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Merlin Bird ID

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    Yellow-headed Blackbird

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    Yellow-headed Blackbird

    Xanthocephalus xanthocephalus
    • ORDER: Passeriformes
    • FAMILY: Icteridae
    Basic Description

    With a golden head, a white patch on black wings, and a call that sounds like a rusty farm gate opening, the Yellow-headed Blackbird demands your attention. Look for them in western and prairie wetlands, where they nest in reeds directly over the water. They’re just as impressive in winter, when huge flocks seem to roll across farm fields. Each bird gleans seeds from the ground, then leapfrogs over its flock mates to the front edge of the ever-advancing troupe.

    More ID Info
    image of range map for Yellow-headed BlackbirdRange map provided by Birds of North AmericaExplore Maps

    Find This Bird

    In the Midwest and West, look for Yellow-headed Blackbirds both in freshwater wetlands and in nearby farm fields. Though they are striking in appearance, these birds spend a substantial time perched out of view in cattails or reeds, so listen for their harsh check calls and bizarre grinding, buzzing songs in order to pinpoint their location. When searching in farm fields, look for large concentrations of blackbirds and then scan them carefully. If the bulk of the birds are Red-winged Blackbirds or some other species, don’t despair—focus on finding a white wing patch or yellow head among the other species.

    Other Names
    • Tordo Cabeza Amarilla (Spanish)
    • Carouge à tête jaune (French)

    Backyard Tips

    Yellow-headed Blackbirds may visit feeders to eat seeds and grains, including sunflower seeds.

    • Cool Facts