Documentation of Yellow-headed Blackbird

Observer Information

Reporter:  Kitty Ledonne   
Other Observers:  many unnames hotel guest and three other hotel employees, also Bill Schmoker a well know bird photographer and science teacher; Yes I am the original finder and identifer of the reported bird but did not want to report it until another person verifed it.

Bill Schmoker 720 201 5749

Species, Date, Time and Location Information

Species:  Yellow-headed Blackbird
First Date/Time:  5/1/2011
Last Date/Time: 
Duration (total time in view):  30 min
County:  Adams
Specific Location:  behind the new Holiday Inn Express and Suites Hotel in a small marsh area, the best place to observe it is off South Medical Center Drive behind the hotel. It staked its teritory closest to that road. Marsh area is a triangular shape. the hotel address is 2180 S Medical Center Drive Brighton Co 80601, exit 21 off East I 76 which is 144th Ave.
Number:  1
Age:  Unknown
Sex:  Male
Plumage:  Other/Unknown


small marsh with small open pond surrounded by cat-tails and other tall reeds and grasses outer area small scrub and some very young cottonwood trees on sw point and line of shrubs along eastern side. It is considered a water retention area. There is an open area with man placed rocks. This area has little or no reeds but some grasses not yet grown. Cat-ails surrounding pond are just beginning to turn green at water level.

Viewing Conditions

Optics:  I used a minolta maxxum 7000i with a zoom xi 100-300mm and Sony 700x digital zoom optical 20x usb streaming steady shot digital 8 dcr-trv 250 ntsc handycam.
Distance:  20 yards to 60 yards
Light:  bird can be plainly see with the naked eye, clouds and light conditions did not impact obsevations

Description of the Bird

Head, hood, and breast and slightly further down of breast bright yellow, eyes dark, no black mask, beak is milky white, wings and tail are white with two or three center feathers (flight feathers) black, tail is the same white with two or three feathers center that are black, legs are a horn like grey, back of bird is blotchy black and white. Bird is 9 to 10 inches in length
Behaviors: Bird arrived in small marsh area Sunday May 1st. There are 10 other male yellowheaded Black birds in the same small area. The call and song is the same as the other male yellowheaded black birds and streatcheds its one wing and then both wings the same as the others. The head lift as it calls are the same. There are no trees in this area so seeing it sit on top of cat-tail reeds is the same and territory defense calls and hoping with wings out and short flights the same. Also does the fly in circle as the others. First I thought it was a molt until I could see the the head of the bird had no black eye ring or line or mask if you will. It also makes the same kind of croking sound when agitated. The other yellowheaded blackbirds did not run this bird off as they did the red wing black birds, boat tailed grackles common grackles or brewers blackbirds even hous finches and common house sparrows. It has set a territory and is defending it. I have videotaped this bird on several occasions and have had the sighting verified by photographer Bill Schmoker who came up today May 7, 2011 and spent hours photographing it.
Call: harsh raspy decending with a buzz
Plumage: yellow white and black

Similar Species Discussion

Because I work at the hotel Isee these birds every day. I have counted the increasing number of males arriving each day as I have done the last 2 springs. I have recorded there song and calls and videotaped them flying stretching hopping and defending their territories as this is sucha small area with very little or no obsticles in the way. The yellow headed black birds are very territorial and each spring win out these territories from the red winged black birds and any other bird including grackles and other blackbirds like brewers and boat tailed grackles. Their flight to that is very swift starting low and swings in a circle usually. When this bird first arrived it seemed very tired and slightly clumsy as others behave, the other yellowheaded black birds did not chase it off. Two other yellowheaded black birds came and positioned themselves on either side of it and stayed near it but non agressive for quite some time, most of the morning and early afternoon on May 1. I thought it might be molting until I observed a full view of its head and beak and heard its voice. The next day it was much more active.

Resources Used

Showed some of the video footage to Abby Churchhill of RMBO and spoke with Jeff Birek a biologist from the RMBO Ft Collins office and gave hime all the field marks and some behavior indications. He sugessted to get a photographer out there with a longer lens. Bill Schmoker a Bird & Wildlife photographer came out a nd spent several hours today May 7th, 2011 from around 7:30 am to well after 9 am photographing it. He agreed that it was a partial albino yellow headed blackbird.

Previous Experience

I have done so above


Notes made AFTER observation

Additional Information

Comments: Bill Schmoker will email me some of the pictures he took today and I will forward them to you or you may reach him 720 201 5749and I will be happy to forward you a cd of the video I took over several days that included some of the other yellowheaded black birds with it.
Time: 8am
Other Dates: 5/1 thru 5/7/11 7 am to 3 pm video taped and photographed from 2 of three sides of marsh.
Nearest Town: Brighton
Independent Observers: Yes I am the original finder and identifer of the reported bird but did not want to report it until another person verifed it.

Bill Schmoker 720 201 5749

Materials Available

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Date Documentation Submitted

5/7/2011 8:08:00 PM