31 Types Of YELLOW Birds In California (ID Guide With Photos)

Did you recently come across a yellow bird in California, and want to know what species it was?

Identifying yellow-colored birds in California is not as easy as it might seem, since there are many species of birds in California that are either entirely or partially yellow.

To help you identify the bird you saw, we’ll cover the most common yellow birds of California in this article.

Types of yellow birds found in California

What are the types of yellow birds in California?

The 31 types of yellow birds found in California are:

  • American Goldfinch
  • Yellow Warbler
  • Wilson’s Warbler
  • Yellow-rumped warbler
  • Common Yellowthroat
  • Yellow-breasted Chat
  • Western Meadowlark
  • Canada Warbler
  • Summer Tanager (Female)
  • Magnolia Warbler
  • Nashville Warbler
  • Yellow-headed Blackbird
  • Prothonotary Warbler
  • Townsend’s Warbler
  • Black-throated Green Warbler
  • Mourning Warbler
  • Hooded Warbler
  • American Redstart (Female)
  • Baltimore Oriole (Female)
  • Orchard Oriole (Female)
  • Hooded Oriole
  • Cedar Waxwing
  • Orange-crowned Warbler
  • Lesser Goldfinch
  • Western Kingbird
  • Dickcissel
  • Scott’s Oriole
  • Evening Grosbeak
  • Lawrence’s Goldfinch
  • MacGillivray’s Warbler

While many of these birds are commonly spotted in California all year round, a number of them only occur in the state only during the breeding season in summer.

Yet other birds are common winter visitors in California, and a few are vagrants that only rarely occur in the state.

Now let’s dive into the details, and take a closer look at each of these bird species:

American Goldfinch

Scientific name: Spinus tristis

Photo of American Goldfinch adult male

The American Goldfinch is a winter visitor in California, and can be seen between October and April in many parts of the state.

It has a dazzling, bright yellow color with a black forehead.

Their wings are black and decorated with white markings. The females are a bit quite different though, having a primary olive color and dull yellow underparts that are a lot paler than the male’s. 

The American Goldfinch is usually found in weedy fields and floodplains, but can also be found in orchards, roadsides, and as backyard birds.

It generally likes to eat seeds and grains, and is readily attracted to bird feeders that offer black oil sunflower seeds.

Yellow Warbler

Scientific name: Setophaga petechia

Photo of Yellow Warbler adult male

Also known as the American Yellow Warbler, this songbird lives up to its name.

Adult males have a brilliant yellow color, except for their wings, which are just slightly darker and have two pale wingbars.

They also have reddish stripes on the breast and the yellow sides. Adult females are very similar to the males, but have less black streaking and are thus more uniformly yellow.

These bright yellow birds are summer visitors in California during the months from May to late August.

This species is found in open habitat with low thickets and scrubland, which makes it easy to observe.

Wilson’s Warbler

Scientific name: Cardellina pusilla

Photo of Wilson's Warbler adult male

Wilson’s Warbler is a small California bird with olive colored upperparts and yellowish green underparts. Adult males also have a black crown.

This bird is spotted in California as a visitor during spring and fall migration, as it passes through California from its breeding grounds in Canada to its wintering grounds in Central America.

It prefers damp woodlands with dense shrubs, where it forages for small insects and other invertebrates.

Yellow-rumped Warbler

Scientific name: Setophaga coronata

Photo of Yellow-rumped Warbler

While the sexes of the Yellow-rumped Warbler are dissimilar, they both have a bright yellow rump. 

This warbler exists in several variations, and the eastern population that can be found in California are also called “Myrtle Warblers”.

These birds have blueish-gray upperparts with dark streaks, as well as a yellow rump and flanks.

This warbler is a winter visitor in California, where it can be seen from September through April.

Common Yellowthroat

Scientific name: Geothlypis trichas

Photo of Common Yellowthroat

Common Yellowthroats are small songbirds with a brightly colored plumage. Adult males have a vivid yellow throat and breast, as well as a broad black mask that covers the forehead and cheeks.

Their black face mask is bordered on top by a grayish white band, which transitions into the olive brown nape and back. Females are similar, but lack the black face mask.

