Saffron-cowled Blackbird Xanthopsar flavus

  • © Cláudio Dias Timm

The Saffron-cowled Blackbird is a rare and declining icterid that needs marshes adjacent to native grassland. This habitat mix is rare now due to agricultural practices and surely why this species has become rare. It formerly had a broad distribution from southeast Paraguay and southeast Brazil south to northern Buenos Aires. Now its strongholds are in eastern Paraguay, eastern Uruguay, Entre Rios and Corrientes in Argentina. The male is gorgeous, yellow on the face and underparts; black above from the nape to the back, wings and tail but with a contrasting yellow rump. The dark eye is joined to the bill by black lores that create a masked look. In flight males show a distinctive yellow shoulder patch. The female is browner above, and less yellow below but overall similar in plumage. This smallish and slim marsh inhabiting blackbird is not closely related to many of the other marsh nesting blackbirds, molecular data and some plumage features clarify that it is the sister to the Marshbirds (Pseudoleistes). As such, the Saffron-cowled does deserve to be in its own genus, rather than in Agelaius as it was once classified. This blackbird sometimes forms mixed flocks with Black-and-white Monjitas (Xolmis dominicana), these foraging associations have yet to be adequately explained although surely they derive from a mutually beneficial arrangement.

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© Bret Whitney

  • Year-round
  • Migration
  • Breeding
  • Non-breeding

Recommended Citation

Saffron-cowled Blackbird (Xanthopsar flavus), In Neotropical Birds Online (T. S. Schulenberg, Editor). Cornell Lab of Ornithology, Ithaca, NY, USA. retrieved from Neotropical Birds Online: