Sunday, September 24, 2017

Rarity: Yellow-headed blackbird in Brooklyn

     I woke up early this morning to join the Birding in Peace tour in Green-Wood Cemetery. Why I decided to not sleep in at all this weekend, it's really beyond me. Perhaps I am obsessed. Yeah, that's probably it.
     The walk was really great, highlights included a common nighthawk flyover, quite a few warbler species, endless phoebes, and a flycatcher chasing a bat in broad daylight. We had very much gone over the 8am end time-- which no one ever complains about - but then came the tweet-- like the Twitter kind.
     A fellow birder found a yellow-headed blackbird at Floyd Bennett Field among a flock of starlings. It's pretty big news. So, the tour ends and we all head our separate ways. Not going to lie, my luck with chasing-- not so great. So I decided to head home, fulfill my hunger (a hangry Jen is not a good thing) and keep an eye on tweets.
     The bird was re-found and off I went...
I arrived to it sitting inside a tree near the football fields and the temporary farm they set up at Floyd Bennett Field.

And it sat...

And sat.
Also, did I mention it is late September and 90 degrees outside? Can't blame it for being in the shade.

I won't lie, the bird did move... a little. It was deeper in the tree when I first arrived and photos were impossible. This was a better view. But I had burned so much time waiting for this bird to come out- I actually had an appointment to make at 2:15-- and I am sitting in the grass, sweating, hoping to get a good look at this bird.
Well. My wish was granted.

For a hot second- the bird perched on a fence. I wish I had thought to move to not have the stupid green railing IN EVERY SHOT, but I didn't I was too excited. Wow. What a BEAUTIFUL bird! A male, in it's amazing plumage.
A few things to note besides the obvious yellow head that gives it its name- they also have white patches on their wings just where their wrist bends and yellow feather right on their vent (aka their cloaca-- or where the poop comes out). This bird was bigger than our red-winged blackbirds, almost felt more thrasher sized- especially with those long legs!

So why were Brooklyn birders loosing their shit over this bird? Well- check out a range map- these birds don't really venture east. They are west coast birds. Who knows what brought this bird here, between the burning west coast and storms churning in the Atlantic messing with the winds-- this guy could have got caught on the wind mis-directing him, or maybe got caught up with a flock of other birds and stuck it out with them, arriving here.
Actually the whole mystery behind birds and how they get off course is such a fascinating thing to think about.

See the life history of the yellow-headed blackbird here, from Cornell's All About Birds:

Really happy I got to see this LIFE BIRD in Brooklyn.
Brooklyn and urban birding has been so fulfilling in so many ways. It has provided a network of like-minded people who send out alerts to amazing birds, who will keep eyes on that bird till others arrive, and share their knowledge. I have seen so many birds living here and some very special ones at that. Shout out to those Brooklyn Birders- you are awesome! 

This bird also marks my 250th bird of the year for 2017. I am happy with that as my number, even though I know I am behind many. There are still winter birds coming in and migration is still on- so there is still much to see! But for now-- glad to add this guy to my year AND life list!
AND, I still made it home to shower so I wasn't 100% gross and get a much needed haircut. I am dominating adult life.

Super HUGE shoutout to Heydi L. who found this AMAZING bird- well done! Girls who bird are holdin' down the fort in Brooklyn! 

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