23 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.
What are the types of yellow birds in California?
The 23 types of yellow birds found in California are:
- Lesser Goldfinch
- American Goldfinch
- Yellow Warbler
- Wilson’s Warbler
- Yellow-rumped warbler
- Common Yellowthroat
- Yellow-breasted Chat
- Western Meadowlark
- Summer Tanager (Female)
- Western Tanager (Female)
- Nashville Warbler
- Yellow-headed Blackbird
- Townsend’s Warbler
- American Redstart (Female)
- Hooded Oriole
- Cedar Waxwing
- Orange-crowned Warbler
- Western Kingbird
- 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:
Scientific name: Spinus psaltria
The Lesser Goldfinch is a common bird in California, and breeds in a broad swath along the coastal areas of the state.
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 it likes to forage in flocks, mainly feeding on thistles.
Scientific name: Spinus tristis
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.
Scientific name: Setophaga petechia
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.
Scientific name: Cardellina pusilla
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 a summer visitor and breeding bird in northern California, and spotted in the rest of the state during spring and fall migration, as it passes through California to and from its wintering grounds in Central America.
It prefers damp woodlands with dense shrubs, where it forages for small insects and other invertebrates.
Scientific name: Setophaga coronata
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 small California birds have blueish-gray upperparts with dark streaks, as well as a yellow rump and flanks.
The Yellow-rumped Warbler is a summer breeding bird in northern California, and a winter visitor in the southern parts of the state, where it can be seen from August through April.
Scientific name: Geothlypis trichas
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 in a small area of northern California, and is also a winter visitor in the southwestern parts of the state.
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.
Scientific name: Icteria virens
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.
In California, Yellow-breasted Chats are present as rare breeding birds 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.
Scientific name: Auriparus flaviceps
The Verdin is characterized by a slender body and an unusually slim beak that is more reminiscent of a warbler.
The colors of male and female Verdins are broadly similar, although the male’s yellow plumage is generally brighter.
The back, neck, and wings of adults are unassuming gray, contrasting with a startlingly bright yellow face, as well as piercing dark eyes.
And while it is an energetic feeder, twitching its tail as it goes, it can sometimes be difficult to spot, since it usually forages alone.
The Verdin is a regular breeding bird in the arid regions of southern California, including the Mojave Desert, where it can be seen all year round.
Scientific name: Sturnella neglecta
The Western Meadowlark closely resembles the Eastern Meadowlark, but is found in more western areas of North America. It occurs throughout 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.
Summer Tanager (Female)
Scientific name: Piranga rubra
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 southern 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.
Western Tanager (Female)
Scientific name: Piranga ludoviciana
With its brilliant hues, male Western Tanagers are difficult to overlook.
Adult males have a black back, tail, and wings in the summer, with two yellow and white wingbars. Their bodies are yellow, while their head and throat are orange-red.
Females and juvenile birds have a similar appearance, but the yellow is duller and the red color is almost absent, with the exception of a speck near the base of the beak.
The Western Tanager may be seen in northern California during the breeding season from May to August. These exotically colored birds spend the remainder of the year in Central America.
Scientific name: Oreothlypis ruficapilla
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.
Scientific name: Xanthocephalus xanthocephalus
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.
Scientific name: Setophaga townsendi
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.
The Townsend’s Warbler is a breeding bird of the Pacific Northwest, and occurs in California during spring and fall migration, as well as a winter bird along the coast.
American Redstart (Female)
Scientific name: Setophaga ruticilla
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 a small area of northernmost California from May through August, and favors a wide variety of woodland habitats, as well as backyards.
It is also present as a winter bird along the southern coast of California, while the largest part of the population migrates to South America to spend the winter months
Scientific name: Icterus cucullatus
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.
Scientific name: Bombycilla cedrorum
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.
Scientific name: Oreothlypis celata
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.
Scientific name: Tyrannus verticalis
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.
Western Kingbirds are summer visitors that breed throughout California, and can be seen from April through August. They winter in Central America.
The preferred habitat of this bird is farmland and open country mixed with woodlands.
Scientific name: Icterus parisorum
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.
Scientific name: Coccothraustes vespertinus
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 an uncommon breeding bird in northern California, and a scarce winter visitor throughout the entire state.
These yellow birds form flocks in winter, and are rare visitors at California bird feeders during the cold months.
Scientific name: Spinus lawrencei
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.
Scientific name: Geothlypis tolmiei
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 northern 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 7 types of birds in California are yellow and black:
- Lesser Goldfinch
- American Goldfinch
- Yellow-headed Blackbird
- Western Meadowlark
- Common Yellowthroat
- Wilson’s Warbler
- Hooded Oriole
As you can see, there are many birds in California that are yellow with black.
The most common of these are Lesser Goldfinches, which are widespread breeding birds throughout California and year-round residents in the southern half of the state.
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 Lesser Goldfinches, which are widespread breeding birds in grassland and urban areas.
Apart from these small finches, the smallest yellow birds in the state are warblers. There are no less than 7 types of yellow-colored warblers in California, of which the most common one is the American Yellow Warbler.
If you’re not sure which one of these birds you saw, check out our detailed descriptions and ID photos above.
If you enjoyed this article, check out our guide to the raptors of California.