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Yellow Headed Blackbird

Yellow-Headed Blackbird, Vancouver Island, BC
Yellow-Headed Blackbird, Vancouver Island, BC, Photo Copyright By Sean McCann

The Yellow-Headed Blackbird’s name perfectly describes the appearance of the bird itself. The males sport a bright yellow head and chest and a black body. This bird is beautiful, but his song is nothing short of awful, with guttural growls and loud squeaks. I do find his song to be interesting and unforgettable.

Yellow-headed blackbirds will feed on aquatic insects during mating which they find while walking along the water’s edge. But seeds and grains are on their diet during the non-breeding season. Yellow-headed blackbirds probe with their bills, prying open and flipping over materials to find food.

This bird breeds across the upper mid-west, north, and westward through to the west coast, they are rare here on the south coast but can be seen.  Yellow-headed Blackbirds breed in colonies. Males may have up to 6 mates, with 3 mates being the average. Pair bonds last for a single breeding season only.

The female builds the nest, which is a clumsy-looking, open cup nest of leaves, stems, and grass. it’s built on bulrushes or other plants that grow at the water’s edge. The female incubates 4 eggs for about 13 days and broods the young for a few more days after hatching. The female provides most of the food for the young, but the male may help feed at the primary nest. The young leave the nest at about 12 days after hatching, but stay nearby, close to the water, until they can fly, another 12 to 13 days later. The female feeds the young for a few days after they fledge. Females typically raise one brood each season but in a good year, may raise two.

The Yellow-headed Blackbird is common around wetlands but urban encroachment and the associated loss of habitat threatens nesting grounds. Efforts to reintroduce this bird back have been completely unsuccessful.

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