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Birds can be found in a variety of different colors which plays a key role in identifying what type of bird you’re looking at. Some of them are dull in color, while others are more vibrant which can make them easier to spot.
Birds with bright yellow coloring are one of the easiest birds to spot, especially when they have yellow heads. The yellow heads tend to stand out among the greens and browns of trees, grass, and leaves. But there are a number of birds with yellow heads, so how do you tell the difference between them? We’ve created this guide to help, in which we’ll provide plenty of other identifying features besides just “yellow heads”.
|Scientific Name:||Hemignathus wilsoni|
|Diet:||Insects and spiders|
We’ll start off our list with the ʻAkiapōlāʻau, but you probably haven’t seen one of these birds unless you live in or have visited Hawaii. But even if you do live in or are visiting Hawaii, you still may not see one, as these birds are very rare and are on the endangered species list. They’re found mostly on the Big Island. These birds are often called Hawaii’s woodpeckers because they tap trees to find insects and grubs to eat. In addition to their yellow heads, other distinguishing features included a long and thin slightly curved beak and a body that is yellow and olive green.
|Scientific Name:||Icterus gularis|
The Altamira Oriole is another bird that is only found in a specific region of the United States. It’s found in the southern tip of Texas, in native woodland areas near the Rio Grande. They can also be found all along the eastern coastal regions of Mexico. They are not endangered, but they are a tropical species. That’s the reason for them only being found in these areas. They have a head that is yellow-orange in color, along with a yellow-orange breast and belly, a black tail, and predominantly black wings with white stripes.
|Scientific Name:||Spinus tristis|
The American Goldfinch is one of the most common backyard birds in the United States. So, if you see a bird with a yellow head in your yard, there’s a very high chance that it is this one. In fact, the American Goldfinch is the state bird of New Jersey. These birds can be found year-round in the eastern and mid-western regions of the US and in some parts of the Pacific Northwest as well. They can also be found in the Northern US and Canada during the breeding season and in the Southern US during the non-breeding season. Their yellow heads have a black crown on them, and they also have a body that is mostly yellow with white underneath a black tail. Their wings are black and white.
|Scientific Name:||Magumma parvus|
|Diet:||Nectar and insects|
The ‘Anianiau is another yellow-headed bird species that are found exclusively in Hawaii. They are found in wetland forests on the island of Kaua’i and are also an endangered species. They are the smallest of a group of birds known as Hawaiian honeycreepers because of the way that they feed on nectar from native plants. But, they are also known to eat caterpillars and spiders as well. The ‘Anianiau has a small, slightly curved white beak, a yellow head and body, and gray-tipped wings and tail.
|Scientific Name:||Vermivora cyanoptera|
The Blue-winged Warbler is a small bird that is found throughout the mid-western and southern United States during the breeding season and migrates further south, as far as the Caribbean to the Eastern Coast of Mexico and Central America during the wintertime. They aren’t found in one specific area year-round, so this is not a bird that you’ll see all year long. These birds have yellow bodies in addition to their yellow heads as well as wings and a tail that is blue-gray in color with some white areas.
|Scientific Name:||Chlorodrepanis virens|
|Diet:||Nectar and insects|
The Hawaiin ‘Amakihi is another member of the Hawaiian honeycreeper family, but unlike other birds in that family, their population is stable and they can be found in forest habitats at many different elevations on the Big Island, Maui, and Moloka’i. They feed on mostly tree sap and nectar but will eat insects as well. They have a curved beak that is darker in color and longer than the ‘Anianiau. Their heads and bodies are yellowish-green.
|Scientific Name:||Chlorodrepanis stejnegari|
|Diet:||Nectar and insects|
The Kaua’i ‘Amakihi is another Hawaiian honeycreeper and is the largest member of that family. Unlike Hawaii ‘Amakihis, the Kaua’i ‘Amakihi is found only on the island of Kaua’i in forests at higher elevations. Like most of the other Hawaiian honeycreepers, the Kaua’i ‘Amakihi is an endangered species. They have curved beaks, yellowish-green bodies and heads, and black and white stripes on their wings.
|Scientific Name:||Telespiza cantans|
|Diet:||Insects, fruits, seeds|
The Laysan Finch is another species of Hawaiian honeycreepers. They are found exclusively on Laysan Island in Hawaii, so seeing one is very rare. They have a yellow head and breast, white belly, brown and black wings, black legs, and a large but short and rounded beak. Unlike other Hawaiian honeycreepers that face threats such as habitat loss, Laysan Finches are endangered due to the remoteness of their habitat, already small population, and rising sea levels.
|Scientific Name:||Paroreomyza montana|
|Diet:||Insects and plant shoots|
The Maui ‘Alauahio (or Maui Creeper) is another Hawaiian honeycreeper that is found only on the eastern portion of the island of Maui, particularly in forested areas at higher elevations. They are very bold birds and may even approach people in flocks. Compared to other Hawaiian honeycreepers, the ‘Alauahio has a head that is brighter yellow in color and fades to a yellowish-green on the belly. They also have straighter beaks compared to other honeycreepers.
