Identification: The yellow-breasted wording is actually a member of the raccoon family. But its body is shorter and its tail is considerably longer than all other family members. Adult yellow-breasted chats have a short, bright yellow throat, breast and underarm feathers, olive-green upper back, white front legs and white shoulder markings. They are also known to have white streaks on their flanks, between the crest and white belly. Their rump is cream-colored and their legs are larger than those of most other members of their genus. They may have black arrow-shaped spots on their throats.
Biology and Behaviour: The yellow-breasted chats are typically found in dry, warm environments with wooded areas. They prefer coniferous forests in southern United States, Canada and Russia. During winter, they move to warmer ground cover. They feed on a variety of deciduous trees, including elms, maples, oaks, birch, Douglas fir and more. They are not good climbers or diggers.
In the southern United States, this species nests at the base of large live or dead oaks, maples, yews, beech and spruce trees. Other birds like to nest on birch tree leaves and branches. There are many species of birds that feed on these plants, so this behaviour is quite common.
Range: They are found throughout the eastern USA, excepting the northern and western states. However, they do prefer moist, humid habitats that provide abundant prey and nectar. This means they need to be frequent flyers, due to their very slow movements. As a result, they are better below the dense vegetation, like brush, undergrowth and clumps of rocks. Yellow-breasted chats are excellent climbers and parents with many young ones in their year-long range.
Ecosystem Dependence: This species has an extreme dependence on a specific habitat and food source. This means that they are restricted to a certain type of habitat in most parts of their range. Due to their food preference, they may starve to death if there are not thickets of coniferous plants around them to provide them with sustenance. For instance, they are extremely choosy about the type of bilberries they eat, preferring the purple coneflower instead of the blue.
Characteristic Behaviour: One of the first characteristics of this species is that it mates in large groups, usually over a hundred specimens. The females usually fly from one tree to another in search of mates. They have distinctive head movements which look like those of the swallow and they often wave their wings while dancing. They have large bills which contain long narrow strips of flesh at the end. These are used to scrape insects off of the foliage of the coniferous bushes they frequent and to attract female coniferous birds which pass through.
Sexual Interference: It's the males who choose the partners for breeding purposes. The females don't generally have a choice and are forced into having sexual intercourse with any male who comes along. As a result, these birds become sexually mature at almost exactly the same time as the warblers do. Sexual dimorphism is caused by this process. While both sexes have solid black heads and colorful wings, the yellow-breasted chats have brighter yellow heads and wings but lack the black markings on their wings. As with all predatory birds, they display conspicuously on the tips of their wings.
In the spring they mate and the couples fly back to the breeding area to start reproduction. In the wintertime, they nest near perimeters of trees in large groups. The male is the only member of this species that displays wing colors other than the usual orange and red. The females are mostly blue with a red stomach area.