Yellow-headed Blackbird

Xanthocephalus xanthocephalus 

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.

Size & Shape

Yellow-headed Blackbirds are fairly large blackbirds, with a stout body, a large head, and a long, conical bill.

Color Pattern

Males are striking blackbirds with yellow heads and chests, and black bodies with prominent white patches at the bend of the wing. Females and immatures are brown instead of black, with duller yellow heads. Immature males show some white at the bend of the wing, while females don’t.


Yellow-headed Blackbirds breed in loose colonies, and males mate with several females. During the breeding season, they eat insects and aquatic invertebrates. They form huge flocks in winter, often mixing with other species of blackbirds, and feed on seeds and grains in cultivated fields.


Yellow-headed Blackbirds breed and roost in freshwater wetlands with dense, emergent vegetation such as cattails. They often forage in fields, typically wintering in large, open agricultural areas.


Have you spotted this bird in a particular area?
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