Montana Outdoors

May 1, 2011

Yellow-headed Blackbird

Filed under: Birds — Tags: , — montucky @ 9:12 pm

Yellow-headed Blackbird

Yellow-headed Blackbird, Xanthocephalus xanthocephalus

Yellow-headed Blackbird

“But the meanest thing that he ever did
Was before he left, he went and named me ‘Sue'(Xanthocephalus xanthocephalus).”


  1. Amazing!


    Comment by Aaron — May 1, 2011 @ 9:17 pm

  2. Wow! Again I am being introduced to something I’ve not seen before. Very nice!


    Comment by Roberta Gould — May 1, 2011 @ 9:41 pm

    • For some reason they are resident only in the western two thirds of the states.For some reason I had never seen them until last summer.


      Comment by montucky — May 1, 2011 @ 11:06 pm

  3. Oh what a beauty! I first saw one of these in Wyoming as a child. I was supposed to be napping… thought I dreamed it but when I told my parents afterward that I’d seen a black bird with a gold head in our yard, Dad showed it to me in his bird book. I’ve never forgotten seeing that bird… your images are WONDERFUL! Especially like the second one with his head twisted toward you while singing!


    Comment by Victoria — May 1, 2011 @ 9:57 pm

    • I’ve read that they are quite common, but for some reason I had not seen them before last year. Those were pretty shy, wouldn’t let me get very close and kept to themselves in the more secluded parts of a wetland near here. This guy however, didn’t seem shy at all. It was interesting that he did turn his head that way when he sang.


      Comment by montucky — May 1, 2011 @ 11:09 pm

  4. During the mating season they tend to be more visible, which is why he is sitting at the top of the cattails and singing. It’s spring!

    Beautiful images. Thanks!


    Comment by anniespickns — May 2, 2011 @ 6:59 am

    • Yes, he was certainly trying to attract attention! I’ve been used to seeing the Red-wings in that spot but this guy had it all to himself at that time.


      Comment by montucky — May 2, 2011 @ 8:05 pm

  5. Wow. I just came over from Jack Matthew’s blog and what a wonderful surprise. Love your images. Absolutely stunning in their beauty. Thank you for showing us these closeups of nature.


    Comment by Teresa Evangeline — May 2, 2011 @ 7:33 am

    • Thank you for visiting, Teresa! I love the wild things very much and I’m glad that you enjoy seeing them too!


      Comment by montucky — May 2, 2011 @ 8:06 pm

  6. I have never seen or heard of that bird before. It is stunning!


    Comment by Roberta Warshaw — May 2, 2011 @ 9:20 am

    • They are a little larger than the Red-wings and a little louder as well. Certainly easy to spot and identify!


      Comment by montucky — May 2, 2011 @ 8:07 pm

  7. I have missed a lot of gorgeous photos over the last week or so. I’ve been busy…..looks like you have too! looks like spring is setting in to your area


    Comment by silken — May 2, 2011 @ 9:31 am

    • I’ve been busy too, Stacey! It’s a busy time of year. Yes, spring is coming in, but slowly. There was frost on everything this morning still.


      Comment by montucky — May 2, 2011 @ 8:09 pm

  8. This is the first time I have seen this bird. Great photo.


    Comment by Mary Wallace — May 2, 2011 @ 10:28 am

    • I’ve read that they are common, but I saw them for the first time last year and only in this one particular place.


      Comment by montucky — May 2, 2011 @ 8:10 pm

  9. Terry:

    I recognize the quote, suspect that Johnny Cash was the singer, but can’t remember the name of the song. Can you supply the missing information?



    Comment by Chad — May 2, 2011 @ 10:32 am

    • “A Boy Named Sue”; vintage Cash, one of my favorites. It occurred to me that the scientific for this bird was inflicted on him much as the name “Sue” was on the boy in Johnny’s song.


      Comment by montucky — May 2, 2011 @ 8:13 pm

  10. I’ve never seen one! A gorgeous bird!


    Comment by Barbara — May 2, 2011 @ 10:33 am

    • When looking at him closely, the yellow feathers are incredibly colorful, not a pale or weak yellow. Very distinctive!


      Comment by montucky — May 2, 2011 @ 8:15 pm

  11. Hi Montucky, Wow! That bird’s beauty took my breath away. Outstanding picture! Have a wonderful day!


    Comment by wildlifewatcher — May 2, 2011 @ 11:38 am

  12. I guess I stand alone in thinking this little guy isn’t the most beautiful bird. I like the colors, but he looks mean. Perhaps Sue is a good name for him. 🙂


    Comment by Juls — May 2, 2011 @ 12:07 pm

    • I’ve read that they are more aggressive than the Red-wings, larger and louder as well, but beyond that, probably not mean.


      Comment by montucky — May 2, 2011 @ 8:20 pm

  13. Sue is a gorgeous bird. Believe it or not, I have seen one here. For two years in a row, it came with the redwings. I never got this close, though. What great photographs these are.


    Comment by sandy — May 2, 2011 @ 1:49 pm

    • In Cornell’s “All About Birds” it was mentioned that there are occasional sightings of them on the east coast, particularly in Florida. Perhaps they are expanding their range. I would not be surprised, because they have so much in common with the Red-wings.


