The Yellow-headed Blackbird (Xanthocephalus xanthocephalus) is a beautiful marsh dweller. It also rules many of the prairie marshes it inhabits with an iron fist (or claw, as the case may be). With smaller birds, like its cousin the Red-winged Blackbird, it will chase them off hounding them well past the edge of its nesting territory in the reeds. Members of the heron family, gulls and coots will predate the nests and with these creatures the Yellow-heads will defend against very aggressively.
On the day I was at Frank Lake most of their activity was spent calling to one another and holding boundaries with other Yellow-headed neighbours.
I think the females are on the nests now as I only saw males flying around. The babies may have hatched already but if so, I would have expected to see some hungry predators. The males defending their nests can be very dramatic but I was happy to not see any of these would-be egg thieves around. They will come at some point so it was nice to see the Blackbirds having respite during a warm afternoon. I enjoyed photographing them flying around and perching with great balance on the reeds waving around in the breeze.
The nests are built over deeper water which helps keep curious creatures (animal and human) away. I have seen the occasional person wading into reeds, presumably to look for nests and more reclusive birds, however the potential for disturbance is enormous and I am not comfortable with seeking out the next great photograph that way. It is a personal choice but if you go in, learn all you can about the birds residing there beforehand so that you don’t inadvertently cause a nest to be abandoned, trampled or exposed to predators that come along afterwards. I didn’t see any signs of people tramping through the large marsh around the Ducks Unlimited blind at the lake so I’m hopeful it will stay undisturbed through the nesting season.
May 22, 2013 | Categories: Birds, Prairie, Wildlife | Tags: alberta, birds, Canada, flight, flying, Frank Lake, marsh, nature photography, wildlife photography, Xanthocephalus xanthocephalus, Yellow-headed Blackbird | 7 Comments