This warbler breeds along the coastal areas of California, and is a summer visitor in the northern parts of the state, while it can be seen year-round in south California.

It is a migratory bird that spends the winter in the southern United States and Central America. It prefers shrubland and grassy habitats, and feeds on insects and other invertebrates.

Yellow-breasted Chat

Scientific name: Icteria virens

Photo of Yellow-breasted Chat

These birds are between the size of a sparrow and a robin. They are an olive-green color with a bright yellow breast, a gray face, and a distinct white eyebrow stripe.

Yellow-breasted Chats are present as breeding birds in California during the months of May through August. 

They can usually be found in dense areas such as thickets, bramble bushes, shrubs, and along streams.

The diet of this bird consists of small insects, such as moths, beetles, ants, and grasshoppers. They also eat berries such as wild grapes and elderberries.

Western Meadowlark

Scientific name: Sturnella neglecta

Photo of Western Meadowlark adult male

The Western Meadowlark closely resembles the Eastern Meadowlark, but is found in more western areas of North America. It occurs in west California as a breeding bird.

Male Western Meadowlarks have an underside that is yellow with a black necklace across the upper chest.

Although the two meadowlark species closely resemble each other, and their ranges overlap considerably, they almost never form hybrids.

This species is a favorite among birdwatchers, due to the fact that the male likes to sing loudly from a conspicuous perch, or while flying over its territory. 

Combined with its striking black and yellow coloration, this makes the Western Meadowlark a pure joy to observe.

The very distinct songs of the two species of meadowlark allow for easy differentiation between them.

Canada Warbler

Scientific name: Cardellina canadensis

Photo of Canada Warbler adult male

The Canada Warbler is a vibrant small songbird that may be found as a breeding bird in Canada and northern states of the eastern USA.

The sexes look different, but both have blue-gray upperparts and are bright yellow underneath. Adult males also have a band of dark streaks that divides the throat from the breast.

The Canada Warbler is a migratory bird that can be seen in California as a rare visitor in spring and fall.

It favors damp forests with plenty of undergrowth, and is often found near water. It winters in South America.

Summer Tanager (Female)

Scientific name: Piranga rubra

Photo of Summer Tanager adult female

The Summer Tanager is a stunningly beautiful songbird of North America.

While adult male Summer Tanagers are entirely bright red California birds, females and immatures are buff yellow, although they sometimes have a few patches of orange. 

It can be hard to observe Summer Tanagers, since they like to forage high in the treetops of deciduous and mixed forests.

The Summer Tanager is a scarce summer visitor in California, and can be seen here from May through August. 

These birds migrate, and leave California in the fall to spend the cold season in Mexico and Central America.

Magnolia Warbler

Scientific name: Setophaga magnolia

Photo of Magnolia Warbler adult male

Adult males of this colorful bird have dark upperparts and bright yellow belly with a distinctive black chest band and dark streaks on the flanks.

The crown is blueish gray, and is separated from the light throat by a black mask. Females look similar, but lack the areas of black plumage.

In California, the Magnolia Warbler is a rare visitor that may be seen on passage during spring and fall migration. 

It favors coniferous forests, where it forages for insects and other invertebrates  in the dense undergrowth.

Nashville Warbler

Scientific name: Oreothlypis ruficapilla

Photo of Nashville Warbler

The Nashville Warbler is a beautiful little songbird. Adult males have an olive gray back, a blue gray head, and lemon yellow belly. 

Females and juvenile birds are similar to males, but slightly paler and less colorful. 

The Nashville Warbler is a breeding bird in a few areas of north California, but is also found as a migratory bird throughout the state during spring and fall.

Similar to many other warblers, it migrates to Central America in order to spend the winter. It favors the tangled undergrowth of mixed forests.

Yellow-headed Blackbird

Scientific name: Xanthocephalus xanthocephalus

Photo of Yellow-headed Blackbird adult male

Yellow-headed Blackbirds can be found breeding in a few areas in northern California, but are also present throughout the state during migration.

Adult males stand out thanks to their distinctive bright yellow head and chest, paired with a mostly black body.

