Yellow-breasted Chats and Colorful Conveyances

May 30, 2013

As I glassed the prairie at Shaw Nature Reserve I noticed a pair of yellow-breasted chats flying back and forth between a patch of charred stick-ups and a small island of trees near the trail. I was far more interested in the action out on the prairie than in the trees because the male was putting on a show each time they landed on the stick-ups and better yet, at eye level. Unfortunately, I wasn’t dressed properly for a walk into the tall grass, which was soaked with dew, virtually steaming with moisture. I wished for a pair of rubber boots and rain pants but I knew I might never get a chance to photograph a male chat in a courtship display again. As I took the first few steps into the prairie I could feel the cold water seeping through my pants, down my legs and into my boots. At about 50 meters, I felt like I’d been wading in a river up to my waist! Eventually, the water in my shoes began to warm up as I trudged onward and I almost forgot about my miserable condition as I neared the stick-ups.

I finally made it to the area where the chats had been courting and I set up my rig behind some briars for a little cover and waited. It wasn’t long before the female landed in the burnt out brush with the male following close behind. Almost immediately, the male began his display, bobbing his head and tilting it from side to side. He didn’t pay any attention to me and I could have approached even closer but I kept my distance, just close enough to get a shot that would still require at least a 50% crop. The gorgeous yellow bird even allowed me to make a very short video which you can view here.


In case you haven’t noticed, I hold chats in high regard. Their beauty is only part of the story; it’s their “chatting” that makes them even more special. Not unlike the mockingbird, chats produce a great variety of sounds and they can be heard from long distances. One of my favorite websites, “All About Birds” from Cornell University describes the sounds of the yellow-breasted chat as follows:  “A collection of whistles, cackles, mews, catcalls, caw notes, chuckles, rattles, squawks, gurgles, and pops. Call a sharp “chuck.”

I’ve included three images of the yellow-breasted chat in this week’s post. The first is a standard view to give you and idea of what the bird looks like and the other two provide frozen moments from the courtship display. The yellow and white of this species are a perfect combination, in my opinion, in nature as well as on machines, including a 1991 Harley Davidson Fatboy, which had the same color combo right from the factory. I believe that combo was called “vivid yellow and birch white.” This little birdie reminded me of how much I coveted that bike, even after I brought home a ruby-red version of the same motorcycle.


Next week, I’ll share the second part of my wonderful Sunday morning on the high prairie at Shaw Nature Reserve as I found myself surrounded by Henslow’s sparrows, several of which were toting caterpillars to their nestlings deep in the prairie grass. I’m looking forward to sharing a few of those images as well, and I promise not to digress further into the abyss of bird/Harley Davidson comparisons. It’s just too weird!

Thanks for looking,


Yellow-breasted Chat:  Canon 1D Mark IV; Canon 500/4 L IS with Canon 1.4 TC III Extender; 1/400 @ f/6.3; ISO 400; RAW Capture; Converted and Processed in Canon DPP.

Yellow-breasted Chat Courtship 1:  Canon 1D Mark IV; Canon 500/4 L IS with Canon 1.4 TC III Extender; 1/320 @ f/5.6; ISO 400; RAW Capture; Converted and Processed in Canon DPP.

Yellow-breasted Chat Courtship 2:  Canon 1D Mark IV; Canon 500/4 L IS with Canon 1.4 TC III Extender; 1/320 @ f/5.6; ISO 400; RAW Capture; Converted and Processed in Canon DPP.

10 comments on “Yellow-breasted Chats and Colorful Conveyances”

  1. Oh, goodness, he seems to be doing quite a snake-dance here! Thanks for this delightful post. I’ve been housebound lately, so was very happy to see this. You can now soak in my appreciation!

    • Thanks Deepa. I hope you are not housebound for too long. I doesn’t sound like you. Take care.

  2. Love the Chat photos, quite a comical pose. Just to give me a sence of how close your lens brings us to the subject, how far was this fellow from you?

  3. WOW’ what a beautiful bird. I don’t think that I have ever seen a Chat before. Its is truly one of God’s magnificent creations.
    Thanks for sharing. I also enjoyed the story behind of how you achieved your task. You are truly devoted. I hope you brought dry socks. Have a good weekend.


  4. Thank you Danny! This was a great post.

    mike s.


  5. Hi Danny, We really enjoy all your stories and pictures…We have a new e-mail address Thanks

    On Thu, May 30, 2013 at 6:27 PM, Nature Frames

    • Carl and Jane — So glad to hear you’ve been enjoying Nature Frames. Please enter your new email into the “Follow” box and you will receive a verification email. I would love to do it from this end but I’m not allowed. Take care.


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