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HomeTechnology & ScienceYellow-headed blackbird has great Northern adventure, winds up in Ulukhaktok

Yellow-headed blackbird has great Northern adventure, winds up in Ulukhaktok


Pamela Ogina couldn’t believe her eyes.

Far from its marshy home in southern Canada, a yellow-headed blackbird squatted on a railing near her home in Ulukhaktok, N.W.T.

Ogina is used to seeing little white and brown birds fluttering around her community, which is far above the treeline on Victoria Island. Crows and seagulls flap around regularly. But this colourful visitor was something she’d never seen before.

“I was wondering, ‘What kind of bird can fly all the way up here?'” Ogina recalled.

“It must have been thinking, ‘Wow, cool — what’s up here?'” 

Another view of the unusual visitor spotted in Ulukhaktok last week. (Submitted by Pamela Ogina)

The bird had to cross a stretch of the Arctic ocean to get there — not to mention winging about 1,500 kilometres out of its way.

Reid Hildebrandt, an avid bird-watcher in Yellowknife, said he was shocked to see a photo of the bird. They generally nest in the Prairies, he said, though one or two make their way to more southern parts of the N.W.T. each year.

The yellow-headed blackbird tends to “push the boundaries” of its territory, he noted, as marshes cycle between being more dry or more wet depending on the year.

“Often, they’ll land in the cattail marshes and start singing their god-awful song for a few days, and then they’ll move on,” he said.

“This is definitely the furthest north one of these birds has ever been seen.”

It’s unlikely the bird will make the return journey, though, he added. In unfamiliar terrain, it’s more likely to become a meal for a more local critter.

“That wayward bird is probably going to aid the nesting efforts of some other predator,” Hildebrandt said.

It’s the first and last time Ogina has seen a yellow-headed blackbird in Ulukhaktok — she hasn’t seen this one since that singular sighting last week — but she said she’s been seeing other uncommon birds visiting the community as springs get warmer.

“It’s kind of melting faster,” she said. “And we’re probably going to get unusual stuff up here now.”


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