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  • Writer's pictureJeff

Yellow-headed Blackbird

Updated: May 14, 2021

  • The oldest Yellow-headed Blackbird on record was at least 11 years, 8 months old. It had been banded in Saskatchewan and was found in Nebraska.

  • The male Yellow-headed Blackbird defends a small territory of prime nesting reeds. He may attract up to eight females to nest within his area. The male helps feed nestlings, but usually only in the first nest established in his territory. The other females have to feed their young all by themselves.

The adult female is mainly brown with a dull yellow throat and breast.

Feeding Behavior Forages mostly by walking on the ground in open fields or near the water's edge; also forages low in marsh vegetation. Sometimes catches insects in flight. May follow farm machinery in fields to feed on insects and grubs turned up by the plow. Except in nesting season, usually forages in flocks, often associated with other blackbirds. Eggs 4, sometimes 3-5. Pale gray to pale green, blotched and dotted with brown or gray. Incubation is by female only, 11-13 days. Young: Both parents feed nestlings. Young leave nest after about 9-12 days, but remain among dense marsh plants until they are ready to fly, about 3 weeks after hatching. 1 brood per year, possibly 2.

Diet Mostly insects and seeds. Feeds heavily on insects in summer, especially beetles, caterpillars, and grasshoppers, also ants, wasps, and others, plus a few spiders and snails. Young are fed mostly insects. Probably two-thirds of diet consists of seeds, including grass and weed seeds plus waste grain. Nesting Typically nests in colonies in marshes, each male selecting territory within colony and defending it against rivals by singing. One male may have as many as 5 mates. Nest: Placed in marsh, firmly lashed to standing vegetation (cattails, bulrushes, reeds) growing in water, usually no more than 3' above water's surface. Nest (built by female) is a bulky, deep cup woven of aquatic plants, lined with dry grass or with fine, dry marsh plants.

Pictures by Jeff from my backyard. Canon SX70HS

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