Birds of North Carolina:
their Distribution and Abundance
Yellow-rumped Warbler - Setophaga coronata
Search Common:                 Search Scientific:
General Comments The Yellow-rumped Warbler, often called the "Butter-butt", is arguably the most abundant warbler on the continent. The Western half of the species is the "Audubon's Warbler" subspecies (formerly a full species and arguably should be re-split), and the subspecies in the East is the "Myrtle Warbler". The species winters in large numbers in the southern half of the United States, and is (by far) the most numerous warbler wintering in North Carolina. Though numbers along the coast have markedly declined in recent decades (despite little change in habitat), it remains a common to abundant winter bird, often the most common passerine seen on a coastal CBC. Farther inland, it winters in smaller numbers the farther west one goes, and is scarce in midwinter in the mountains. Amazingly, despite "global warming", the species has moved south in the Appalachians as a breeder (since 1985), and a few pairs now nest at several sites in the spruce-fir zone, favoring edges and stunted spruce or fir areas rather than forest interiors. In winter, it favors waxmyrtle thickets, shrubby edges of marshes (with cedar or waxmyrtle), pocosins, swamps, bottomlands, and many other wooded or shrubby areas. It often joins chickadees and titmice in mixed species flocks.
Breeding Status Breeder
NC BRC List Definitive
State Status SR
U.S. Status
State Rank S1B,S5N
Global Rank G5
Coastal Plain Winter resident. Along the coast and in Tidewater near sounds, abundant in winter, particularly on the Outer Banks. Smaller numbers westward, but common over the remainder of the province, and at times very common in migration. Mainly late Sep to early May; a few Jun, Jul, and Aug records. Peak counts:

There are about 6 records of "Audubon's Warblers", from 9 Nov to 25 Apr.

Piedmont Winter resident, with noticeable migratory movements. In winter, common in the southeastern half, and fairly common in the northwestern portion, but can be scarce in the foothills by midwinter. May be very common in migration in spring and fall across the region. Mainly late Sep to early or mid-May. Peak counts:

There are about 6-7 records of "Audubon's Warbler", though three refer to the same bird seen in a Chapel Hill yard for three consecutive winters; dates range from 15 Oct to 24 Apr.

Mountains Very sparse (and recent) breeder, widespread transient, and winter resident/visitor. In summer, very rare to rare (though increasing) at the highest elevations, in the spruce-fir zone; one to three pairs have recently been present (and confirmed as breeders) at Roan Mountain, at Mount Mitchell SP, and in the Great Smoky Mountains NP (at Clingmans Dome and Mount Kephart). Also reported along Black Balsam Road in southern Haywood from 30 May into Jun 2014, and in Jun 2015-2017, suggestive of breeding there. Finally found at Grandfather Mountain in the breeding season on several dates in Jun 2014. Increases were noted in 2018 at several sites, with an excellent six singing males at Clingmans Dome on 7 Jun and four along Black Balsam Road throughout the summer. In spring, a common migrant over the lower and middle elevations, less numerous in higher elevations. In fall, fairly common throughout. In winter, mainly uncommon in the lower elevations (below 3,000 feet), and rare higher; can be very scarce by late winter. Mainly late Sep to early or mid-May. Peak counts:

There are no records of "Audubon's Warblers" from the region.

Finding Tips None needed near the coast in winter.
Attribution LeGrand[2018-11-06], LeGrand[2017-12-18], LeGrand[2016-12-22]
NC Map
Map depicts all counties with a report (transient or resident) for the species.
Click on county for list of all known species.
NC Breeding Season Map
Map depicts assumed breeding season abundance for the species.