Share your observations

Share your observations of plants or non-game animals with the Natural Heritage Inventory

Rare animals
Find rare and non-game animals.
Rare plants
Learn about plants on the Natural Heritage Working List.
Rare lichens
Discover Wisconsin's lichens.
Natural communities
Explore Wisconsin's natural communities.
Other features
Discover unique resources.
Eagle license plate

Help care for rare plants and animals by ordering an Endangered Resources plate.

Contact information
For information on Wisconsin's rare vertebrate animals, contact:
Rich Staffen
Conservation Biologist
For information on Wisconsin's rare invertebrates, contact:
Jay Watson
Conservation Biologist

Yellow-headed Blackbird (Xanthocephalus xanthocephalus)



Yellow-headed Blackbird (Xanthocephalus xanthocephalus), a Special Concern species in Wisconsin, is a large songbird. Males have a distinguishable bright yellow head, neck, and breast. The body is black with a partially visible white wing patch while perched. Females have a yellow face and neck, though the body is dull brown. The species is most prevalent in southeastern Wisconsin but breeds throughout the entire state. It prefers emergent aquatic habitats where cattails, reeds, and bulrushes are present, such as deep-water marshes and prairie wetlands. Nests are constructed above water using various grasses, reeds, and cattails that are woven together. Up to five eggs are laid that are grayish-white marked by multiple brown spots. Alteration of wetland habitats for agriculture or urban development threatens the viability of the species. The recommended avoidance period is May 15 - July 15.

State status

Status and Natural Heritage Inventory documented occurrences in Wisconsin

The table below provides information about the protected status - both state and federal - and the rank (S and G Ranks) for Yellow-headed Blackbird (Xanthocephalus xanthocephalus). See the Working List Key for more information about abbreviations. Counties shaded blue have documented occurrences for this species in the Wisconsin Natural Heritage Inventory database. The map is provided as a general reference of where occurrences of this species meet NHI data standards and is not meant as a comprehensive map of all observations.

Note: Species recently added to the NHI Working List may temporarily have blank occurrence maps.

Documented locations of Xanthocephalus xanthocephalus in the Natural Heritage Inventory Database as of July 2015.
Summary Information
State StatusSC/M
Federal Status in Wisconsinnone
State RankS1S2B
Global RankG5
Tracked by NHIY

Species guidance

A guidance document is not available at this time. However, the bird calendar [PDF] contains dates for avoiding impacts to this and other rare Wisconsin birds when planning management activities.



Yellow-headed Blackbird

Yellow-headed Blackbird

Photo © A.B. Sheldon.

Yellow-headed Blackbird

Photo © A.B. Sheldon.

Yellow-headed Blackbird

Yellow-headed Blackbird

Photo © A.B. Sheldon.

Wildlife Action Plan

Wisconsin Wildlife Action Plan graphic

Natural community (habitat) associations

The table below lists the natural communities that are associated with Yellow-headed Blackbird. Only natural communities for which Yellow-headed Blackbird is "high" (score=3) or "moderate" (score=2) associated are shown. See the key to association scores for complete definitions. Please see the Wildlife Action Plan to learn how this information was developed.

Natural community Score
Emergent Marsh 3
Floating-leaved Marsh 3
Wild Rice Marsh 2

Ecological landscape associations

The table below lists the ecological landscape association scores for Yellow-headed Blackbird. The scores correspond to the map (3=High, 2=Moderate, 1=Low, 0=None). For more information, please see the Wildlife Action Plan.

This map shows the probability of Yellow-headed Blackbird occurring in each of Wisconsin's Ecological Landscapes.  Actual scores can be found in the table to the left.

Back to Top

Landscape-Community combinations of highest ecological priority*

Ecological priorities are the combinations of natural communities and ecological landscapes that provide Wisconsin's best opportunities to conserve important habitats for a given Species of Greatest Conservation Need. The 10 highest scoring combinations are considered ecological priorities and are listed below. More than 10 combinations are listed if multiple combinations tied for 10th place. For more information, please see the Wildlife Action Plan.

* Ecological priority score is a relative measure that is not meant for comparison between species. This score does not consider socio-economical factors that may dictate protection and/or management priorities differently than those determined solely by ecological analysis. Further, a low ecological priority score does not imply that management or preservation should not occur on a site if there are important reasons for doing so locally.

Back to Top

Issues/threats and conservation actions

Conservation actions respond to issues or threats, which adversely affect species of greatest conservation need (SGCN) or their habitats. Besides actions such as restoring wetlands or planting resilient tree species in northern communities, research, surveys and monitoring are also among conservation actions described in the WWAP because lack of information can threaten our ability to successfully preserve and care for natural resources.

Threats/issues and conservations actions for rare animals

Back to Top

Last revised: Thursday, October 08, 2020