Yellow-Headed Blackbird in courtship pose

Davis has two commonly seen species of blackbird.

  • The Red-winged Blackbird (Agelaius phoeniceus) can be found near water and marshy areas like the Yolo Bypass Wildlife Area and any pond with tall grasses surrounding it. Also try North Area Pond, West Area Pond, and Davis Wetlands. The males are matte black with bright red 'epaulettes' (shoulder patches) with a thin line of yellow below each. These epaulettes are on proud display in the early spring as males sing, stake out their territories, and try to impress the other birds. When not being shown off, the patches can be hard to see. Females are mottled in shades of brown and are sometimes mistaken for very large sparrows. In spring, a flock of males arrives first; and a flock of females comes later. Nests are off the ground in tules, reeds, or mustard.
  • The Brewer's Blackbird (Euphagus cyanocephalus) is the "side of the road" blackbird often seen in parking lots. The male can be identified by the overall glossy sheen and a bright yellow iris. The female is drab brown. (Note: Grackles have the same coloration but much bigger tails. While not yet common, Grackles have been sighted near Davis and may soon appear in town. —LoisRichter 2010/08)
  • A third species occasionally found here is the Yellow-Headed Blackbird (Xanthocephalus xanthocephalus). Sometimes you'll find a few in the midst of the hundreds of Red-Wings nesting in the cattails in the Yolo Bypass wetlands in the spring. The males are easy to spot — with very bright yellow head and chest and large white wing patches that can be seen when flying.
    • I've never gotten a good photo of one, but I did paint a picture. Here's the male in courtship pose. —LoisRichter

Mixed blackbird flocks — which can number in the hundreds — are often joined by Brown-Headed Cowbirds. Rarely, some Tri-colored Blackbirds will also join in.


(request: If you have good local blackbird photos, please add them here.)

(Go to the index of bird species on the Birds and Birding page)