04.24.22: Yellow-breasted Chat

A Yellow-breasted Chat perches above a field in Sharon Woods Metro Park, Westerville, Ohio.

A Yellow-breasted Chat perches above a field in Sharon Woods Metro Park, Westerville, Ohio.

A difficult bird to find, and for experts to place

The Yellow-breasted Chat was formerly considered to be the largest member of the family Parulidae, which includes New World warblers or wood-warblers. 

The Yellow-breasted Chat is a relatively common bird, according to various bird websites. I consider that odd because this photo shows the only Yellow-breasted Chat I’ve encountered during my many years of photo hikes.

Those same sites provide an explanation as to why I don’t find chats. The birds usually stay hidden and silent in dense thickets while searching for insects or berries. So I guess I was lucky that this chat perched above a field on a spring morning long enough for me to get a photograph.

I found this chat during a hike through Sharon Woods Metro Park north of Columbus, Ohio, in 2007. When I saw it I knew it wasn’t a bird that I’d photographed before. And I assumed it was likely some variety of warbler migrating north to its summer breeding grounds in Canada.

That assumption was correct in 2007. I looked up the bird in one of my field guides and found it listed among warblers.

That assumption is not necessarily correct today.

The Yellow-breasted Chat was formerly considered to be the largest member of the family Parulidae, which includes New World warblers or wood-warblers. The chat can be twice as large as other warbler species in that family.

But following taxonomic studies, scientists moved the chat to the family Icteriidae, making it the only species in that family. Then in 2019, other scientists recommended moving the chat again, this time to the family Icteridae that includes New World blackbirds because taxonomic research indicate that the chat and the New World blackbirds are the closest living relatives.

All that scientific debate goes way beyond my knowledge level. I just know that I have a photo of a Yellow-breasted Chat in my files. And it does look like a large warbler of some sort.

Tech specs

  • Date/time: May 12, 2007 9:00 AM   
  • Camera: Canon EOS 20D
  • Lens: 600.0 mm 
  • Focal length: 840mm
  • Aperture: f/7.1
  • Shutter: 1/500 second
  • ISO: 800

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