Yellow-breasted Chat, Icteria virens
Birds of North America describes the Yellow-breasted Chat as "frequently overlooked
and seldom seen" mainly as a result of its "skulking, secretive nature." It manages
to stay out of sight while the male deploys one of the most varied and conspicuous
of birdsongs, a loud and extended series of "whistles, rattles, catcalls, and grunts,"
enriched by imitation. I had several times heard one of these birds, sometimes never
seeing them, other times getting only quick glimpses. Finally in my thirteenth year
as a bird photographer, I delightedly encountered this this handsome fellow, who
did sing from the underbrush like others of his species, but also displayed himself
right out in the open, as if intentionally posing for me to take his picture.
The Chat is classified as a parulid or wood-warbler, despite being much larger and
possessing a proportionately larger bill than other warblers, and subsisting as much
on fruit as on the insects which are the regular diet of this tribe. The male's varied,
extended, and imitative song is also wholly unlike that of any other warbler. But
molecular analysis has shown this species to be more closely related to the warblers
than to other families that they more resemble in appearance, behavior, or voice, such
as the tanagers, vireos, and mimids.