John T. Willis

Monday, April 19, 2010

Yellow-Headed Blackbirds

Every year, in April-May and September-October, thousands of yellow-headed blackbirds pass through our region in West Texas. We feed thousands of these in our feeders going south and going north as they migrate.

The yellow-headed blackbird, Xanthocephalus xanthocephalus, is a medium-sized bird, and the only member of the genus Xanthocephalus. Adults have a pointed bill. The adult male is mainly black with a yellow head and breast; they have a white wing patch sometimes visible only in flight. The adult female is mainly brown with a dull yellow throat and breast. Both genders resemble the respective genders of the smaller Yellow-hooded Blackbird of South America.

The breeding habitat of the Yellow-headed Blackbird is cattail marshes in North America, mainly west of the Great Lakes. The nest is built with and attached to marsh vegetation. They nest in colonies, often sharing their habitat closely with the Red-winged Blackbird (Agelaius phoeniceus). During the breeding and nesting season, the males are very territorial and spend much of their times perched on reed stalks and displaying or chasing off intruders.

Yellow-headed Blackbirds migrate in the winter to the southwestern United States and Mexico, and often migrate in huge flocks with other species of birds. They are permanent only in the United States of the San Joaquin Valley and the Lower Colorado River Valley of Arizona and California.

Yellow-headed Blackbirds forage in the marsh, in fields or on the ground. Sometimes they catch insets in flight. Primarily, they eat seeds and insects. Outside the nesting period, they often feed in flocks, often with other blackbirds. They are very active and loud. Their song resembles the grating of a rusty hinge.

I hope YOU enjoy and appreciate yellow-headed blackbirds. They are one of millions of God's marvelous creatures on Planet Earth. Far above and beyond this, I hope YOU are thankful for and acknowledge the power and wisdom and love of YOUR CREATOR, God our Father.

Share YOUR thoughts with others. Let me hear from YOU.

John Willis


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