Xanthocephalus xanthocephalus - (Bonaparte, 1826)
Yellow-headed Blackbird
Other English Common Names: yellow-headed blackbird
Taxonomic Status: Accepted
Related ITIS Name(s): Xanthocephalus xanthocephalus (Bonaparte, 1826) (TSN 179043)
French Common Names: carouge ā tęte jaune
Spanish Common Names: Tordo Cabeza Amarilla
Unique Identifier: ELEMENT_GLOBAL.2.106463
Element Code: ABPBXB3010
Informal Taxonomy: Animals, Vertebrates - Birds - Perching Birds
Image 10798

© Dick Cannings

 
Kingdom Phylum Class Order Family Genus
Animalia Craniata Aves Passeriformes Icteridae Xanthocephalus
Genus Size: A - Monotypic genus
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Concept Reference
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Concept Reference: American Ornithologists' Union (AOU). 1998. Check-list of North American birds. Seventh edition. American Ornithologists' Union, Washington, D.C. [as modified by subsequent supplements and corrections published in The Auk]. Also available online: http://www.aou.org/.
Concept Reference Code: B98AOU01NAUS
Name Used in Concept Reference: Xanthocephalus xanthocephalus
Taxonomic Comments: See Twedt et al. (1992) for information on genetic variation in the northern Great Plains. See Twedt et al. (1994) for information on morphological variation in the northern Great Plains. These authors concluded that the population could be divided into two subpopulations based on morphology. However, they acknowledged that there is an overall clinal trend, and they found no genetic differentiation between the proposed subpopulations.
Conservation Status
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NatureServe Status

Global Status: G5
Global Status Last Reviewed: 10Apr2016
Global Status Last Changed: 04Dec1996
Ranking Methodology Used: Ranked by inspection
Rounded Global Status: G5 - Secure
Nation: United States
National Status: N5B,N5N (05Jan1997)
Nation: Canada
National Status: N5B,N5M (22Jan2018)

U.S. & Canada State/Province Status
Due to latency between updates made in state, provincial or other NatureServe Network databases and when they appear on NatureServe Explorer, for state or provincial information you may wish to contact the data steward in your jurisdiction to obtain the most current data. Please refer to our Distribution Data Sources to find contact information for your jurisdiction.
United States Alabama (SNA), Arizona (S5), Arkansas (SNA), California (S3), Colorado (S5), Florida (SNA), Georgia (S3S4), Idaho (S4B), Illinois (S2), Indiana (S1B), Iowa (S3B,S4N), Kansas (S2B), Kentucky (SNA), Massachusetts (S1N), Michigan (S2), Minnesota (SNRB), Mississippi (SNA), Missouri (S3), Montana (S5B), Navajo Nation (S3B), Nebraska (S4), Nevada (S4B), New Jersey (SNA), New Mexico (S4B,S5N), North Carolina (SNA), North Dakota (SNRB), Oklahoma (S3N), Oregon (S5), South Dakota (S5B), Texas (S3B), Utah (S4S5B,S3N), Washington (S3N,S4B), Wisconsin (S3), Wyoming (S5B,S5N)
Canada Alberta (S4S5B), British Columbia (S4B), Manitoba (S5B), Ontario (S2B), Saskatchewan (S5B)

Other Statuses

IUCN Red List Category: LC - Least concern

NatureServe Global Conservation Status Factors

Range Extent Comments: BREEDS: central-interior British Columbia east to extreme western Ontario and northwestern Ohio, south to southern California, northeastern Baja California, New Mexico, northern Texas, northern Missouri, and northwestern Ohio. WINTERS: central California, central Arizona, southern New Mexico, and Texas south to southern Baja California, Oaxaca and Veracruz (AOU 1983), casually to Costa Rica, accidental in Panama.

Population Size Comments: In North Dakota, statewide breeding population in 1990 was estimated at 391,000 breeding pairs (Nelms et al. 1994).

Overall Threat Impact Comments: Local declines have occurred due to wetland drainage, development, and succession toward closed marsh communities (Herkert 1992).

