Adults have a pointed bill. The adult male is mainly black with a yellow head and breast; they have a white wing patch sometimes only visible in flight. The adult female is mainly brown with a dull yellow throat and breast. Both genders resemble the respective genders of the smaller Yellow-hooded Blackbird of South America.

Habitat and Distribution

The breeding habitat of the Yellow-headed Blackbird is cattail marshes in North America, mainly west of the Great Lakes. They migrate in the winter to the southwestern United States and Mexico. They often migrate in huge flocks with other species of birds. In the United States these blackbirds are permanent residents only in San Joaquin Valley and the Lower Colorado River Valley of Arizona and California.


They forage in the marsh, in fields or on the ground; they sometimes catch insects in flight. These birds mainly eat seeds and insects.


The nest is built with and attached to marsh vegetation. They nest in colonies, often sharing their habitat closely with the Red-winged Blackbird. During the breeding and nesting season the males are very territorial and spend much of their time perched on reed stalks and displaying or chasing off intruders.

Calls and Songs

This bird's song resembles the grating of a rusty hinge.