Females and immatures of this blackbird have more drab coloration and are dark brown rather than black.

Males will often mate with a number of different females during the breeding season, forming small colonies of nests. 

Outside of the breeding season, these blackbirds gather into massive flocks, frequently mingling with other species of blackbirds, and feed on leftover grains on farmland.

At this time it is common for this blackbird to forage in fields and spend their winters in open cultivated areas.

During the summer months, they feed mostly on insects and other small invertebrates. 

Typically, these birds breed in lowland areas with wetlands and dense growth of cattails. This California blackbird is most often observed during migration in fall and spring.

Prothonotary Warbler

Scientific name: Protonotaria citrea 

Photo of Prothonotary Warbler

A small bird, the Prothonotary Warbler is a rare visitor in eastern California during migration to its wintering grounds in Central and South America.

Male Prothonotary Warblers are bright yellow with gray-blue wings and long tail, as well as black eyes.

If you were to look at this yellow bird from underneath, you would see its white belly. The females are very similar to the males, but are more often than not slightly paler yellow. 

You’ll usually find Prothonotary Warblers in woodlands near streams and lakes, as well as in wooded swamps.

Their diet mainly consists of snails and insects you’d find in swampy areas.

Townsend’s Warbler

Scientific name: Setophaga townsendi

Photo of Townsend's Warbler

The Townsend’s Warbler is a beautiful small songbird.

Adult males have contrasting patches of bright lemon yellow and black on their heads, as well as a black chest and yellow underparts with dark streaks.

Females look similar to males, except they are often lighter in color, and the black portions of the head markings have been replaced with dark gray.

This is a breeding bird of the Pacific Northwest, and occurs in California during spring and fall migration.

Black-throated Green Warbler

Scientific name: Setophaga virens

Photo of Black-throated Green Warbler

Similar to the Townsend’s Warbler, the Black-throated Green Warbler is also a colorful little warbler.

Adult males have an olive green back, a bright yellow face and breast, and a black throat and chest. The belly is buff white with dark streaks in the flanks. Females look similar, but don’t have a black throat.

It is a migratory bird that is a rare visitor in east California during fall and spring migration. 

This yellow-colored bird favors mixed and coniferous forests, and migrates to the Caribbean to spend its winter.

Mourning Warbler

Scientific name: Geothlypis philadelphia

Photo of Mourning Warbler adult male

The Mourning Warbler is a colorful ground-dwelling warbler. Adult males have an olive green back, while their belly is golden yellow.

The head and throat are blue gray, and the chest has a black patch towards the top. Females look similar, but are paler overall.

This warbler is a rare visitor in California during its migrations to and from Central America. It favors shrubland and dense thickets, but is very secretive, and hence hard to observe.

Hooded Warbler

Scientific name: Setophaga citrina

Photo of Hooded Warbler adult male

These small yellow birds are rare visitors in California, where they can be seen on migration in spring and fall.

The Male has a striking black hood, which contrasts with brilliant flashes of  yellow, while its back is olive green.

Females and immatures are similar to males, but lack the black areas on their head. These birds don’t visit bird feeders, and are most often spotted in backyards during migration.

They prefer forests with dense undergrowth, and winter in Mexico and Central America.

American Redstart (Female)

Scientific name: Setophaga ruticilla

Photo of American Redstart adult female

While male American Redstarts are bright orange and black, females have yellow plumage instead of the orange parts of the male.

Females also have much less black, and as a result look like pale green birds with bright yellow patches.

This bird is a breeding bird in the northernmost part of California from May through August, and favors a wide variety of woodland habitats, as well as backyards.

It migrates to South America to spend the winter months. 

Baltimore Oriole (Female)

Scientific name: Icterus galbula

Photo of Baltimore Oriole adult female

The Baltimore Oriole is a wonderful singer that is more frequently heard than seen.

Adult males are very conspicuous due to their flaming orange belly, paired with a completely black head and back, as well as their black and white wings.

Females and immatures have a more brownish yellow coloration.

Baltimore Orioles are readily attracted to feeders that contain orange halves, grape jelly, or nectar.

