06.25.17: Male yellowthroat

A male Common Yellowthroat perches on a plant in Prairie Oaks Metro Park, West Jefferson, Ohio. 


Technical information

June 18, 2006,
9:00 a.m.

39°59’19” N,
83°14'57" W
(Show in Google Maps)

Canon EOS 20D

Canon EF 600mm f/4L, Canon 1.4x teleconverter (840mm) 


1/500th second


I have a number of very good photos of Common Yellowthroats in my files, but this one stands out. The reason: It’s one of just a few that have the bird isolated against an uncluttered background.

Yellowthroats spend much of their time bouncing through fields, staying close to the ground as they search for insects to eat. That means the majority of my photographs show the bird against a background of plants or tangled branches.

But this time was different.

This yellowthroat landed briefly on a plant just above nearby plants in the field. The bird was only about 20 feet from my position on a trail adjacent to the field. Much taller plants stood in the background but — because the bird was closer to the camera than it was to the background plants — the background was reduced to a green blur, helping to isolate the bird and its perch.

I was fortunate that everything came together for this shot. Consider it to be right place, right time. As the photo shows, the bird is crouched on its perch, poised to fly off. Immediately after I grabbed this shot the yellowthroat flew down into the underbrush.

Yellowthroats are warblers. Unlike most other warblers that pass through my “home range” of Central Ohio on their way to breeding grounds in Canada during the spring and en route to winter homes in Central and South America in the fall, the Common Yellowthroat’s summer range covers much of the United States. That means I see — and photograph — yellowthroats during much of the summer.

Male Common Yellowthroats are distinctive.  Their face is covered with a broad black mask, creating a sense of a bandit at work. The males are bright yellow below and olive above. Females are primarily an olive brown with brighter yellow on the throat and under the tail. Females lack the black mask.

Each week I will post a photo from my collection with an explanation of how I got the shot. Previous photos of the week are in the archives.