Short-term Trend Comments: In North Dakota, estimated breeding population in 1990 was lower than in 1981-1982 but did not differ from 1967 (Nelms et al. 1994).

Other NatureServe Conservation Status Information

Distribution
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Global Range: BREEDS: central-interior British Columbia east to extreme western Ontario and northwestern Ohio, south to southern California, northeastern Baja California, New Mexico, northern Texas, northern Missouri, and northwestern Ohio. WINTERS: central California, central Arizona, southern New Mexico, and Texas south to southern Baja California, Oaxaca and Veracruz (AOU 1983), casually to Costa Rica, accidental in Panama.

U.S. States and Canadian Provinces

Due to latency between updates made in state, provincial or other NatureServe Network databases and when they appear on NatureServe Explorer, for state or provincial information you may wish to contact the data steward in your jurisdiction to obtain the most current data. Please refer to our Distribution Data Sources to find contact information for your jurisdiction.
Color legend for Distribution Map
NOTE: The maps for birds represent the breeding status by state and province. In some jurisdictions, the subnational statuses for common species have not been assessed and the status is shown as not-assessed (SNR). In some jurisdictions, the subnational status refers to the status as a non-breeder; these errors will be corrected in future versions of these maps. A species is not shown in a jurisdiction if it is not known to breed in the jurisdiction or if it occurs only accidentally or casually in the jurisdiction. Thus, the species may occur in a jurisdiction as a seasonal non-breeding resident or as a migratory transient but this will not be indicated on these maps. See other maps on this web site that depict the Western Hemisphere ranges of these species at all seasons of the year.
Endemism: occurs (regularly, as a native taxon) in multiple nations

U.S. & Canada State/Province Distribution
United States AL, AR, AZ, CA, CO, FL, GA, IA, ID, IL, IN, KS, KY, MA, MI, MN, MO, MS, MT, NC, ND, NE, NJ, NM, NN, NV, OK, OR, SD, TX, UT, WA, WI, WY
Canada AB, BC, MB, ON, SK

Range Map
Note: Range depicted for New World only. The scale of the maps may cause narrow coastal ranges or ranges on small islands not to appear. Not all vagrant or small disjunct occurrences are depicted. For migratory birds, some individuals occur outside of the passage migrant range depicted. For information on how to obtain shapefiles of species ranges see our Species Mapping pages at www.natureserve.org/conservation-tools/data-maps-tools.

