Yellow Birds in Pennsylvania – Picture and ID Guide

scarlet tanager (Piranga olivacea) female

Spring and summer are a great time of year as many colorful yellow birds in Pennsylvania, such as warblers, migrate in for breeding.

In winter, only the American Goldfinch is a commonly spotted yellow bird in Pennsylvania.

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

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I have listed these yellow birds in Pennsylvania in order of which are most commonly spotted according to ebird checklists in May and June.

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

Yellow Birds in Pennsylvania in Spring/Summer:

  1. American Goldfinch 40%
  2. Common Yellowthroat 31%
  3. Yellow Warbler 25%
  4. Scarlet Tanager Female 18%
  5. American Redstart Female 17%
  6. Cedar Waxwing 16%
  7. Great Crested Flycatcher 15%
  8. Yellow-rumped Warbler 11%
  9. Black-throated Green Warbler 10%
  10. Hooded Warbler 7.3%

Yellow Birds in Pennsylvania in Winter:

  1. American Goldfinch 28%
  2. Yellow-bellied Sapsucker 4.3%
  3. Cedar Waxwing 3%
  4. Orchard Oriole Female 2%

1. American Goldfinch

American goldfinch male

American Goldfinch are common yellow birds in Pennsylvania 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. 

2. Common Yellowthroat

Common Yellowthroat

Common Yellowthroats breed in Pennsylvania and arrive from late April and have left by November. Some Common Yellowthroats have been spotted in winter here but very rarely.

Common Yellowthroats are small songbirds that are brownish on the back, have bright yellow breasts, paler yellow bellies, and 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 primarily insects and will be found in large backyards that have dense vegetation.

3. Yellow Warbler

yellow warbler

Yellow Warblers are common yellow birds in Pennsylvania in summer. They arrive in April to breed or while migrating further north and start to migrate south from mid-August until October.

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. 

4. Scarlet Tanager Female

scarlet tanager (Piranga olivacea) female

Female and immature Scarlet Tanagers are yellow birds in Pennsylvania during the summer from late April until early October for breeding.

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 blackberries, raspberries, huckleberries, juneberries, serviceberries, mulberries, strawberries and chokeberries.

5. American Redstart Female

Female American redstart

American Redstarts breed in Pennsylvania and arrive in late April and May and leave in September or early October.

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.

6. Cedar Waxwing

cedar waxwing

Cedar waxwing remain all year in Pennsylvania, but their number increase in the summer when more migrate in for breeding between May and November.

Cedar Waxwings are elegant social birds that are pale brown on the head, chest, and crest. This 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, in woodlands, and along streams.

To 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.

7. Great Crested Flycatcher

Great_Crested_Flycatcher

Great Crested Flycatchers migrate into Pennsylvania in late April and May for breeding and leave in August and 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, 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. Grow berry-producing plants and put up a nest box as they readily take up residence in them. 

8. Yellow-rumped Warbler

yellow rumped warbler

Yellow-rumped Warblers are common throughout the year in Pennsylvania, but their numbers swell during the spring and fall 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.

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 primarily insects 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.

9. Black-throated Green Warbler

Black-throated Green warbler (Setophaga virens)

Black-throated Green Warblers are common yellow birds in Pennsylvania in summer. They migrate here in April and May and leave in September and October. Their numbers also increase during the spring and fall migration.

A small yellow 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.

They live high up in forests eating insects and their black throat is an easier way to tell them apart from other small yellow birds.

10. Hooded Warbler

Hooded warbler

Hooded Warblers are yellow birds in Pennsylvania in summer that visit to breed. They arrive in April and May and leave in September and October. Their numbers also increase here during the spring and fall migration with birds passing through.

Male Hooded Warblers have a bright yellow face with a distinctive black hood and throat. They are yellow underneath and olive-green above.

Females and immature are more yellow and without the black face markings.

  • Length: 5.1 in (13 cm)
  • Weight: 0.3-0.4 oz (9-12 g)
  • Wingspan: 6.9 in (17.5 cm)

They breed in eastern states before heading south into Central America and the Caribbean for winter.

Forests with dense understories to hunt for insects are the best place to find Hooded Warblers.

11. Orchard Oriole Female

orchard oriole female

Orchard Orioles are not around for long in Pennsylvania, so you need to be quick if you want to see them. They visit between May and mid-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. Magnolia Warbler

Magnolia Warbler

Magnolia Warblers breed in Pennsylvania, but they are more common during the spring and fall migration. They migrate into the state in May and leave in September and October.

Although not as distinctive in color as some warblers on the easy to spot list, they are common on low branches, so it’s easier to spot them during migration.

Magnolia Warblers males are black on the back and yellow underneath. They have black streaking from a ‘necklace’ on their necks down over their bellies. Females are grayer on the back and lack the distinctive streaking down the belly.

  • 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 in forests. They can be seen during migration in the Eastern US.

They spend the winter in Central America and the Caribbean.

13. Yellow-throated Vireo

Yellow-throated Vireo

Yellow-throated Vireo are bright yellow birds in Pennsylvania in summer when they migrate in to breed here. They arrive in April and May and leave in September and October.

Yellow-throated Vireo are bright yellow and gray birds with olive-colored heads. Their throats and chest are bright yellow with white bellies and their backs are grayish-brown with white streaks.

  • 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.

They can be spotted in mixed woodland hunting for insects and sometimes berries.

14. Eastern Meadowlark

Eastern meadowlark

Eastern Meadowlarks are yellow birds in Pennsylvania all year. They are more common between March and November when more Eastern Meadowlarks arrive for breeding.

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.

15. Prairie Warbler

Prairie Warbler (Dendroica discolor)

Prairie Warblers are yellow birds in Pennsylvania in summer. They can be 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 called a prairie warbler they actually live in fields and forests

16. White-eyed Vireo

White-eyed Vireo

White-eyed Vireos can be spotted in Pennsylvania between April and October.

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.

17. Canada Warbler

canada warbler

Canada Warblers are not very common in Pennsylvania, but some do breed here. They are, however, mostly spotted during migration in May and late August until mid-September.

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.

18. Nashville Warbler

nashville warbler

Nashville Warblers are usually seen during the spring and fall migration in Pennsylvania.

Nashville Warblers are mostly yellow with a green back and gray head. 

  • 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)

Breeding in northeastern US states and Canada and a smaller population in northwestern Us states and into British Columbia. They can also be seen during migration in most states.

They can be seen in scrubby habitats and low deciduous forests hunting for insects.

19. Yellow-bellied Sapsucker

yellow bellied sapsucker

Yellow-bellied Sapsuckers remain all year in Pennsylvania.

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.

20. Pine Warbler

pine warbler

Pine Warblers can be spotted in Pennsylvania all year, but they are not very common in the winter. They are more common between late March and mid-October.

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.