Both Trinidad and Tobago are the homes of many attractive and interesting birds. This group forms a part of nature’s gift to us; a natural heritage, which we should recognise, cherish and preserve.
Among these, the yellow-hooded blackbird is a family to a wide range of our local blackbirds. This lively, little bird is about seven to eight inches in length. The male, which is more attractive than the female, is of a shiny black, except for the bright yellow of its head, throat and upper part of its breast. Locally, it is also known as the yellow head and yellow neck. The female is generally of a light brown with a tinge of yellow at the edge of its wings and tail feathers; its throat, as well as the sides of its head are of a pale yellow.
These yellow-hooded birds are seen in flocks, roosting in tall grasses and shrubs and low branches of trees at the edge of swamps and marshes. Their nests are built among the stems of tall grasses, reeds and rice plants, where cultivated. Often, however, they also build their nests in mangrove trees, and shrubs found at the edge of swamps. Under normal conditions, their eggs are laid and hatched during the rainy season, between May and November.
They feed on grass seeds, especially rice. Like other blackbirds, they also feed on small, soft insects like butterflies, moths, grasshoppers, spiders and others. Where these birds are found near houses, they may also feed on cooked foods, which are mainly leftovers from families who live on the fringe of the wetlands. Foods like bread cakes, bread, whole or cooked rice, roti and other soft foods such as boiled or fried, ground provision; yam, dasheen, eddoes, cassava and others It is regrettable that because of the destruction of their natural habitats through fires and indiscriminate lighting of bush fires, as well as land usage in development, our birds and other wildlife, migrate to the harsh environment of our cities, towns, and villages; often to their demise.
It is quite evident that some birds live in pairs, male and female; for example, the blue-grey tanager also called the blue jean, palm tanager, sometimes called the coconut bird, the well-known kiskadee, the tropical mocking bird and many more, while others are seen in flocks; like the scarlet ibis, flamingo, parrot, parakeet corbeau, the big, brown pelican and others The yellow hooded blackbird is among those birds, which live in flocks.
It is interesting to note, however, that our yellow-hooded blackbirds in spite of living in flock associate and feed comfortably with other blackbirds; like the shiny cowbirds, grackles (common blackbirds) and others, and also with our ground doves. These birds are very shy and respond instantly to any slight movements. It is believed by some people, that birds are spiritual, and may respond positively toward people, or be aggressive to others, whose aura may be repulsive. Take a little break sometimes, relax and listen to the many different bird sounds you may hear. Look around and identify the different birds and their habits. There are much to discover and enjoy right there in your backyard. When next you visit our marshes, swamps and lagoons, look out for this attractive, yellow-hooded blackbird and enjoy the sight.