Family New World Warblers (Parulidae)

Least Concern

American Yellow Warbler (Setophaga petechia)


French: Paruline jaune German: Goldwaldsänger Spanish: Reinita de manglar
Other common names: Yellow Warbler

Motacilla petechia


, 1766,

northern America = Barbados


Has hybridized with (probably) S. caerulescens and Protonotaria citrea. Races fall into three or four groups: “aestiva group” of migratory N races occupying variety of damp habitats; “petechia group” of sedentary, largely mangrove-dwelling taxa; and sedentary, mainly S, again mangrove-dwelling “erithachorides group”. The two last-mentioned groups are often regarded as forming a separate species on account of their sedentary nature and restricted coastal habitat, and are vocally closer to each other than to N group; but differences nevertheless rather small#R. Further, these two mangrove-dwelling groups have been treated as separate species, but head pattern of “erithachorides group” on coast of NW Venezuela approaches that of adjoining races of “petechia group”. We recognize race aureola as a fourth group, based on the clear lack of gene flow between both of its insular populations and mainland samples#R. Chestnut-headed Martinique race ruficapilla, usually included in “petechia group”, is more like members of “erithachorides group” than to surrounding “petechia group” and has been placed in former. Isolated Galapagos population (aureola) genetically distinct from both Latin and North American populations; further research required. Races often intergrade and some are poorly differentiated; review needed. Distributional limits of N races not always clear; breeding ranges listed below are approximate. Further proposed races are inedita, described from extreme NE Mexico (Matamoros, in extreme NE Tamaulipas), subsumed into aestiva; hypochlora (from Arizona), synonymized with sonorana; and cruciana, described from Virgin Is (St Croix), treated as synonym of bartholemica. Forty-three subspecies recognized.

