06.14.20: Male yellowthroat

Yellowthroats spend much of their time bouncing through fields, staying close to the ground as they search for insects to eat. That means the majority of my photographs show the bird against a background — and a foreground — of plants or tangled branches.

A bird that’s fun to watch but hard to photograph

I have a number of very good photos of Common Yellowthroats in my files. This photo  accurately portrays the bird’s typical surroundings.

I saw this male yellowthroat in a field in Sharon Woods Metro Park north of Columbus, Ohio.  It was moving from plant to plant, staying hidden behind leaves much of the time as I tried to track it with my camera. 

I guess you could say this is common behavior for Common Yellowthroats.

Yellowthroats spend much of their time bouncing through fields, staying close to the ground as they search for insects to eat. That means the majority of my photographs of Common Yellowthroats show the bird  against a background — and a foreground — of plants or tangled branches.

And that creates a significant challenge for a photographer.  The birds are a delight to see and to watch, but a pain to photograph.

Objects in front of or near a subject of a photo can fool the autofocus mechanism in a camera. I know I’m photographing a bird but the camera thinks I want a leaf or a branch in focus. The trick is to keep the camera’s active focus point over the bird’s eye while tracking the bird’s movement. It’s not easy.

Yellowthroats are warblers. Unlike most other warblers that pass through my “home range” of Central Ohio on their way to breeding grounds in Canada during the spring and en route to winter homes in Central and South America in the fall, the Common Yellowthroat’s summer range covers much of the United States. That means I see — and photograph — yellowthroats during much of the summer.

Male Common Yellowthroats are distinctive.  Their face is covered with a broad black mask, creating a sense of a bandit at work. The males are bright yellow below and olive above. Females are primarily an olive brown with brighter yellow on the throat and under the tail. Females lack the black mask.

A male Common Yellowthroat perches in a field in Sharon Woods Metro Park, Westerville, Ohio.

A male Common Yellowthroat perches in a field in Sharon Woods Metro Park, Westerville, Ohio.

Tech specs

  • Date/time: July 8, 2017, 9:51 a.m.
  • Location: 40°6'53.358" N 82°57'28.95" W (Show in Google Maps)
  • Camera: EOS 7D Mark II
  • Lens: Canon EF 600mm f/4L, Canon 1.4x teleconverter (840mm)
  • Aperture: f/5.6
  • Shutter: 1/1250th second
  • ISO: 640