Endangered Species in Focus: Yellow-breasted Chat

Yellow-breasted Chat (Icteria Virens)


Status: Endangered, Special Concern Nationally


  • The yellow-breasted Chat’s song consists of a weird assortment of clicks, whistles and even chuckles;
  • They will lay from 3 to 5 creamy white eggs with reddish brown blotches or speckles, incubated by the female, hatch in 11 to 12 days;
  • Both parents tend the young, who fledge in approximately 8 to 11 days;
  • Nesting occurs mid-May to June

Description: The Yellow-breasted chat is a medium-sized songbird, about 18 centimetres long, with a long tail. It has a bright yellow chest and throat, olive-green back, white circles around its eyes, white belly and undertail.  This bird eats insects and berries gathered from the foliage of low, dense shrubs, or from the ground.

  • The Juvenile Yellow-breasted chat lacks yellow and has dusky spotting on throat and chest

Important Dates:

Nov. 30, 2011: Species is listed as “at risk”

Jan. 24, 2013: Species reassessed and labeled as “endangered”


  • Found in much of United States. In Canada, it lives in southern British Columbia, the Praries, and southwestern Ontario, where it is concentrated in Point Pelee National Park and Pelee Island Lake Erie
  • Winters along the Gulf of Mexico


  • Lives in thickets and scrub, especially locations where clearings have become overgrown.
  • Spend winters in coastal marshes
  • Nests in shrubs

Behaviour: Gleans prey from foliage of low, dense shrubs, or from ground. Holds food with foot

Food:  Small invertebrates, fruits


  • Habitat of overgrown clearings is disappearing


  •  The Ontario population has declined by 55% over the past 20 years and it is declining in neighboring jurisdictions as well
  • There are likely fewer than 10 breeding locations in Ontario
  • The population in the Point Pelee National Park also receives protection

What you can do to help:

  • Maintain and enhance remaining riparian habitat including cottonwoods, aspen, rose thickets and snowberry;
  • Protect off-road vehicles from disturbing and degrading stream-side vegetation;
  • You can use an online form to report your sightings to the Natural Heritage Information Centre (http://nhic.mnr.gov.on.ca/)
  • Private land owners have a very important role to play in species recovery. You may be eligible for stewardship programs that support the protection and recovery of species at risk and their habitats
  • Volunteer with your local nature club or provincial park
  • Bird Studies Canada is working to advance the understanding, appreciation and conservation of wild birds and their habitat in Ontario and elsewhere. For more info on how to help, visit: www.bsc-eoc.org

Fun Facts:

  • Yellow-breasted Chat’s in Ontario tend to be more subdued in colour than their relatives in Western Canada, and separate subspecies are recognized;
  • The Yellow-breasted Chat’s song consists of a weird assortment of clicks, whistles and even chuckles;
  • Was first described in 1758 by Carolus Linnaeus, Swedish botanist, physician and zoologist;
  • Song is louder and lower pitched than those of their other wood warblers; one common phrase consists of three whistles exactly like someone calling their dog!
  • Chats often sing at night




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