American Yellow warbler

Yellow Birds in Pennsylvania (PA)

So you’re in Pennsylvania and you’ve spotted a wild yellow bird, and not sure what species it is. What could it be?

There are a number of options when it comes to birds in Pennsylvania that have yellow in their plumage – some more than others. Color is just one factor in identifying bird species. Other things to consider are: the size of the bird, its behavior, the time of year (which birds are around at this time of year?), and of course at the more advanced stage you will want to learn the calls of the birds you regularly see either in your Pennsylvania backyard or surrounding areas. With developing bird ID skills comes to ability to more accurately narrow down the family of bird you’re seeing, narrowing the field of options.

Regular observations and becoming familiar with the birds in your neighborhood or anywhere throughout PA (and surrounding states) will have you becoming a confident bird identifier in no time.

Which yellow bird could I have seen in Pennsylvania?

Let’s look at the possibilities:

American Yellow Warbler (Setophaga petechia)

American Yellow warbler
A bright yellow American Yellow Warbler. Image by Amaury Laporte

This all yellow bird is probably the most obvious candidate for your yellow bird sighting in Pennsylvania. It lives and breeds all over the country, and of course is the most yellow of all yellow birds. If the yellow bird you spotted in PA was entirely yellow, the American Yellow Warbler may be your bird.
Scarlet Tanager – female (Piranga olivacea)
A yellow colored female Scarlet Tanager
Yellow female Scarlet Tanager

A yellow bird called Scarlet? The male Scarlet Tanager is indeed a rich scarlet color, but the female looks completely different with her yellow-green-olive plumage.
Evening Grosbeak (Coccothraustes vespertinus)
Evening Grosbeak male
Bright yellow plumage of a male Evening Grosbeak

This attractive large finch features striking yellow body plumage and bright yellow eyebrow that is immediately eye catching for the observer. The male is a vibrant yellow, so if you’ve seen a yellow bird and it’s an Evening Grosbeak, it’s certain you’ve seen a male bird as the female has only a small amount of more subtle yellow plumage. Image by Andy Reago & Chrissy McClarren
American Goldfinch (Spinus tristis)
American Goldfinch
Male American Goldfinch in breeding plumage
Baltimore Oriole (Icterus galbula)
Baltimore Oriole
Baltimore Oriole male is a dazzling orange/yellow. Image by Ken Gibson

Males of this vibrant blackbird species are a dazzling orange-yellow color at the front of the body.
Black-throated Green Warbler (Setophaga virens)
Black-throated green warbler male
Male Black-throated green warbler. Image by Silver Leapers

Yellow mostly on the head and back, with black and white elsewhere. This is a widespread warbler throughout PA and eastern north-east North America during summer. If the bird you spotted was not completely yellow, it’s possible you saw a Black-throated Green Warbler. A small bird at under 5 inches, breeding males have a black through. The yellow head is quite bright, while the other yellowish plumage on the back leans towards olive in color. These birds are known for hovering in flight to catch insects and this is a behavior that could assist you with identification.
Yellow-throated Warbler (Setophaga dominica)
Yellow-throated Warbler
The Yellow-throated Warbler has a bright yellow throat. Image by dfaulder

One of the lesser likely candidates if you’ve spotted a yellow bird in PA, because as its name implies the Yellow-throated Warbler only features yellow on the throat area; although it is a bright and eye catching yellow that would grab your attention if you only caught a quick glimpse – so you might not want to totally rule it out yet.

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