Range Map Compilers: NatureServe, 2002; WILDSPACETM 2002


U.S. Distribution by County Help
State County Name (FIPS Code)
CA Contra Costa (06013)*, El Dorado (06017)*, Fresno (06019), Kern (06029)*, Kings (06031), Lassen (06035)*, Merced (06047)*, Mono (06051), Riverside (06065), Sacramento (06067)*, San Joaquin (06077)*, Yolo (06113)*
IL Boone (17007), Bureau (17011), Carroll (17015), Cass (17017)*, Cook (17031), DuPage (17043), Jo Daviess (17085)*, Kane (17089), Lake (17097), Lee (17103), Madison (17119)*, Mason (17125)*, Mchenry (17111), Putnam (17155), Rock Island (17161), Whiteside (17195), Will (17197)*
IN La Porte (18091), Lake (18089), Marshall (18099), Newton (18111), Starke (18149)
KS Barton (20009), Cloud (20029), Grant (20067), Morton (20129), Seward (20175), Stafford (20185)
MI Bay (26017), Delta (26041)*, Saginaw (26145), Tuscola (26157)
MO Atchison (29005), Buchanan (29021), Holt (29087), Platte (29165), Putnam (29171), Saline (29195)
WI Barron (55005), Buffalo (55011), Dodge (55027), Douglas (55031), Dunn (55033), Fond Du Lac (55039), Kewaunee (55061)*, Marathon (55073), Marquette (55077), Polk (55095), Rock (55105), Walworth (55127), Waukesha (55133), Winnebago (55139)
* Extirpated/possibly extirpated
U.S. Distribution by Watershed Help
Watershed Region Help Watershed Name (Watershed Code)
04 Door-Kewaunee (04030102)+*, Tacoosh-Whitefish (04030111)+*, Upper Fox (04030201)+, Wolf (04030202)+, Little Calumet-Galien (04040001)+, Kawkawlin-Pine (04080102)+, Pigeon-Wiscoggin (04080103)+, Saginaw (04080206)+
07 Upper St. Croix (07030001)+, Lower St. Croix (07030005)+, Buffalo-Whitewater (07040003)+, Lower Chippewa (07050005)+, Red Cedar (07050007)+, Apple-Plum (07060005)+, Lake Dubay (07070002)+, Copperas-Duck (07080101)+, Upper Rock (07090001)+, Crawfish (07090002)+, Kishwaukee (07090006)+, Green (07090007)+, Kankakee (07120001)+, Iroquois (07120002)+, Chicago (07120003)+, Des Plaines (07120004)+, Upper Fox (07120006)+, Lower Fox (07120007)+, Lower Illinois-Senachwine Lake (07130001)+, Lower Illinois-Lake Chautauqua (07130003)+*, Cahokia-Joachim (07140101)+*
10 Nishnabotna (10240004)+, Tarkio-Wolf (10240005)+, Independence-Sugar (10240011)+, Lower Republican (10250017)+, Upper Chariton (10280201)+, Lower Missouri-Crooked (10300101)+, Blackwater (10300104)+
11 Rattlesnake (11030009)+, Cow (11030011)+, Upper Cimarron (11040002)+, Bear (11040005)+, Upper Cimarron-Liberal (11040006)+
15 Imperial Reservoir (15030104)+
16 Lake Tahoe (16050101)+*
18 Lower Sacramento (18020163)+*, Middle Kern-Upper Tehachapi- (18030003)+*, Upper Dry (18030009)+, Tulare-Buena Vista Lakes (18030012)+, Middle San Joaquin-Lower (18040001)+*, San Joaquin Delta (18040003)+*, San Pablo Bay (18050002)+*, San Jacinto (18070202)+, Honey-Eagle Lakes (18080003)+*, Mono Lake (18090101)+
+ Natural heritage record(s) exist for this watershed
* Extirpated/possibly extirpated
Ecology & Life History
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Reproduction Comments: Clutch size is 3-5. Incubation lasts 12-13 days, by female. Young leave nest 9-12 days after hatching; unable to fly until about 21 days old (Terres 1980).
Ecology Comments: Gregarious, often with much larger flocks of red-winged blackbirds in winter (Stiles and Skutch 1989).

Marsh wren may disrupt some nesting attempts (Bump 1986). In Manitoba, predation caused the failure of 51% of nests over two years, and the marsh wren was the most important nest predator (Picman and Isabelle 1995, Auk 112:183-191). Blackbird aggression may exclude marsh wrens from breeding areas (Leonard and Picman 1986). Small breeding territories, but forages up to 1.6 kilometers from nesting area (Willson 1966).

Non-Migrant: N
Locally Migrant: Y
Long Distance Migrant: Y
Mobility and Migration Comments: Generally a long-distance migrant; migrations more localized in some areas of California. Males precede females in migration.
Palustrine Habitat(s): HERBACEOUS WETLAND
Terrestrial Habitat(s): Cropland/hedgerow, Grassland/herbaceous
Habitat Comments: BREEDING: Fresh-water marshes of cattail, tule or bulrushes (AOU 1983). The nest is a basketlike structure of wet grasses, reeds, cattails woven around stems. NON-BREEDING: In migration and winter also in open cultivated lands, pastures and fields (AOU 1983).
Adult Food Habits: Granivore, Invertivore
Immature Food Habits: Granivore, Invertivore
Food Comments: Feeds on insects, seeds, and grain. Searches for food while walking along the ground or perched on seed-bearing plant; forages in fields and on muddy ground near water.
Adult Phenology: Diurnal
Immature Phenology: Diurnal
Colonial Breeder: Y
Length: 24 centimeters
Weight: 80 grams
Economic Attributes
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Economic Comments: Along with other blackbirds and grackles, damages sunflower crops in the northern Great Plains (Cummings et al. 1989), where populations increased from the 1960s to the 1980s.
Management Summary
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Management Requirements: Artificial water level control and prescribed burning may be effective in maintaining suitable habitat conditions.
Population/Occurrence Delineation
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Group Name: Passerines