And similar to Orchard Orioles, parents bring their recently fledged young to a nearby feeder.

This bird favors open spaces such as yards, parks, and woods, and frequently comes back to the same location year after year.

Keep an eye out for Baltimore Orioles in deciduous forests, but not in dense woods. You may encounter them in places like open forests, forest margins, orchards and even backyards.

Due to the fact that they forage high in trees in search of insects, fruit, and flowers, most orioles are more frequently heard than seen.

While the Baltimore Oriole is a rare visitor to California, and is most often seen in the state during the migration season.

Orchard Oriole

Scientific name: Icterus spurius

Photo of Orchard Oriole adult female

This Oriole got its name from its preference for orchards and open woods. It is a rare visitor in California during spring or fall migration.

Unlike the males (which are a combination of black and dark orange), females are mostly yellow.

Young males resemble females in color, and gradually become more and more black over their first two years.

Early in the summer, the Orchard Oriole feeds on insects, but later it will switch to eating wild fruit as they become mature.

After their young have fledged, parent Orioles will bring them to feeding stations (especially if you have a nectar feeder. 

Some people mistakenly believe that the Orioles have departed since they do not see them at their feeders very often during the peak of the summer.

However, the birds are still present nearby, but are simply focused on catching insects to bring back to their nestlings.

The Orchard Oriole is one of the birds that gets here very late in the spring and is one of the ones that leaves quite early in the fall.

Hooded Oriole

Scientific name: Icterus cucullatus 

Photo of Hooded Oriole adult male

The Hooded Oriole is one of the most common orioles in California and other parts of the southwestern United States.

The Hooded Oriole is a striking bird that is highly conspicuous due to its flaming yellow belly and neck.

In addition to the bright parts, its throat, back, wings are a stunning jet black color, as is the black tail. 

The range of the Hooded Oriole in the Southwest has expanded as a result of both an increase in the number of palm trees and an increase in the availability of nectar bird feeders.

One of the favorite foods of this oriole is nectar, and as a result, they are on occasion observed at bird feeders in California that offer nectar or grape jelly.

Cedar Waxwing

Scientific name: Bombycilla cedrorum

Photo of Cedar Waxwing

Adult Cedar Waxwings have orange buff colors that fade into pale yellow on the underparts. There is a crest on the head, as well as a dark mask around the eyes. Both sexes look similar.

This bird is present in California as an irregular winter visitor. During harsh winters its numbers go up in the Golden State due to northern birds that move south to escape the harsh climate.

During winter, these birds form small flocks that are nomadic, and wander around in search of areas with most food, such as berry bushes.

Orange-crowned Warbler

Scientific name: Oreothlypis celata

Photo of Orange-crowned Warbler

The orange crown on the head of the Orange-crowned Warbler is difficult to notice and is therefore not a helpful field trait to use for its identification.

Adult males are greenish yellow in color, with the upper portions  a somewhat deeper shade than the lower bellies. They have a yellow-buff undertail and faint stripes on the underparts.

Adult females and juveniles have less vibrant colors than males, and are more grayish yellow tones.

The Orange-crowned Warbler is a breeding bird in northern California, and winter visitor in the southern half of California, where it can be seen from September through April.

Lesser Goldfinch

Scientific name: Spinus psaltria

Photo of Lesser Goldfinch

The Lesser Goldfinch is common in California, and breeds in a broad swath along the coast.

Adult males have a black cap and black wings, which contrast with bright yellow underparts. Their black wings have a white stripe, which is most obvious in flight. 

Females and juveniles are olive green, with lighter underparts and dark wings with a white wing bar.

The Lesser Goldfinch is a year-round resident in California, and outside of the breeding season in California it likes to forage in flocks, mainly feeding on thistles.

Western Kingbird

Scientific name: Tyrannus verticalis

Photo of Western Kingbird

The Western Kingbird has a yellow underside, paired with pale gray upperparts, with both sexes looking similar.

Adults have a head that is mostly a light gray color, with a thin black line that runs through each eye.

The feathers of their dark brown wings have light colored edges, as do the tail feathers. Young birds resemble adults but are paler.

