The yellow-breasted chat is much larger than any other warbler. Males and females are similar in appearance with their thick bill, white spectacles, yellow throat and breast, white belly and undertail coverts, olive upperparts, dark legs and fairly long tail. Their coloration is distinct, and they are rarely confused with other birds. They are 6.5 to 7.5 inches in length with a wingspread of nine to 10 inches. They weigh about one ounce. The chat’s call is a harsh jumble of squawks, whistles, and rattles. They attentively sing from the time they arrive on their breeding grounds in the spring until late in July. Males are likely to sing at any time of the day and are well known for singing in the middle of the night. They often sing from the top of a shrub or tree and while in flight. Other names for the yellow-breasted chat are:
chat, common chat, long-tailed chat, polyglot chat, yellow chat and yellow mockingbird.
Range:The breeding range of the yellow-breasted chat ranges from southern Canada and British Columbia east to southern New Hampshire and south to northern Florida, the Gulf Coast and Baja California. This species is a neo-tropical migrant, and winters are spent from coastal Mexico, south into Central America and west to Panama. Distribution in Colorado is spotty. They require dense riparian thickets for nesting and breeding. Most nests are below 7,000 feet. Colorado distribution is in eastern plains stream bottoms, western river corridors and foothills shrub zones.
Habitat: They are secretive warblers, restricted to woodland edges and dense riparian thickets in dry, open habitats. Dense cover is important for foraging on insects and for nest cover. They will avoid thickets with tall overstories or thickets fragmented by cattle trails or walkways. They are birds of successional habitat such as farms, overgrown fields and abundant thickets.
Diet: Their diet consists primarily of insects including bees, wasps, ants, grasshoppers, and beetles. They also eat berries and wild grapes.
Reproduction: The yellow-breasted chat breeds in low elevation thickets. The nest is built in small bushes or in tangles of vines or briars two to eight feet above the ground. It is cup-shaped and constructed out of coarse grasses, weeds, grapevine bark and dead leaves and lined with fine grasses. The female will lay three to five white or light cream eggs speckled with rust or violet and incubate them for 11 to 12 days. The young are tended by both parents and leave the nest eight to 11 days after hatching.
For more information, see the Natural Diversity Information Source species profile.