Monday, April 21, 2008

Another New Yard Bird!

No, not a movie set, just a bunch o' black birds enjoying the corn I put out for them. And the number of Yellow-headed Blackbirds is increasing!

I had a lovely day capturing the Yellow Headed Blackbirds…digitally, of course.

They are such flashy birds, bigger than the other blackbirds by almost an inch in length, two inches in wingspan and a half an ounce heavier…quite a bit for a songbird; nearly as big as a Grackle.

The Yellow-heads have a large white-patch, primary coverts, which one doesn’t see when they are eating. It's awesome to see when they posture like the picture here.

Red-wings, Great-tailed and Common Grackles, Yellow-heads and yet another bird, often flock together. I must say, they make a stunning group; quite colorful.

For awhile I was confusing the Common Grackles with that smaller bird that, in my untrained mind at least, has similar markings and I’d not yet figured out it was a lot smaller. Both have a dark bodies and a contrasting color on the head; but where the Grackles have glossy-dark bodies with a, blue head…this bird has a glossy-dark body and a brown head. I knew I was seeing something different, but I’d seen this ‘different bird’ only once or twice and never long enough to run down field notes in my head. But I finally found it in a photo of other birds in my yard. It’s a stocky thing and much smaller than the Blackbirds.

To be honest, adding another bird to my Backyard List is fun…I just sort of wish it wasn’t a Brown Headed Cowbird! Do you see it? [shudder]

Parasites, they are; Obligate brood parasites to be specific. The thing is, the Cowbird evolved following buffalo around on the Great Plains. When the great herds moved on, so did the Cowbird; it didn’t have the time to sit on a nest so it evolved a handy little trick…depositing its eggs in another bird’s nest and letting that bird raise the young. Clever, but disgusting by our standards, and sad to watch when a small host-parent tries valiantly to keep the freakishly-large hatchling fed. Cowbird nestlings usually hatch at least a day earlier then its adopted siblings and are generally 3-4 times larger as well…often making it the only nestling to survive. Click here for more information. The sad thing is that while the buffalo have dissappeard, this bird has not...nor it's bad habbits.

I’m sad to see this particular bird in
my yard; the thing even looks evil.

Evil’s a Brown-headed Cowbird!
[update] Make that a dozen or more in my yard! ...sigh


NW Nature Nut said...

Oh wow! How cool! I'd love to have those bright yellow heads in my yard!!

Beverly said...

Ya know...I didn't get them at first. I am trying to 'embrace' all birds, in spite of size, appetite or cheekiness (running other birds off). So, what I’ve done is pick up some hen-scratch from the feed store here (the stuff is very inexpensive and includes corn and some seed, as well as oyster shell). I scatter a small bucket around my lawn every day…moving the place a little bit each time so as not to encourage disease. HA…the stuff doesn’t sit on the ground long enough to get wet though…those boys EAT!

At any rate, this ‘chumming’ as I call it, has brought many ground-feeders…including the Yellow-heads. I love them too and would think if you get Grackles or any other Blackbird you should eventually get the Yellow-heads too. It took a couple weeks before they turned up here…now that they all swoop into my yard 50+ at a time!

Course…I also count over a dozen Brown-headed Cowbirds at a time, too. (sigh)