|Scientific Name:||Loxioides bailleui|
The Palila is another species of Hawaiian honeycreeper that is found only on a small section of Hawaii’s Big Island. They are critically endangered. The reason for this is that they only live in māmane forests, with a type of tree that the bird relies on for survival and reproduction. Their short, hooked beak is perfect for opening the seed pods of the māmane tree, and the tree serves as their primary food source. If the tree doesn’t produce a lot of seeds one particular year, then the birds don’t breed either. They have a yellow head and breast, a light gray body, and yellow and black wings and tails.
|Scientific Name:||Protonotaria citrea|
|Diet:||Insects, snails, spiders|
The Prothonotary Warbler is not found year-round anywhere in the United States, but during the breeding season, they are found mostly in the southeastern states. During the non-breeding season, they are found in southeastern Texas, the eastern coast of Mexico, and the northern coast of South America. They are not endangered, but their population is declining. They are fairly slender birds that can be recognized by their bright yellow head, breast, and belly, and black and gray striped wings. They also have olive green coloring just above their wings.
|Scientific Name:||Sicalis flaveola|
|Diet:||Seeds and insects|
Saffron Finches are found mostly in Hawaii and South America. Unlike most of the other birds on this list that live in Hawaii, Saffron Finches are not endangered but they are patchily distributed, living mostly in grassy areas and open fields along the coast. They have a bright yellow head and body, with orange patches on their foreheads. They also have yellow and black wings and short, black beaks.
|Scientific Name:||Cardellina pusilla|
|Diet:||Insects and berries|
Wilson’s Warbler is another bird that is not found year-round in the United States, but during the migration season, they can be found in most US states except for the Florida Peninsula. During the breeding season, they can be seen in Alaska and Canada and move to Mexico and Central America during the non-breeding seasons. They are common birds but their population is in steep decline. The Wilson’s Warbler can be easily identified by a bright yellow head with a black cap and a yellow breast and body, olive green or brown back, and black and yellow striped wings.
|Scientific Name:||Pheucticus chrysopeplus|
|Diet:||Seeds and tree buds|
Although the Yellow Grosbeak is related to some species of Grosbeak that live in America, this bird can only be found in western Mexico. If you live in southern Arizona, there’s a chance that you could see one of these birds, but they mostly live in brushy regions and tropical forests. They have a yellow head and body, large black beak, and predominantly black wings and tail with some white markings.
|Scientific Name:||Xanthocephalus xanthocephalus|
|Diet:||Insects and seeds|
The Yellow-headed Blackbird is found in the western United States during the breeding season and in Mexico during the non-breeding season. They like to live in marshy areas but large flocks of them can also be seen on prairies and farm fields in the winter. They have a very distinct appearance—a black body with a bright yellow head. Large white patches can be seen on their wings when in flight and they have a very distinct call that sounds like a rusty gate opening.
|Scientific Name:||Atlapetes flaviceps|
|Diet:||Seeds and Insects|
The Yellow-Headed Brushfinch only lives in Colombia, so you’re not going to see one anywhere else. Plus, they are endangered. There are only less than 1,000 of them left in the wild and they mostly live in protected areas. The Yellow-Headed Brushfinch has a yellow head, breast, and belly with black wings and a black tail.
|Scientific Name:||Terettistris fernandinae|
The Yellow-Headed Warbler is found mostly on the island of Cuba. They are a very common bird in the country and their conservation status is of least concern. They live mostly in thickets and open habitats, not densely forested areas. The Yellow-headed Warbler is easily recognized by its yellow head which is in high contrast to its light gray body, black wings, and thin, slightly curved beak.
|Scientific Name:||Setophaga petechia|
|Diet:||Insects and berries|
The Yellow Warbler can be found all throughout Canada, the United States, Mexico, and the northern countries of South America. During the breeding season, they are found in Alaska, Canada, and the North and Central United States. During the migration season, they move to the southern US and Mexico, and finally, they move down to Central and South America during the non-breeding season. They have a yellow head, yellow breast with brown streaks, and wings that are mostly yellow with thin, black striping.
We hope this list helped you to identify or rule out any birds with yellow heads that you may see in your backyard or elsewhere. There are many different species of birds that have yellow heads, so knowing other distinguishing features about their appearance as well as where they are found can help make identifying them easier. If you identify one of these birds in your yard, you can attract more of them by setting out bird feeders with their preferred diet in them, and knowing which birds are endangered or have a declining population can help ensure that there are plenty of resources available to help conserve the species for many years.
Featured Image Credit: milesmoody, Pixabay
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Savanna is a former science teacher who is now a full-time freelance writer currently living in the United States with her husband and daughter. Other members of her family include a long-haired chihuahua named Penny, three cats, and an aquatic turtle named Creek. In addition to writing, her passions include gardening, traveling, and protecting our wildlife and natural resources.
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