Wild Profile: Meet the common yellowthroat

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Is that the Hamburgler? Nope, it’s a black-masked common yellowthroat, a chunky, ground-foraging warbler found all over North America. Only the male yellowthroat wears the distinctive Zorro mask. It’s a good look: for a bird, he’s pretty dashing.

The little masked singer also has a recognizable call—a loud, rolling chant: “witchety, witchety, witchety, witch!” In spring and summer, males belt out 125 songs per hour to attract mates. By August, they’ve stopped singing, and by October, almost all have headed south to wintering grounds.

Common yellowthroats are regular targets of cowbirds—well-known brood parasites. A female cowbird will sneak one of her eggs into a yellowthroat nest, hoping the other mother will feed the chick. It doesn’t always work. If the mother warbler catches on, she’ll abandon the nest or build a new one on top. But if she’s already laid her own eggs—sigh—she’ll just raise the cowbird baby as her own.

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