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Birding/Blackbird with white hood


QUESTION: On our morning walk, about 35 miles west of Green Bay, WI, my neighbor and I encountered a sighting of a blackbird that was all black with a white hood.  This hood was as white as a mature bald eagle, but on the body of a blackbird-like bird.  When I got home, I immediately checked my bird book and found nothing like it.  So, I took my camera back to where I had seen the bird, and of course it was gone.  I asked the neighbor whose yard it was seen in, to keep an eye out for it and call me if sighted again.  Any ideas of what I had seen?

ANSWER: Well, to begin, there is no such thing as a blackbird with a white hood in North America, so let me suggest a couple of possibilities, assuming that the bird was totally black with a white hood:

1. The Yellow-headed Blackbird fits the description except that it has a yellow hood. But in bright sunlight it could very well appear white.
2. It could be partial albinism where the pigment fails to color all the feathers, leaving the head white. Less likely.
3.It could have been something like an immature grackle whose head feathers were not fully developed and showed the white shafts of developing feathers.

In any case, it is not a new species. Considering it was found in someone's yard, it is most likely a fairly common bird, so immature grackle seems a possibility.

If you manage to get a photo, send it along.

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QUESTION: I also sent you the same message on your rating page.  

This morning, my neighbor and I spotted the same bird on our morning walk in the same place we had seen it before, between 6:30 a.m. and 7:00 a.m.  The neighbor whose yard the bird has been spotted also has seen it, and will try to get a picture of it for me.  The bird again, appears as large as a grackle and looks like a grackle or blackbird, all black but with a striking full white hood like a bald eagle, (this morning we had fog, so it wasn't the bright light that made yellow look like white.  However, this time in flight, the bird had a small patch of bright white in its wing that you do not see when it feeds on the ground.  If you know of a local ornithologist that might want to investigate, please forward them to me and I will show them the area its been seen.

ANSWER: The small patch of bright white in its wing is more evidence that it is a Yellow-headed Blackbird. Maybe the light was odd or the yellow color is faded or even albinistic, but I'm pretty sure that's what it was. A photo would confirm. You can contact the local Audubon Society to see if they are interested.

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QUESTION: I looked in my bird book, and that is not the bird we see.  First, it is definitely not yellow.  Its white like a bald eagle.  Second the hood doesn't cover as much of the breast as what's shown on the yellow-headed blackbird.  Do you know if there is an Audobon Society in the Green Bay, or Wausau, WI area, as we are located in between the two.

strange bird
strange bird  
Here's the website for Northeastern WI Audubon:

Given that the bird is found in a backyard it is perhaps a partial albino grackle. Again, a photo, even a bad one, and I can tell you what it is for sure.

Does it look like the enclosed photo?


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Roger Lederer


Any and all about WILD birds - the science of ornithology. Information about birdwatching, ecology, conservation, migration, behavior, banding, rehabilitation, feeding, songs, binoculars, identification, and careers in ornithology. No questions about pet or caged birds, please.


Have a PhD and over forty years as a professional ornithologist - research, teaching, author, speaker, webmaster of . Have written thirty scientific papers, three bird field guides, a textbook in ecology four other bird books, the latest being "Beaks, Bones, and Bird Songs". Have traveled to 100 countries watching birds and have spoken to hundreds of groups about birds.

PhD in Zoology/Ornithology; Emeritus Professor of Biological Sciences; former Dean of the College of Natural Sciences at California State University, Chico

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