We had an interesting visit from a large flock of Yellow-headed blackbirds (Xanthocephalus xanthocephalus) in mid-April, 2018. This is the largest grouping of this particular species I have ever seen. Most of the places I have lived in Texas have been far away from the marshes this species likes. At most, I have seen one or two of these birds at a time. Red-wing Blackbirds have been more common in the places I have frequented.
My son Michael spotted this flock in our Sycamore trees but by the time I got my camera gear, they had moved to the pecan trees at our neighbor’s where these pictures were taken. The flock was unwilling to let me get closer than about 150 feet. In the first image, you can see that there were 60 or more individuals in this group. This shot shows only a portion of the entire flock in the neighborhood. The yellow head on these birds is unmistakably visible. The yellow head is worn by the males in this species. The females’ head looks more like a meadowlark’s plumage with patches of yellow, brown and black.
The second image is a little closer view of the bachelor’s hanging out in the pecan tree. Yellow-headed blackbirds are gregarious, and they work as a group to graze seed food sources during the fall and winter, and on their way north in the spring to marshes where they eat a variety of insects and spiders during the warm parts of the year.
During the breeding season, males will stake out territories and drive off competing males. During the cold seasons, the males will flock together and feed farther north than the female flocks which go south into Mexico.
Our part of Texas is on the flyway as these birds head north into the plains and on to breed in Canada. I was a lucky to be able to see and photograph these remarkably colored birds during their brief visit on their travels. You can read more about these birds at Cornell University’s Ornithology Laboratory website.