Yellow-breasted Chat
(Icteria virens)


Picture of bird
© John Reaume
For additional photos and vocalizations, visit Dendroica. (Link opens in a new window.)

Primarily breeding in the United States, the Yellow-breasted Chat reaches Canada in the southern Prairie provinces, southern interior of British Columbia and southern Ontario. There is insufficient information to assess the national population status of this species due to the lack of reliable national trend data. However, in 2011, the small Southern Mountain population of the auricollis subspecies found in British Columbia was designated as Endangered by the Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada, due to its small size and restricted distribution; it is now listed under the Species at Risk Act (SARA). The larger Prairie population of auricollis is Not at Risk (COSEWIC 2011c). The Ontario virens subspecies was first assessed as Special Concern but re-assessed as Endangered by COSEWIC in 2011 due to its very small and localized population and recent declines (COSEWIC 2011c). It was listed as such under SARA in 2017. This species has been identified as a priority for conservation and/or stewardship in one or more Bird Conservation Region Strategies in Canada.


Main designations for the species
DesignationStatusDateSubspecies, population
COSEWIC (Canada)Endangered2011Yellow-breasted Chat auricollis subspecies (Southern Mountain population)
COSEWIC (Canada)Not at Risk2011Yellow-breasted Chat auricollis subspecies (Prairie population)
COSEWIC (Canada)Endangered2011Yellow-breasted Chat virens subspecies
SARA (Canada)Endangered2003Yellow-breasted Chat auricollis subspecies (Southern Mountain population)
SARA (Canada)Endangered2017Yellow-breasted Chat virens subspecies
IUCN (Global)Least concern2018 
Wild Species (Canada)Vulnerable2015 
Bird Conservation Region StrategyPriority Species2013 

Population status

Geographic area or populationPopulation change relative to ~1970ReliabilityStatus in relation to goal
CanadaData DeficientData DeficientData Deficient
Yellow-breasted Chat auricollis subspecies (Southern Mountain population)Large DecreaseLowBelow Acceptable Level
Yellow-breasted Chat virens subspeciesLarge DecreaseHighBelow Acceptable Level

Population estimate

Geographic area or populationPopulation estimate
Canada500 - 5,000 adults

Distribution maps


Migration strategy, occurrence

Long-distance migrant

Responsibility for conservation

Geographic areaResponsibility based on % of global population
CanadaVery Low

General nesting period in Canada

Nesting period starts between late May and early June and ends between mid-July and late July, depending on the region. Before or after this period, the probability of an active nest is lower.

Conservation and management

The Yellow-breasted Chat probably increased in numbers as extensive logging and forest fragmentation occurred in the late 19th century (Eckerle and Thompson 2001). However, populations have decreased in some areas as mid-successional forest with thickets and understory have reverted to mature forest (Eckerle and Thompson 2001). The species is adapted to the exploitation of successional habitats (Eckerle and Thompson 2001). While the species will tolerate areas of open grass within territories, it does so only if dense shrubs occur close by (Johnston and Odum 1956, McKibbin and Bishop 2010). Loss of suitable habitat through successional changes, and deterioration of riparian habitats due to grazing (Eckerle and Thompson 2001), development, and roadside vegetation removal are all threats to the species (ECCC 2016a). The Multi-Species Action Plan for Point Pelee National Park and Niagara National Historic Site has a conservation and recovery measure to effectively manage for a minimum of 4 ha of suitable Yellow-breasted Chat virens habitat in Point Pelee National Park (Parks Canada Agency 2016c). As of 2016-2017, this goal has almost been met, with almost 4 ha cleared of overgrown shrubs and invasive plants, along with the planting of native forbs and grasses (T. Dobbie, pers. comm.). For information on the legal status of this species under the Species at Risk Act (SARA) and to view available Recovery documents, see the SARA Registry.


Bird conservation region strategies

Environment and Climate Change Canada and partners have developed Bird Conservation Region Strategies in each of Canada’s Bird Conservation Regions (BCRs). In these strategies, selected species are identified as priorities for one or more of the following reasons:

  • conservation concerns (i.e., species vulnerable due to population size, distribution, population trend, abundance, or threats)
  • stewardship responsibilities (i.e., species that typify the regional avifauna or have a large proportion of their range or population in the sub-region)
  • management concerns (i.e., species that require ongoing management because of their socio-economic importance as game species, or because of their impacts on other species or habitats)
  • other concerns (i.e., species deemed a priority by regional experts for other reasons than those listed above or because they are listed as species at risk or concern at the provincial level)

Select any of the sub-regions below to view the BCR strategy for additional details.

BCRs, marine biogeographic units, and sub-regions in which the species is listed as a priority
RegionSub-region and priority type
Great BasinGreat Basin, sub-region and priority type: Pacific and Yukon -- Other
Lower Great Lakes/St. Lawrence PlainLower Great Lakes/St. Lawrence Plain, sub-region and priority type: Ontario -- Conservation
Northern RockiesNorthern Rockies, sub-region and priority type: Pacific and Yukon -- Other