National Geographic Magazine/Volume 31/Number 4/Friends of Our Forests/Yellow-breasted Chat

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The Warblers of North America[edit]

Yellow-breasted Chat (Icteria virens and subspecies)[edit]


Length, about 7½ inches. Its size, olive-green upper parts, and bright yellow throat, breast, and upper belly distinguish this bird at a glance.

Range: Breeds from British Columbia, Montana, Wisconsin, Ontario, and southern New England south to the Gulf States and Mexico; winters from Mexico to Costa Rica.

The chat is one of our largest and most notable warblers. It is a frequenter of brushy thickets and swampy new growth, and, while not averse to showing itself, relies more upon its voice to announce its presence than upon its green and yellow plumage. Not infrequently the chat sings during the night. The song, for song we must call it, is an odd jumble of chucks and whistles, which is likely to bring to mind the quip current in the West, “Don't shoot the musician; he is doing his best.” In this same charitable spirit we must accept the song of the chat at the bird's own valuation, which, we may be sure, is not low. Its nest is a rather bulky structure of grasses, leaves, and strips of bark, and is often so conspicuously placed in a low bush as to cause one to wonder how it ever escapes the notice of marauders fond of birds' eggs and nestlings.

The chat does no harm to agricultural interests, but, on the contrary, like most of the warbler family, lives largely on insects, and among them are many weevils, including the alfalfa weevil and the boll weevil so destructive to cotton.

(See Biol. Surv. Bull. 17, p. 18 et seq.; also Circular 64, p. 5.)

Source: Henry W. Henshaw (April 1917), “Friends of Our Forests”, The National Geographic Magazine 31(4): 304. (Illustration from p. 305.)