YELLOW-HEADED BLACKBIRD

YELLOW-HEADED BLACKBIRD(Xanthocephalus xanthocephalus)

Although the Yellow-headed Blackbird is quite pretty looking with its yellow head, neck and chest, some of its calls have been described in less flattering ways, such as as similar to a chainsaw or a door swinging on rusty hinges. The bird is around 25 cm (10 in.) long, and the adult male has a black body with a white patch on the wings, which is visible in flight. Females have a dark brown body and no white patch on the wing. The head and chest are yellow but duller. Juveniles are similar to the female, but the male has some white on the wing.

This is a colonial bird that builds its nest in marshes, the same habitat as the Red-winged Blackbird. Since the former is larger than the latter, it dominates the territory. A male can have several females but only helps feeding the chicks from the first nest. It eats insects and seeds, usually in large flocks.

The yellow-headed blackbird does not breed on PEI, and sightings of this bird species have been noted as ‘accidental’ in the spring and summer, and as ‘occasional’ in the fall and winter. One such rare occurrence has been reported and photographed by Lois Kilburn (see below). The breeding range of that blackbird species includes the western half of Canada and the United States except the coastal areas, and for the winter the bird migrates south to mainly Mexico.

Yellow-headed blackbird, juvenile male - Priest Pond area, PEI - 9-27-17 - © Lois Kilburn
Yellow-headed blackbird, juvenile male – Priest Pond area, PEI – 9-27-17 – © Lois Kilburn
Yellow-headed Blackbird - 100 Mile House, BC - July 7, 2011 - Alan Vernon
Yellow-headed Blackbird – 100 Mile House, BC – July 7, 2011 – Alan Vernon

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