Use Class: Breeding
Subtype(s): Foraging Area, Nest Site, Nesting Colony
Minimum Criteria for an Occurrence: Evidence of historical breeding, or current and likely recurring breeding, at a given location, minimally a reliable observation of one or more breeding pairs in appropriate habitat. Be cautious about creating EOs for observations that may represent single breeding events outside the normal breeding distribution.

Mapping Guidance: Breeding occurrences include nesting areas as well as foraging areas.

For swallows and other species that have separate nesting and foraging areas, separations are based on nest sites or nesting areas, not to locations of foraging individuals. For example, nesting areas separated by a gap larger than the separation distance are different occurrences, regardless of the foraging locations of individuals from those nesting areas. This separation procedure is appropriate because nesting areas are the critical aspect of swallow breeding occurrences, tend to be relatively stable or at least somwhat predictable in general location, and so are the basis for effective conservation; foraging areas are much more flexible and not necessarily static.

Separation Distance for Unsuitable Habitat: 5 km
Separation Distance for Suitable Habitat: 5 km
Separation Justification: Significant dispersal and associated high potential for gene flow among populations of birds separated by tens of kilometers (e.g., Moore and Dolbeer 1989), and increasing evidence that individuals leave their usual home range to engage in extrapair copulations, as well as long foraging excursions of some species, make it difficult to circumscribe occurrences on the basis of meaningful population units without occurrences becoming too large. Hence, a moderate, standardized separation distance has been adopted for songbirds and flycatchers; it should yield occurrences that are not too spatially expansive while also accounting for the likelihood of gene flow among populations within a few kilometers of each other.

Be careful not to separate a population's nesting areas and foraging areas as different occurrences; include them in the same occurrence even if they are more than 5 km apart. Mean foraging radius (from nesting area) of Brown-headed Cowbird females was 4.0 kilometers in California, 1.2 kilometers in Illinois-Missouri (Thompson 1994). Yellow-headed Blackbirds, Brewer's Blackbirds, and probably Red-winged Blackbirds all forage up to 1.6 kilometers away from breeding colony (Willson 1966, Horn 1968). In one study, Brewer's Blackbirds were found as far as 10 kilometers from nesting area (Williams 1952), but this may be unusual.

For swallows and other parrerines with similar behavioral ecology, separation distance pertains to nest sites or nesting colonies, not to locations of foraging individuals. For example, nesting areas separated by a gap of more than 5 km are different occurrences, regardless of the foraging locations of individuals from those nesting areas. This separation procedure is appropriate because nesting areas are the critical aspect of swallow breeding occurrences, tend to be relatively stable or at least somwhat predictable in general location, and so are the basis for effective conservation; foraging areas are much more flexible and not necessarily static.

Be cautious about creating EOs for observations that may represent single breeding events outside the normal breeding distribution.

Unsuitable habitat: Habitat not normally used for breeding/feeding by a particular species. For example, unsuitable habitat for grassland and shrubland birds includes forest/woodland, urban/suburban, and aquatic habitats. Most habitats would be suitable for birds with versatile foraging habits (e.g., most corvids).

Date: 10Sep2004
Author: Hammerson, G.

Use Class: Migratory stopover
Subtype(s): Foraging Area, Roost Site
Minimum Criteria for an Occurrence: For most passerines: Evidence of recurring presence of migrating individuals (including historical) and potential recurring presence at a given location; minimally a reliable observation of 25 birds in appropriate habitat.

For swallows: Evidence of recurring presence of migrating flocks (including historical) and potential recurring presence at a given location; minimally a reliable observation of 100 birds in appropriate habitat (e.g., traditional roost sites).

Occurrences should be locations where the species is resident for some time during the appropriate season; it is preferable to have observations documenting presence over at least 7 days annually.

