U.S. Department of Agriculture: Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service


Date of this Version



The Wilson Journal of Ornithology 127(4):622–629, 2015


U.S. Government Work


Yellow-headed Blackbirds (Xanthocephalus xanthocephalus) in central North Dakota undergo prebasic molt or prejuvenile molt during late summer. Nestling Yellow-headed Blackbirds initiate a complete prejuvenile molt, grow their primary and secondary regimes in about 40 days, completing molt after they leave the nest by the first week in August. Remiges are not replaced during the subsequent preformative molt, being retained until the second prebasic molt. Nonlinear (logistic) regression of primary remex growth during definitive prebasic molts of Yellow-headed Blackbirds indicated 38 days were required to complete the linear phase of growth (between 10% and 90% of total primary length). Males added 19.5 mm/d and females added 15.7 mm/d to the total length of all primaries during this linear growth phase; an average of 4–5 mm per primary remex per day. Definitive prebasic molting of primary remiges in males and females was initiated in late June, after nesting and brood rearing were completed. Molts of Yellow-headed Blackbirds were completed by early September, before birds emigrated from North Dakota during mid-September. Because of their comparatively early completion of molt and emigration from the state, as well as their more diverse diet, agricultural depredation caused by Yellow-headed Blackbirds in North Dakota is likely less than that of Red-winged Blackbirds and Common Grackles.

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