Sunday, April 8, 2012

Scared? What are ya?

Well .... no. Yellow-headed.

Yellow-headed Blackbird (Xanthocephalus xanthocephalus)

This stunning, enigmatic species is one that winters in the northern half to two-thirds of Mexico while skirting the Rio Grande Corridor in far west TX, around Culberson and El Paso Counties.

During a sparkling month or two in Spring, they migrate through far-West and other portions of Texas on way to summer breeding grounds further north.

I say "sparkling month" or month and a half because of their obvious beauty. They also have a very grating, electronic, or science-fiction-like, even robotic blackbird vocalization. Can't imagine it? Come on out and see it.

This particular flock was in town here in Marathon today. Fairly small number (maybe 15), mixed in with other blackbird species.

One does happen upon them in smallish numbers in mixed flocks of birds in winter and at times in migration. Even singles, here and there.

However, this is one of the blackbird species that also migrate in huge numbers; in roiling, spherical, balls of smoke on the horizon.

Heidi and I have witness such happenings. Think of thousands of tiny prey-sized fish schooling in the deep blue ocean.

Now, look up and out. Scan the horizon.

Do so quickly, because in mid-May their numbers as described drop off significantly.

They have places to go. They have farmlands, marshes, and grasslands to meet.

I really enjoy this species.

Seriously so.

I guess I missed the Easter Bunny. I was distracted.


  1. Great shots! I recently has an awesome experience finding a huge flock of YHBB around a dairy farm. It had been a nemesis for me for years, but finally came out in style. If y'all are interested:

    They're such stunning birds, rivaling any oriole or tanager in their beauty, at least right up until they open their mouths (ok, that has a certain appeal too).

    Why is it the males seem to outnumber the females so greatly now? At least, I couldn't spot any females int he large flock I saw. Do they migrate separately or something?

    Thanks for sharing

    1. In the eastern part of the state I know that I frequently see Red-winged Blackbirds in large flocks of a single gender.