

They spend their time at the top of pine trees but may forage lower down during migration.

16. Prairie Warbler

Prairie Warbler (Dendroica discolor)

Prairie Warblers are yellow birds in North Carolina all year, but they are not very common in winter. They are mostly spotted here between April and October.

These small songbirds 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.

  • Length: 4.3 in (11 cm)
  • Weight: 0.2-0.3 oz (6.4-8.8 g)

They breed over the eastern and southeastern states and spend the winter in Florida and the Caribbean and some coastal areas in Central America.

Those in Florida that remain all year are considered to be separate subspecies and are slightly larger.

Although they are named prairie warblers, they actually live in fields and forests

17. Black-throated Green Warbler

Black-throated Green warbler (Setophaga virens)

Black-throated Green Warblers breed in North Carolina and they can be spotted here from late March until November, especially during the spring and fall migration when their numbers swell.

A small yellowish-green songbird with a yellow face and head and olive-yellow back. They have black streaking on the sides and wings and are whitish underneath.

  • 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.

18. Yellow Warbler

yellow warbler

Yellow Warblers are not very common yellow birds in North Carolina as they usually breed further north. They can be spotted here during the summer, but they are most common during the spring and fall migration.

Yellow Warblers are small bright yellow birds with a yellow-green back, and the males have chestnut streaks on the breast, which are a common sight in summer.

  • 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 over much of North America before heading into Central and northern South America for winter.

They can be seen during migration in the far south.

Yellow Warblers can be found along streams and wetlands in thickets and along the edges of fields foraging for insects, including caterpillars, midges, beetles, bugs, and wasps.

Warblers are hard to attract to your backyard as they are shy and eat mainly insects,  but you can try suet, oranges, and peanut butter. 

19. Canada Warbler

canada warbler

Canada Warblers are not very common in North Carolina, but some breed here between late April and October.

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’ does not extend over the belly, in the males, 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.’

  • 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 live in mossy forests and forage for insects. Unfortunately, they are difficult to find as their numbers have been declining.

20. Yellow-bellied Sapsucker

Yellow-bellied sapsucker for identification

Yellow-bellied Sapsuckers remain all year in North Carolina, but they are more commonly spotted here in the winter between October and April.

The Yellow-bellied Sapsucker is relatively small and is about the size of a robin.  They are mostly black and white with red foreheads and the male has a red throat. Their bellies are pale yellow with lots of markings.

Length: 7.1-8.7 in (18-22 cm)
Weight: 1.5-1.9 oz (43-55 g)
Wingspan: 13.4-15.8 in (34-40 cm)

Breeding in Canada and the northeastern US states, the Yellow-bellied Sapsucker migrates for winter to southeastern US states, Central America and the Caribbean.

Yellow-bellied Sapsuckers make holes in trees and use their brush-tipped tongues to get the sap out. They make neat rows of holes in horizontal rows, so look out for these in young paper birch, yellow birch, red or sugar maple, and hickory trees.

The holes need to be maintained to ensure a flow of sap.  They make a loud mewing call and they nest in tree cavities and usually have 5-6 white eggs.