Subspecies and Distribution
  • S. p. parkesi (Browning, 1994) – N Alaska and N Canada (E to N Manitoba).
  • S. p. banksi (Browning, 1994) – C Alaska.
  • S. p. rubiginosa (Pallas, 1811) – coastal S Alaska S through British Columbia (including Vancouver I).
  • S. p. brewsteri (Grinnell, 1903) – W USA (coastal Washington, Oregon, California) and extreme NW Mexico (extreme NW Baja California).
  • S. p. amnicola (Batchelder, 1918) – across C Canada (NW British Columbia E to Newfoundland and New Brunswick).
  • S. p. morcomi (Coale, 1887) – SW Canada (S Yukon and interior British Columbia) S in W USA to NE California and N Texas.
  • S. p. aestiva (J. F. Gmelin, 1789) – Northern Yellow Warbler – E of Rockies in S Canada (S Alberta E to Nova Scotia) and S in USA to Oklahoma and North Carolina.
  • S. p. sonorana (Brewster, 1888) – S Arizona, SW New Mexico and W Mexico (extreme NE Baja California S through interior to Nayarit and Zacatecas).
  • S. p. dugesi (Coale, 1887) – C plateau of Mexico from San Luis Potosí S to N Guerrero and Puebla.
  • S. p. rufivertex (Ridgway, 1885) – Cozumel I (off Quintana Roo), in SE Mexico.
  • S. p. flaviceps (Chapman, 1892) – Bahamas.
  • S. p. gundlachi (S. F. Baird, 1865) – extreme SE USA (Florida Keys), Cuba and I of Pines.
  • S. p. eoa (Gosse, 1847) – Cayman Is and Jamaica.
  • S. p. albicollis (J. F. Gmelin, 1789) – Hispaniola, including Tortue and Î-à-Vache.
  • S. p. solaris (Wetmore, 1929) – Gonâve and Petite Gonâve, off W Hispaniola.
  • S. p. chlora (Browning, 1994) – Cayos Siete Hermanos (Seven Brothers Keys), off N Hispaniola.
  • S. p. bartholemica (Sundevall, 1869) – #RPuerto Rico, Virgin Is, and N Lesser Antilles (Anguilla S to Montserrat and Antigua).
  • S. p. melanoptera (Lawrence, 1879) – C Lesser Antilles (Guadeloupe S to Dominica).
  • S. p. ruficapilla (J. F. Gmelin, 1789) – Martinique (SC Lesser Antilles).
  • S. p. babad (J. Bond, 1927) – St Lucia (SC Lesser Antilles).
  • S. p. alsiosa (J. L. Peters, 1926) – Grenadine Is (S Lesser Antilles).
  • S. p. petechia (Linnaeus, 1766) – Golden Warbler – Barbados.
  • S. p. armouri (Greenway, 1933) – Old Providence I (I de Providencia), E of Nicaragua, in SW Caribbean.
  • S. p. flavida (Cory, 1887) – I de San Andrés (St Andrew I), E of Nicaragua, in SW Caribbean.
  • S. p. rufopileata (Ridgway, 1884) – Leeward Antilles (Aruba, Curaçao, Bonaire), Blanquilla I, Margarita I and Los Testigos Is, off N Venezuela.
  • S. p. obscura (Cory, 1909) – islands of Las Aves, Los Roques and La Orchila, off N Venezuela.
  • S. p. aurifrons (Phelps, Sr & Phelps, Jr, 1950) – coastal NE Venezuela (Anzoátegui and W Sucre) and offshore islands (including Tortuga, Las Tortuguillas and de Píritu).
  • S. p. castaneiceps (Ridgway, 1885) – NW Mexico (both coasts of Baja California S of 27° N).
  • S. p. rhizophorae (van Rossem, 1935) – Pacific coast of Mexico in Sonora and Sinaloa.
  • S. p. phillipsi (Browning, 1994) – coast from Sinaloa (Mexico) S to Honduras.
  • S. p. xanthotera (Todd, 1924) – Pacific coast of Nicaragua and Costa Rica.
  • S. p. aithocorys (Olson, 1980) – Pacific coast of Panama from Chiriquí E to Coclé, including Coiba I.
  • S. p. iguanae (Olson, 1980) – Iguana I, off Los Santos (S Panama).
  • S. p. aequatorialis (Sundevall, 1869) – #RPacific coast of Panama (Panamá Province) and Pearl Is.
  • S. p. jubaris (Olson, 1980) – Pacific coast from SE Panama (S Darién) S to CW Colombia (Buenaventura).
  • S. p. peruviana (Sundevall, 1869) – #RPacific coast from SW Colombia (Nariño) S to NW Peru.
  • S. p. oraria (Parkes & Dickerman, 1967) – Caribbean coast of Mexico in S Tamaulipas.
  • S. p. bryanti (Ridgway, 1873) – Caribbean coast from SE Mexico (Campeche) S to S Nicaragua.
  • S. p. erithachorides (S. F. Baird, 1858) – Mangrove Warbler – Caribbean coast from Costa Rica S to N Colombia.
  • S. p. chrysendeta (Wetmore, 1946) – Guajira Peninsula (NE Colombia and adjacent NW Venezuela).
  • S. p. paraguanae (Phelps, Sr & Gilliard, 1941) – Paraguaná Peninsula (Falcón), in NW Venezuela.
  • S. p. cienagae (J.T. Zimmer & Phelps, Sr, 1944) – Caribbean coast in Carabobo and Aragua and islands off Falcón, in NW Venezuela.
  • S. p. aureola (Gould, 1839) – Galapagos Warbler – I de Coco and Galapagos Is.
  • Descriptive notes

    11·5–12·5 cm (‘aestiva group’), 13–13·5 cm (others); 7·4–16 g. Male nominate race has crown dark rufous-... read more


    Members of ‘aestiva group’, at least, sing Type 1 and Type 2 songs;... read more


    N populations (‘aestiva group’) breed in variety of damp, early-... read more

    Food and feeding

    Feeds mainly on insects and other arthropods; N populations (‘aestiva group’), at least, also eat some berries.... read more


    Season Apr–Jul in N of range; for ‘erithachorides group’, May–Jun in N populations and Dec–Apr in... read more


    Resident in S. In N ‘aestiva group’, although some populations at least... read more

    Status and conservation

    Not globally threatened (Least Concern). Abundant to common or locally common. N populations (‘aestiva group’) generally common to abundant in E of range... read more

    Recommended citation

    Curson, J. (2020). American Yellow Warbler (Setophaga petechia). In: del Hoyo, J., Elliott, A., Sargatal, J., Christie, D.A. & de Juana, E. (eds.). Handbook of the Birds of the World Alive. Lynx Edicions, Barcelona. (retrieved from on 27 February 2020).