Saturday, May 12, 2012

Yellow-headed Blackbirds

A cluster of Blackbirds were feeding in a vacant lot, Portal, AZ, 4/11/2012.
After finishing a vigorous 9 mile hike on the Cave Creek Canyon Trail in the Chiricahua Mt. National Monument in southeastern corner of Arizona, I was making my return trip to Sierra Vista. I was driving through the small town of Portal, just outside the Chiricahuas Mts. when I noticed a cluster of blackbirds (Above) feeding in a vacant lot. I needed to stop to refill my water bottle so I thought I'd check out what kind of Blackbirds were there. To my pleasant surprise, mixed in with some Brewers Blackbirds were some Yellow-headed Blackbirds.
A blurry photo of a male Yellow-headed Blackbird, Jackson WY; 6/2006.
The last time I saw a Yellow-headed Blackbird was in June of 2006, in Jackson, WY, and I didn't get a very good photo (Above). So I was happy to have another chance six years later to get a decent pic of this species. The birds were at the back of the lot and I was hoping to get close enough to get a good photo. They were busy feeding and all their heads were buried in the weeds. I took a few photos from the distance and slowly approached the flock to get a closer pic. But they scared easily and scattered in a cloud of wings (Below)
Brewers and Yellow-headed Blackbirds putting distance between them and me, Portal, AZ; 4/11/2012.

A female Yellow-headed Blackbird, Portal, AZ; 4/11/2012.

They landed in an adjacent field so I had to start my approach again. This time I decided not to get so close and tried to pick outsome Yellow-Heads and snapped pics as they lifted their heads to take a breather from feeding (Above and Below).

Another female Yellow-headed Blckbird, Portal, AZ; 4/11/2012.
Later, I noticed that all the Yellow-headed Blackbirds in this flock were females. Males are black (see the Male photo from Jackson, WY, 3 pics Above), while females are brown (2 pics Above).  I read later that these Blackbirds sometimes migrate in all males or females. So I came upon an all female flock which was joined by a mixed flock of Brewers Blackbirds.
Yellow-headed Blackbirds have quite a summer range stretching from the northern Midwest of Wisconsin and Minnesota to the Rocky Mountains and spreading south to Nevada, Utah, Colorado and into Northern New Mexico. In winter they will migrate to southern Arizona, and New Mexico and into all of Mexico. I was probably watching this flock on their northern Spring  migration.


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