Yellow-headed Blackbirds

When it comes to bird songs, the Yellow-headed Blackbird won’t win a Grammy. It does not have a sweet and melodious song. In fact, the Audubon website describes it this way, “The male Yellow-headed Blackbird is impressive to see, but not to hear. It may have the worst song of any North American bird, a hoarse, harsh scraping.” Yet, this makes it easy for me to identify this species by its song. I can’t confuse it with any other bird. (See link at the bottom of this post to hear its song.)

The Yellow-headed Blackbird may have a terrible song but it sure gives its all, in order to be heard. Canon 1D Mark IIN + 500mm lens, ISO 400, f5.0, 1/640 ©Stanley Buman 2009. All Rights Reserved, Dunbar Slough near Ralston, IA.

The male blackbird has a harem of up to 9 females and actively patrols and defends its territory against other males.

The Yellow-headed Blackbird male keeps an eye out for intruders and tirelessly chases other males away. Canon 1D Mark IIN + 500mm lens, ISO 400, f7.1, 1/400 ©Stanley Buman 2009. All Rights Reserved, Dunbar Slough near Ralston, IA.

This member of the blackbird species nests in wetlands. Therefore, a good way to observe it is via a kayak or canoe.

The nest is affixed to either dead or alive vegetation like cattails or rushes. Amazingly, it withstands the pounding rains and strong winds of our summer storms.

The Yellow-headed Blackbird female weaves a nest out of long strands of wet vegetation found on the surface of the wetland. iPhone image, ©Stanley Buman 2020. All Rights Reserved, Dunbar Slough near Ralston, IA.

The nest overhangs the water. Sometimes the young tumble into water and have to swim to some floating debris for safety.

I found this young Yellow-headed Blackbird in the water. I gently lifted it with my paddle, placed it on my kayak, and transported it to some floating vegetation where it disembarked. Canon 1D Mark IIN + 500mm lens, ISO 400, f8.0, 1/640 ©Stanley Buman. All Rights Reserved, 2009, Artesian Lake near Lanesboro, IA

Yellow-headed Blackbirds feed primarily on insects during the summer.

A female Yellow-headed Blackbird has a bill full of insects to take back to the nest and feed its young. Sony a9 + 100-400mm lens & 1.4x teleconverter @ 560 mm, ISO 1250, f/8, 1/100. ©Stanley Buman. All Rights Reserved, Dunbar Slough near Ralston, IA.

To listen to the song of the Yellow-headed Blackbird, copy and paste this YouTube video address into your browser. Note, this is not my video.

4 thoughts on “Yellow-headed Blackbirds”

  1. That is a bird I have never seen but now I know where to start looking. Thanks Stan..I saw a Baltimore Oriole on my walk today..Do you have some new adventures in your future? Take care and be safe.

    1. Sue, I always enjoy seeing the Yellow-headed Blackbirds. I hope to spend more time photographing them but windy conditions make it difficult to take pictures from a kayak. Some day, I need to spend more time photographing orioles. They are such beautiful birds. I hope to announce my future plans sometime soon. It looks like I will be staying in Carroll, Iowa for awhile.

  2. Love the yellow headed black birds. I haven’t seen any for a few years but maybe in the future. Safe travels wherever you go.


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