Sunday, April 24, 2016

Yellow-headed Blackbird at the San Luis National Wildlife Refuge, Bear Creek Unit

This was an absolute first for me. We've been going to the San Luis National Wildlife Refuge multiple times over the last two years or so, and not once have we seen a Yellow-headed Blackbird (Xanthocephalus xanthocephalus) along the way. Yesterday we saw perhaps a dozen of them. I'm pretty sure they weren't there on our previous visits, because they are really hard to miss, even from a distance.
See? Hard to miss.

It appears that these birds aren't seen all that often around here, as they are usually migrating through the area on their way to breeding grounds farther to the north in Nevada as far as southern Canada. They winter in Mexico, New Mexico, and Texas. There are a handful of breeding colonies in our Great Valley, although they were once more plentiful before 90% of the valley wetlands were plowed over.
I hope I'll have another chance to catch these beautiful birds a little more in the open. They were doing a good job of staying just behind the reeds, so that every picture had one piece or another of the bird missing. If they weren't hiding, they were flying overhead. I saw four at once on two different occasions in addition to the perching individuals, so we saw as many as a dozen of them in total.
I believe the bird below is a female, with the darker head. It would be interesting if they were breeding right there at San Luis.

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