      Comment by montucky — May 2, 2011 @ 8:24 pm

  14. He is much more distinctive than his eastern cousins the Red-winged Blackbird who has entirely black head with red and yellow features on each shoulder.


    Comment by Scott Thomas Photography — May 2, 2011 @ 2:29 pm

    • Yes, he has more distinct coloring than the Red-wings. You can see the yellow head at a long distance.


      Comment by montucky — May 2, 2011 @ 8:25 pm

  15. What a handsome, vivid guy!


    Comment by Candace — May 2, 2011 @ 11:16 pm

  16. It makes sense that they travel with redwings. The song and call are very similar. When I see redwings I’ll have to look more closely.

    I don’t think he looks mean. I think he looks self-assured. Beautiful photos.


    Comment by shoreacres — May 3, 2011 @ 7:38 am

    • I guess in nesting season they get bolder. They say they nest in marshy areas especially ones that have cattails, then move on into more open fields after.


      Comment by montucky — May 3, 2011 @ 8:04 am

  17. Oh wow! You caught him singing! How cool is that!?!


    Comment by Stacey Dawn — May 3, 2011 @ 7:57 am

    • I was able to watch him for awhile and he tilted his head that way when he sang, some kind of reflex I suppose.


      Comment by montucky — May 3, 2011 @ 8:05 am

  18. Wow-wow! These are fabulous captures!I haven’t ever seen a yellow-headed blackbird—beautiful!


    Comment by Anna — May 3, 2011 @ 8:22 am

    • They are intriguing. I was lucky that he let me get close enough for a decent photo!


      Comment by montucky — May 3, 2011 @ 9:55 pm

  19. In all of my bird-watching, I’ve never seen anything like this handsome fellow! As usual, your photos are stupendous! Have you gotten a book compiled yet? Keep up the excellent work. 😀


    Comment by Iona Cline — May 3, 2011 @ 12:59 pm

    • Thanks Iona! Now that it’s starting to warm up a bit maybe I’ll have more to post. Seems like things have been on hold here with the weather.


      Comment by montucky — May 3, 2011 @ 9:57 pm

  20. I didn’t know there was such a thing–I agree with one of your other commenters. Seems like something you would see in a dream.


    Comment by Bo Mackison — May 3, 2011 @ 2:25 pm

    • From all of the comments, I see that I’m not the only one who has been missing these birds. They must be more shy or reserved than most or we would have seen them before.


      Comment by montucky — May 3, 2011 @ 9:59 pm

  21. Fantastic pictures! I’ve never seen a yellow headed blackbird, but they’re very cool!


    Comment by songofthewolf — May 3, 2011 @ 3:42 pm

    • They are! I’d like to get a good close look at those yellow feathers! They are such a dense color.


      Comment by montucky — May 3, 2011 @ 10:01 pm

  22. Gracious… I’ve never, in my life, seen anything like that. The photographs are some of your best!! You are always posting something I’ve never seen before. Thanks for that!


    Comment by kcjewel — May 3, 2011 @ 7:48 pm

    • You know, I am constantly being surprised at finding things new to me. I’m outdoors a lot and have been for years and yet there are many things that I’ve missed.


      Comment by montucky — May 3, 2011 @ 10:04 pm

  23. The yellow on these birds really stands out, much more than the red on the red wing black birds.


    Comment by knightofswords — May 3, 2011 @ 8:03 pm

    • The yellow feathers comprise a larger area than the red on the Red-wings. They can be recognized at a long distance.


      Comment by montucky — May 3, 2011 @ 10:06 pm

  24. Such detail in the photo


    Comment by Evangeline Art Photography — May 3, 2011 @ 8:38 pm

    • He stayed on his cattail long enough for me to get fairly close and let the lens do its work. I sure enjoyed the encounter!


      Comment by montucky — May 3, 2011 @ 10:07 pm

  25. Wow! What a dramatic looking bird! I’ve never heard of them before either.


    Comment by kateri — May 5, 2011 @ 9:13 pm

    • I’m becoming more fascinated each time I hear of someone who hasn’t seen them. I could hardly believe that I hadn’t seen one until last year when they are supposed to be common here.


      Comment by montucky — May 5, 2011 @ 9:38 pm

  26. How beautiful and what photos! It is a pity that it is not here, but it happens. I am happy that I can admire it thru Your photos. Thank You.


    Comment by sartenada — May 5, 2011 @ 11:55 pm

    • Yes, I wish you could see them there. I find it interesting that a species of animal or plant will be found only in select locations, yet some are universal.


      Comment by montucky — May 6, 2011 @ 9:05 am

  27. I saw one of these in Central Wisconsin as a kid (back in the late 60’s). Actually I heard it first and had never heard anything like it – I thought there was a funky harmonica player out there with me, then saw the bird.
    I have also seen them in the upper Dearborn River drainage along the Rocky Mountain front.


    Comment by Kim — May 25, 2011 @ 11:24 am

    • They sure aren’t know for having nice voices. THey sound to me like very rusty hinges.


      Comment by montucky — May 25, 2011 @ 8:14 pm

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