A polygynous breeder, the male Yellow-headed Blackbird stakes out his claim in a habitat of reeds over permanent open water. Females arrive to the area a few days later and are pursued by the males who sit on elevated vegetation with a spread tail and half-open wings and "sing." Sadly for human listeners, his song is composed of short, choked notes that sound more like a saw grating metal than a Romeo in love. The male Yellow-headed Blackbird may be able to secure up to as many as six mates depending on the quality of his territory. Male Yellow-headed Blackbirds who acquire new territory do not destroy broods sired by the previous territorial male. This tolerance for unrelated young may help them attract new mates as the females may mate and lay a second clutch with the new male.
The female builds a bulky, woven nest of wet vegetation in the reeds over water. As the nest materials dry, it shrinks, tightening its support on the emergent vegetation upon which it is attached. Nest building takes two to four days, and the nest is suspended ½ foot to three feet above the water.
The female Yellow-headed blackbird lays 3-5 greenish-white eggs with dark marks. Incubation lasts 11-13 days, and the chicks are altricial. They fledge within 9-12 days of hatching, and during their time in the nest, both parents feed them. For the first four days after birth, the chicks are fed at least partly by regurgitation. The amount of begging for food by Yellow-headed Blackbird chicks is related to the amount of food the parents bring to the nest. As nestlings, male Yellow-headed Blackbirds are significantly larger than their female counterparts. Yellow-headed Blackbirds only raise one (possibly two) broods each summer while their neighbors, the Red-winged Blackbirds, raises two to three broods (Elrich et al. 1988; Ortega and Cruz 1992; Gori et al. 1996; Stokes and Stokes 1996; Price 1998)
Average time to hatching: 12 days.
Average eggs per season: 4.
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