Yellow-breasted Chat

Hey guys, welcome back. Today is a strange bird, the yellow-breasted chat. Well, strange in a taxonomic way. The yellow-breasted chat was always a bird without a home; not quite fitting in with any other families. For many years, it was actually in the warbler family despite being much larger, and not really sharing a lot of the characteristics of one. They were recently officially moved into their own family, Icteriidae (not to be confused with Icteridae, the blackbirds.) This reclassification is disputed by some scientists, so stay tuned, I guess.

The yellow-breasted chat is larger than a house sparrow, but smaller than a robin. They gray above with white spectacles, and a white malar, or “moustache” and a bright yellow breast. They have a thrush-like beak and are omnivorous, eating a variety of things. Like the yellow-billed cuckoo from last post, the yellow-breasted chat is able to eat hairy caterpillars. The chat breeds throughout much of the lower 48 states and into a limited area of southeastern and south central Canada. They love dense thickets and can be quite difficult to see. In fact, my only two sightings to date were in the same spot in Central Park, in the Ramble, and were purely luck. I wasn’t looking for, nor had I heard reports of the bird. Right place, right time. Unfortunately, it means no picture this week.

UPDATE: Wait, no picture? But there’s one at the top of the post! You’re right. So I wrote this post a couple weeks in advance, as I usually do. Well, wouldn’t you know it, one showed up in my area. It had been reported almost a week prior to me finally getting a chance to go see it. I was warned that I’d prob only hear it, as is wasn’t very close to the trail. Well, it was when I arrived! It flew right in front of me, landed in a tree nearby. I couldn’t get a good pic because it was behind all sorts of foliage. Then it flew to another tree where I got the pic you see here. This was all 3 days before this post went up. I went back both Saturday and Sunday to try and get a better picture, but couldn’t re-find the bird. That’s ok though. I managed an ok pic for this post!

Yellow-breasted chats deliver a song made up of a variety of sounds, and has been likened to improvisational jazz by some field guides. They only sing in spring though, and both birds I’ve seen were in fall, so I’ve yet to partake in the jazz concert myself. Next up is a cool raptor that is kind of a hawk/owl mix. Northern harrier up next. See you then!

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