EOs should not be described for species that are nomadic during nonbreeding season: e.g., Lark Bunting.

Be cautious about creating EOs for observations that may represent single events.

Separation Distance for Unsuitable Habitat: 5 km
Separation Distance for Suitable Habitat: 5 km
Separation Justification: Separation distance somewhat arbitrary but intended to define occurrences of managable size for conservation purposes. Occurrences defined primarily on the basis of areas supporting concentrations of birds, rather than on the basis of distinct populations.

For swallows and other species with similar behavioral ecology, the separation distance pertains to communal roost sites rather than to foraging areas; the former tend to be more stable and specific over time than the latter.

Date: 03Sep2004
Author: Hammerson, G., and S. Cannings

Use Class: Nonbreeding
Subtype(s): Foraging Area, Roost Site
Minimum Criteria for an Occurrence: Any area used traditionally in the nonbreeding season (used for populations that are not resident in a location year-round). Minimally, reliable observations of 10 or more individuals in appropriate habitat for 20 or more days at a time. For G1-G3 species, observations of fewer individuals could constitute an occurrence of conservation value. Sites used during migration should be documented under the 'migratory stopover' location use class.

Separation Distance for Unsuitable Habitat: 5 km
Separation Distance for Suitable Habitat: 5 km
Separation Justification: Separation distance is necessarily arbitrary but attempts to balance the high mobility of birds with the need for occurrences of reasonable spatial scope. Note that a population's roost sites and foraging areas are parts of the same occurrence, even if they are more than 5 km apart.

For swallows and other species with similar behavioral ecology, the separation distance pertains to communal roost sites rather than to foraging areas; the former tend to be more stable and specific over time than the latter.

Date: 03Sep2004
Author: Hammerson, G.

Use Class: Nonmigratory
Minimum Criteria for an Occurrence: Occurrences are based on evidence of historical presence, or current and likely recurring presence, at a particular location. Such evidence minimally includes collection or reliable observation and documentation of one or more individuals in or near appropriate habitat.

These occurrence specifications are used for nonmigratory populations of passerine birds.

Separation Barriers: None.
Separation Distance for Unsuitable Habitat: 5 km
Separation Distance for Suitable Habitat: 5 km
Separation Justification: Significant dispersal and associated high potential for gene flow among populations of birds separated by tens of kilometers (e.g., Moore and Dolbeer 1989), and increasing evidence that individuals leave their usual home range to engage in extrapair copulations, as well as long foraging excursions of some species, make it difficult to circumscribe occurrences on the basis of meaningful population units without occurrences becoming too large. Hence, a moderate, standardized separation distance has been adopted for songbirds and flycatchers; it should yield occurrences that are not too spatially expansive while also accounting for the likelihood of gene flow among populations within a few kilometers of each other.

Be careful not to separate a population's nesting areas and breeding-season foraging areas as different occurrences; include them in the same occurrence even if they are more than 5 km apart. Blue jays have small summer home ranges but fly up to 4 kilometers to harvest mast (Tarvin and Woolfenden 1999). Flocks of pinyon jays range over 21-29 square kilometers (Ligon 1971, Balda and Bateman 1971); nesting and foraging areas may be widely separated. Tricolored blackbirds forage in flocks that range widely to more than 15 kilometers from the nesting colony (Beedy and Hamilton 1999).

Unsuitable habitat: Habitat not normally used for breeding/feeding by a particular species. For example, unsuitable habitat for grassland and shrubland birds includes forest/woodland, urban/suburban, and aquatic habitats. Most habitats would be suitable for birds with versatile foraging habits (e.g., most corvids).

Date: 10Sep2004
Author: Hammerson, G.
Notes: These specs pertain to nonmigratory species.
Population/Occurrence Viability
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U.S. Invasive Species Impact Rank (I-Rank) Not yet assessed
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Authors/Contributors
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Element Ecology & Life History Edition Date: 05Apr1996
Element Ecology & Life History Author(s): Hammerson, G.

Zoological data developed by NatureServe and its network of natural heritage programs (see Local Programs) and other contributors and cooperators (see Sources).

References
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