Yellow-headed Blackbird Displaying

Male Yellow-headed Blackbirds go through some pretty wild gyrations as they display in the spring.  This is one of their tamer poses but I liked the symmetry of the bird against the soft background.


yellow-headed blackbird 4314 ron dudley

1/1000, f/7.1, ISO 400, 500 f/4, 1.4 tc

It’s usually difficult to get a clean background like this because they typically display in a mass of cattails but this bird chose a perch right over the water with nothing else in the background.

I can’t even look at a photo of a displaying male without hearing their harsh, raucous call in my head.  That sound has been described as “sounding like a rusty farm gate opening”.  If you’ve never heard it (many folks in the eastern North America presumably have not) you can listen to it here.


13 comments to Yellow-headed Blackbird Displaying

  • Leisa

    Such a beautiful bird! And thanks so much for putting the link to his call. I always appreciate that because whenever you mention something about the call I have to listen to it. I had the sound turned up and this one is quite distinctive!

  • Ingrid

    Hi Ron,
    Beautiful it’s call ain’t! But it really gave me a good giggle listening and the creaking gate: if you hadn’t said I might have thought that was a real creaking gate in the background. Great fun!

  • Wow. Another stunner. And his voice sounded like home. So many of our birds are not precisely melodious. Canberra’s native bird, the gang-gang cockatoo has a voice which has been compaired to a rusty gate swinging in the breeze. Which is close to the mark.

  • Charlotte Norton

    Wow! Amazing shot! Just sensational! I’ve never seen one and really enjoyed seeing this one! As good as it gets!

  • Kelly Colgan Azar

    An outstanding photo, color and action. Background and perch too. And I enjoyed listening to the bird’s unbelievable call on All About Birds. How do you handle background generally? Are they always so nice as they seem to be in your photos? In PA, a mass of cattails would be a clean background and any shots I take are a clutter of leaves, vines, twigs, branches and in and out of focus weedy grasses. Alas.

    • “Are they always so nice as they seem to be in your photos?”

      Kelly, no they’re not. I just usually don’t post those shots. From what I’ve heard, though – photographing birds back east is a challenge because of all the vegetation they’re often buried in. It’s more open out here. On the other hand, you folks tend to have significantly more birds than we do.

  • patty Chadwick

    BEAUTIFUL!!! The only way anyone could possibly get so MANY amazing shots is through tremendous knowledge and experience with the subject’s habitat and behaviour, fantastic equipment, unbelievable patience, keen eyesight and incredible good luck. All of which you must possess because you deliver time after time.

    • Thanks Patty but I must admit that I’m deficient in at least two of the items on your list – my eyesight is mediocre at best (thank goodness for the diopter adjustment on my camera!) and I’ve never been known for having much patience, though I do seem to have more of it for birds than I do in other situations.