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home : birding w/don reimer : birding w/don reimer
January 29, 2020

12/18/2008 4:17:00 PM
Yellow-breasted Chat -
A Yellow-breasted Chat spotted near Pemaquid Lighthouse earlier this month  Photo by Don Reimer
A Yellow-breasted Chat spotted near Pemaquid Lighthouse earlier this month Photo by Don Reimer
by Don Reimer

At a length of seven inches, the Yellow-breasted Chat is easily the largest member of the wood warbler family. This showy species is distinctive in its appearance and readily recognized by its bright yellow throat and chest, olive-green back and white spectacles. The stout bill is well suited for a varied diet of insects, fruits and seeds. Chats are generally skulky birds that inhabit dense brushy thickets and hedgerows. Males, however, will often sing from exposed perches during the spring courtship period and perform aerial maneuvers. Despite their bright coloration, these secretive birds usually remain in heavy cover and are difficult to detect.

Producing a jumble of cackles, clucks, whistles and catcalls, chats vocalize at any time of day or night. They are the only warbler species to mimic other birds or to hold onto food with their foot while eating. Due to their large size and certain behavioral traits, there is still some debate whether the chat is truly a warbler at all.

Chats nest south of the New England region. Although the majority of the population winters in Central America, a few birds venture up the northern coastline to Maine and the Atlantic provinces each fall. Feeding on berries, fruits, seeds and suet, these heavy-bodied warblers can tolerate the colder temperatures as long as thick, protective cover is available. Several other fruit-eating warblers, including Yellow-rumped, Orange-crowned and Pine Warbler, are occasionally found in Maine during the winter, and may turn up on select Christmas bird counts across the state.

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