Sunday, June 1, 2014

Yellow headed Blackbirds at Mitchell's Bay

 Yellow Headed Blackbird - Xanthocephalus xanthocephalus
Its been well known and documented that Yellow headed Blackbirds have been breeding in Southwestern Ontario this spring at a Lake St Clair wetland near Mitchell's Bay.  I have been wanting to go out and see them and this past weekend May 24th),  I was able to finally get out and see them. It was nice to find them so easily along the road. Bright yellow heads, bold white wing patches visible in flight. Amazing birds! I did not stay long to see them (just 5-10minutes) but I must say, it took a moment for them to vocalize and when they did... wow. What a crazy song! It is described a loud rusty farm gate closing!

In my short 4-5 years of birding, I've only seen this bird once at Pointe Mouillee in Michigan, so its not a life bird, although, its my first Canadian look at them and my first photo and blog reference to them. Check out the range map from below. The E-bird range map for this bird (set for this year only) hints that this year, it is increasingly present on the eastern half of the continent.

Image Source:
Allen Woodliffe [Link], Blake Mann [link], and Josh Vandermeulen [link] all have excellent postings and photos on these birds. Check them out! Jean Iron also took some excellent video footage where you hear the incredibly unique call of these birds [click here for Jean's Yellow headed Blackbird footage] .

Family Rondeau Park Visit (Sunday May 25th)
I took the family out for some nature hiking at Rondeau this past Sunday. We walked Spicebush trail first. Some birds seen include:
Red-eyed Vireos
Red breasted Grosbeak
Canada Warbler (its been a good year for me seeing this bird!)
American Redstart
Yellow Warbler

Tulip Tree Trail
Starting at the Beach, I had noted:
Eastern Bluebird,
Baltimore Oriole,
Spotted Sandpiper
(no whimbrels)
Wilson's Warbler
Bay breasted Warbler
Wood thrush
Acadian Flycatcher (90% sure - didn't hear it calling but did note quick, darty flight, eye-rings, mid-forest)
Eastern Wood Peewee
Yellow Warbler
Brown headed Cowbird (mid-forest???)
Scarlet Tanager
Prothontary Warblers (male and female)

Acadian Flycatcher? 90% sure!

Female Prothontary Warbler at Rondeau - Note the white undertail coverts

I was amazed as I drove around Rondeau how many Brown-headed Cowbirds were perched roadside and in and along the forest pathways. I'm not a biologist, but I wonder if culling these birds will ever be considered? Especially considering how much some of our rarer breeding species are declining. They had great results with a program in Michigan's Huron-Manistee forest where the Kirtlands Warbler breeds.

Good birding!

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