You are walking along a section of trail through wet meadows, wet scrub or near water. All of a sudden you hear a loud “witchity, witchity, witchity” from nearby shrubbery. If you stop and look, you may get a look at the source of the sound. It is a Common Yellowthroat, a small bird of the warbler family that skulks around in the reeds or bushes. If you make a soft ‘pishing’ noise you might encourage the bird to come into the open as they are quite inquisitive. The Common Yellowthroat is a regular breeder in our area, arriving in May and leaving in August or September. The male has a bright yellow throat and chest with a prominent black mask bordered by white. It looks like a masked bandit. The female lacks the black mask and is generally duller in colour.
Many warblers are seen locally in May but the vast majority of those continue north to breed in the boreal forest. The Common Yellowthroat is one of the few species that stay and breed in our area. Soon after the birds arrive they build a nest near the ground. Four or five eggs are laid and take about 12 days to hatch. The young take a further 12 days before they can fly. Common Yellowthroats are insect eaters with flies, ants, dragonflies, damselflies, moths, beetles, mayflies, and grubs on the menu. When the weather gets colder and those insects aren’t available the birds migrate south spending the winter in the southern US, Mexico, or Central America.