Yellow-headed Blackbird is a striking bird of marshes, open fields
and pastures. It’s distinct appearance along with its distinct
call, which sounds like rusty hinges, make this bird easy to
identify in the field.
This is a large bodied passerine with yellow head and breast.
Males are significantly larger than females. Length: 20-28cm.
Wingspan: 36-43cm. Weight: 65g.
Yellow head, neck and breast. Body plumage, lore, eye-stripe
are all black except for prominent white wing –patches which are
slightly visible when the bird is perched, but very conspicuous in
flight. The legs and eyes are black.
Grayish brown body with pale yellow primarily on breast and throat,
but also on neck and supraloral stripe. White streaking merges
with yellow on breast and brown abdomen. No prominent
Dark brown with buffy edgings on back and wing; head and breast are
Due to the distinctive yellow head and black body of the male no
other North American bird is similar. Females and juveniles
are distinguished from other blackbirds by yellow or tawny head and
Forages by walking on the ground, sometime hopping, in open fields
or near the water’s edge; also forages low in marsh vegetation.
This blackbird may follow farm machinery in fields to feed on
insects turned up by the plow. It will climb up or slide down
vegetation to attain a suitable, stable perch.
Yellow-headed Blackbird is a diurnal migrant, migrating in small
flocks that tend to be long, loose and irregular. It
congregates at staging areas and gathers in mixed species flocks of
blackbirds to roost at night in emergent vegetation wetlands.
It is also found in large mixed flocks during the winter. Its
flight is slightly undulating.
During the breeding season the yellow-headed blackbird feeds mostly
on aquatic insects. Post breeding consumption consists mainly
of cultivated grains and weed seeds.
Primarily prairie wetlands. It is also common in wetlands
associated with quaking aspen parkland, mountain meadows and arid
regions. Scattered colonies occur in forest edges and on
larger lakes in mixed-wood boreal forest.
Yellow-headed Blackbird nests in emergent vegetation of wetlands and
forages within those wetlands and surrounding grasslands, croplands
or savanna. The nest is constructed over deeper water,
primarily in cattails, bulrushes or reeds, often in the same
wetlands as nesting Red-winged Blackbirds that are relegated to
emergent vegetation over shallow water. The nest is a deep
basket of water-soaked dead grasses, reeds, cattails, woven and
wound around reed stems forming a tight nest when dried a few inches
to several feet above water. Three to five pale gray to pale
green eggs evenly splotched or speckled with browns and grays are
Continental populations appear to be in no jeopardy provided wetland
habitat remains intact. Population trends are listed as least
The Yellow-headed Blackbird is a vagrant visitor to Colony
Farm preferring Prairie wetlands and emergent wetlands
throughout non-forested regions of the west. Capture rates
(2010-2012; standardized as birds captured per 100 net
hours) of this species are therefore low at the banding
station reflecting one individual caught in May of 2012.