Species At Risk

Yellow-breasted Chat

(Icteria virens)


Yellow-breasted Chat
Yellow-breasted Chat occurrences map


The Yellow-breasted Chat is a medium-sized songbird, about 18 centimetres long, with a long tail. It has a bright yellow chest and throat, olive-green back, white circles around its eyes, white belly and undertail.

This bird eats insects gathered from the foliage of low, dense shrubs, or from the ground.

Action we are taking:


The Yellow-breasted Chat is found in much of the United States. In Canada, it lives in southern British Columbia, the Prairies, and southwestern Ontario, where it is concentrated in Point Pelee National Park and Pelee Island in Lake Erie.

This bird winters along the Gulf of Mexico.


The Yellow-breasted Chat lives in thickets and scrub, especially locations where clearings have become overgrown. These birds spend their winters in coastal marshes.


Although it was likely never common here, the Yellow-breasted Chat’s preferred habitat of overgrown clearings is disappearing as farmland becomes more intensively managed.


The Yellow-breasted Chat is listed as an Endangered species under Ontario's Endangered Species Act. This species and its nest are protected under the federal Migratory Birds Convention Act. The Ontario population has declined by 55% over the past 20 years and it is declining in neighboring jurisdictions as well. There are likely fewer than 10 breeding locations in Ontario. The population in the Point Pelee National Park also receives protection. On Pelee Island, the population is on public land, where it also receives some protection.

What You Can Do to Help the Yellow-breasted Chat

  • The Ministry of Natural Resources tracks species at risk such as the Yellow-breasted Chat. You can use a handy online form to report your sightings to the Natural Heritage Information Centre. Photographs with specific locations or mapping coordinates are always helpful. nhic.mnr.gov.on.ca
  • Report any illegal activity related to plants and wildlife to 1-877-TIPS-MNR (847-7667).
  • Private land owners have a very important role to play in species recovery. You may be eligible for stewardship programs that support the protection and recovery of species at risk and their habitats.
  • Bird Studies Canada is working to advance the understanding, appreciation and conservation of wild birds and their habitat in Ontario and elsewhere. For more information on how you can help, visit: www.bsc-eoc.org.
  • Volunteer with your local nature club or provincial park to participate in surveys or stewardship work focused on species at risk.
  • The Canada-Ontario Farm Stewardship Program is available to farmers registered under the Canada-Ontario Environmental Farm Plan to encourage greater protection and conservation of habitat for species at risk. Find more information at www.omafra.gov.on.ca/english/environment/efp/efp.htm.

Did you know?

The Yellow-breasted Chat’s song consists of a weird assortment of clicks, whistles ands even chuckles.

Did you know?

Yellow-breasted Chats in Ontario tend to be more subdued in colour than their relatives in western Canada, and separate subspecies are recognized.

Did you know?

This chat’s nest is a bulky cup of grasses, leaves, strips of bark, and stems of weeds. It is lined with finer grasses, wiry plant stems, pine needles, and sometimes roots and hair.

Did you know?

In one Kentucky study, DNA fingerprinting revealed that five of 29 Yellow-breasted Chat nestlings were not sired by the male of the social pair and three of nine broods contained at least one extra-pair nestling.

The Endangered Species Act

Contact your local ministry office

Often the best source of local information on species at risk is your nearest ministry office. Call with your questions or concerns.