Photographing Yellow Warblers

by David Lilly
June 30, 2011

Yellow Warbler by David Lilly ©

Yellow Warblers are one of my favourite birds to photograph. They will sit on a branch and call for a mate for hours, providing lots of photographic opportunities. It’s their colour: the bright yellow that attracts me to these little birds.

Male and female Yellow Warblers are very similar and easy to identify. During breeding the male is greenish/yellowish on the back with orange/brownish stripes on the chest. The females are a little more greenish/yellowish, mostly on the head. As in the photographs in this article the eyes are black.

Yellow Warbler by David Lilly ©

Yellow Warblers can be found all across Canada in the summer months. Here in Calgary the best place to find Yellow Warblers is along the Bow River. Inglewood Bird Sanctuary is one of my favourite places in May and early June. If you go to Inglewood go early in the morning, I usually get there around 6:30 A.M. However, I have seen Yellow Warblers in my back yard in Calgary south. The warblers are usually vocal most of the day, especially when the males are looking for a mate. After the leaves are on the trees they are are more difficult to see. Your best hope at this time is to learn their call.

Yellow Warbler by David Lilly ©

Some facts about yellow warblers. Yellow warblers eat insects. Yellow Warblers have been known to raise a brood of young in as little as 45 days, but usually take about 75 days. Males court the females with songs; a Yellow Warbler has been observed to sing more than 3,200 songs in one day. Both the male and female incubate the 4-6 eggs. The eggs take about eight days to hatch. Three to four weeks the young are completely independent from their parents.Yellow warblers breed only once per year. The biggest threat to the Yellow Warbler in Canada is habitat destruction and pesticides.

Yellow Warbler by David Lilly ©

If you plan on photographing the Yellow Warbler be careful not to disturb the nest. My advice if you find the warbler is to sit and wait with a long lens. They will usually sit on the same tree or branch time after time. The best light will be early morning or late afternoon, with the sun to your back.

Yellow warblers b y David Lilly ©

Remember only about 50% of Yellow Warblers survive from one year to the next on average, so I repeat it is crucial that nests are not disturbed. As bird photographers we should try to photograph this bird before nesting season, before mid June. Conservation of this beautiful bird is priority.

For the photographs in this article I used a Nikon D 300 with a 500mm F4 Nikon lens with a 1.4 Nikon Tele converter. I underexposed by using -1 EV. Lens and camera was mounted on a Manfrotto Monopod with a Really Right Stuff ball head. I used Sandisk Cards. All photographs were processed on a Mac Book Pro using Aperture Software.

David Lilly portrait


David LiIlly is a professional nature photographer living and working in Calgary, AB he also teaches photo workshops. His photos have been published in PhotoLife, Calgary's Natural Parks, Alberta Nature Magazine and Fine Scale Military Modeller. Dave shoots with Nikon equipment.

David Lilly
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Phone: 403 703-6753 (Cell)

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