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Yellow-breasted Chat
Icteria virens

Yellow-breasted Chat
Yellow-breasted Chat

    Land Tenure - Yellow-breasted Chat
  • Length: 18 cm.
  • Distinctive white 'spectacles', bright yellow throat and breast.


British Columbia Red List
Canada: Threatened (British Columbia population)

Special Significance

The once common Yellow-breasted Chat is now extremely rare. In British Columbia, the chat breeds only in the South Okanagan and Similkameen valleys. Its repeated whistles, chatters and squawks are sometimes heard emanating from thick tangles of brush in riparian areas. These large warblers are in danger of becoming extirpated in British Columbia because of habitat loss. Landowners can assist the continued survival of remaining Yellow-breasted Chat populations by maintaining and enhancing riparian habitat to provide the dense, tangled shrub growth favoured by chats. Livestock should be carefully managed in riparian areas or excluded by fencing to prevent trampling of the understory and erosion of streambanks.


  • In British Columbia, chats occur in the South Okanagan Valley and along the Similkameen River; most sightings are along the Okanagan River south of McIntyre Bluff and near the north end of Osoyoos Lake.
  • All breeding records have been south of Penticton, but territorial birds have been occasionally heard and seen north to the Thompson Valley and Alkali Lake.
  • Chats are restricted to valley bottoms in British Columbia.


  • Chats are restricted to dense, low elevation riparian thickets in dry, open habitats; occupied thickets tend to be damp (not wet) and occur along hedgerows, streams, lakeshores or damp gullies.
  • Preferred breeding habitat is dense wild rose thickets near small deciduous trees such as willows, water birch and cottonwood.


  • Nesting occurs mid-May to June and young fledge by mid-July.
  • Birds begin to migrate south in mid-July and most are gone by mid-August.

Food Habits

  • Chats are insectivorous and glean prey from shrub and tree foliage near ground or on lower branches; berries are also eaten.
  • Nests are usually located less than 3 metres up in shrubs or small trees.

Interesting Facts

  • Song is louder and lower pitched than those of their other wood warblers; one common phrase consists of three whistles exactly like someone calling their dog!
  • Chats often sing at night.


  • Clearing of lowland riparian thickets and woods for agriculture, commercial and residential developments.
  • Livestock trampling riparian vegetation.
  • Thinning and logging riparian woodlands.
  • Only small areas of suitable riparian habitat are left after river channelization.

Management Considerations

  • Maintain and enhance remaining riparian habitat including cottonwoods, aspen, rose thickets and snowberry.
  • Avoid clearing or thinning shrubs and thickets in riparian areas.
  • Fence riparian areas to prevent livestock from trampling bushes or employ a carefully managed grazing strategy.
  • Prevent off-road vehicles from disturbing and degrading stream-side vegetation.
  • Protect known breeding sites from human disturbance.


1. Cannings, R.A., R.J. Cannings and S.G. Cannings. 1987. Birds of the Okanagan Valley, British Columbia. Royal British Columbia Museum, Victoria, BC.
2. Cannings, R.J. 1995. Status of the Yellow-breasted Chat in British Columbia. Wildlife Branch, Ministry of Water, Land and Air Protection Lands and Parks, Victoria, British Columbia


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