The Western Kingbird is a summer visitor that breeds throughout California, and can be seen from April through August. It winters in Central America.

Its preferred habitat is farmland and open country mixed with woodlands. 

Dickcissel

Scientific name: Spiza americana

Photo of Dickcissel

The Dickcissel is a songbird that resembles a sparrow, but has more colorful markings.

The backs of adult males are yellow with black stripes of gray-brown, and they also have a gray nape.

They have a bright yellow eyebrow stripe, as well as a yellow malar stripe, and a yellow breast. 

Females and juveniles are less colorful, and lack the balck and yellow feathers of the males.

It is a rare visitor in California during the migration season in fall and spring.

Its preferred habitat are grassland and prairies, and it forms large flocks outside of the breeding season.

Scott’s Oriole

Scientific name: Icterus parisorum

Photo of Scotts Oriole subadult male

Scott’s Oriole is found in the southwestern part of the United States, and is a locally common breeding bird in California.

Scott’s Oriole is a medium-sized bird that is highly conspicuous due to its flaming yellow underside.

However, only the lower part of this bird is yellow in color. The head, back, breast, tail, and wing of the bird are a stunning jet black color. 

A type of iceterid, it is most famously known as the desert or mountain oriole, as it prefers to live in high desert regions or along mountain slopes in Central Mexico and the southern United States. 

It frequents both dense oak forests as well as more open landscapes with scattered trees and yucca plants.

The favorite food of this oriole is yucca nectar, and as a result of this, they are on occasion observed at California feeders that offer nectar or sugar water.

Evening Grosbeak

Scientific name: Coccothraustes vespertinus

Photo of Evening Grosbeak

The Evening Grosbeak is a large finch with a massive yellow bill that makes it easy to recognize.

Adult males have a bright yellow forehead, mantle, and golden underparts. Females and immatures are mostly buff gray with yellow on the belly.

The Evening Grosbeak is a winter visitor in California during the winter.

These yellow birds form flocks in winter, and are scarce visitors at California bird feeders in the cold months.

Lawrence’s Goldfinch

Scientific name: Spinus lawrencei

Photo of Lawrence's Goldfinch adult male

This little finch is a breeding bird that is only found in California, although outside of the breeding season it also occurs in Arizona and New Mexico.

Adult males are largely light gray, except for their yellow-and-black wings, and their yellow breast. 

Males also have a black forehead and throat, while females are paler and don’t have the black markings on their head.

It prefers scrubland interspersed with grassland. Outside of the winter season they move around in search of areas with plentiful thistle seeds.

MacGillivray’s Warbler

Scientific name: Geothlypis tolmiei

Photo of MacGillivray's Warbler adult female

MacGillivray’s Warblers look similar to Mourning Warblers, but are a species of higher altitudes. Adult males have a blue-gray hood that contrasts with bright yellow underparts. 

Females and juveniles are paler, and have a pale gray hood. These birds are present in California during the summer months from June through August.

It favors forests with dense undergrowth, and winters in Central America.

What California birds are yellow and black?

The following 10 types of birds in California are yellow and black:

  • American Goldfinch
  • Yellow-headed Blackbird
  • Eastern Meadowlark
  • Common Yellowthroat
  • Yellow-throated Warbler
  • Black-throated Green Warbler
  • Magnolia Warbler
  • Wilson’s Warbler
  • Canada Warbler
  • Hooded Warbler

As you can see, there are many California birds that are both yellow and black. 

The most common of these are American Goldfinches, which are present in California during the winter. 

So if you spot a black and yellow bird while bird watching, this is the first species that you should check for.

If you’re not sure which one of these birds you saw, check out our detailed description and ID photos above.

What small California birds are yellow?

The most common small yellow birds in the Golden State are American Goldfinches, which are widespread winter birds in grassland and urban areas.

Apart from Goldfinches, the smallest yellow birds in the state are warblers. There are no less than 11 types of yellow warblers in California, of which the most common one is the Yellow Warbler.

If you’re not sure which one of these birds you saw, check out our detailed descriptions and ID photos above.