Sunday, June 16, 2013

Yellow-breasted Chat

While on a walk in our field almost two weeks ago, my mom and I heard a strange noise coming from one of the overgrown fencerows. When we heard the unique whistles, toots, and chattering of the bird a second time, it was clear that we were hearing a Yellow-breasted Chat, an odd olive and yellow songbird that is currently classified with wood warblers (although it looks and acts very differently than the rest of our warblers). Chats are very uncommon in this part of Pennsylvania, and this bird was my first record for the yard and county! We searched and searched for the bird in the tangles of autumn olive, barberry, and blackhaw, but he stayed hidden. However, he continued to sing throughout the evening and into the night:

(If the audio player does not work for you, check out the recording here:

Since that first encounter, we have heard the chat every day... and night too! In the earliest hours of the morning--when even the treefrogs have quieted--the chat continues singing, presumably from atop his favorite perch in a dead sassafras. In the morning hours, before the sun gets too hot and the cicadas begin their chorus, we have seen the chat perched alongside the resident thrashers and towhees. Unfortunately, he is extremely skittish and takes refuge in the densest brush whenever someone approaches. Nevertheless, it is still awesome to have this rare bird around and hear his distinct song coming through the window as I fall asleep each night.
A typical, distant view of the chat on his favorite perch

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