Yellow-headed Blackbirds

The Yellow-headed Blackbirds, Xanthocephalus xanthocephalus, is a medium-sized blackbird, and the only member of the genus Xanthocephalus.


Adults have a pointed bill.

The adult male is mainly black with a yellow head and breast; they have a white wing patch sometimes only visible in flight.

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

Distribution / Habitat:

Their breeding habitat is cattail marshes in North America, mainly west of the Great Lakes. The nest is built with and attached to marsh vegetation. They nest in colonies, often sharing their habitat closely with the Red-winged Blackbird.

During the breeding and nesting season the males are very territorial and spend much of their time perched on reed stalk and displaying or chasing off intruders.

These birds migrate in the winter to the southwestern United States and Mexico. They often migrate in huge flocks with other species of birds.

Diet / Feeding:

These birds forage in the marsh, in fields or on the ground; they sometimes catch insects in flight.

They mainly eat seeds and insects. Outside of the nesting period, they often feed in flocks, often with other blackbirds.


This bird’s song resembles the grating of a rusty hinge.

Photo of author

Gordon Ramel

Gordon is an ecologist with two degrees from Exeter University. He's also a teacher, a poet and the owner of 1,152 books. Oh - and he wrote this website.

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