Tricolored Blackbird,Toppenish Creek 5/10/13 ©Kevin S. Lucas. Click "View Image Details" for reports of similar-looking birds...

Tricolored Blackbird,Toppenish Creek 5/10/13 ©Kevin S. Lucas. Click "View Image Details" for reports of similar-looking birds...

I found this Tricolored Blackbird perched on the phone line along Lateral C Road just north of the Toppenish Creek bridge. It flew to a cottonwood tree, then into this willow -- across the road to the east. I didn't see it after that.

I'd never seen this species before. I'm glad it was perched alone in the sun on a line, where I was able to notice it & see it well.
I'd grabbed my camera and taken a few photos as a small green pickup truck drove past me very fast, throwing gravel & dust. That's when the bird flew across the road out of view -- possibly coincidentally.

If anyone re-finds this bird, I'd sure like a phone call so I can try to get better quality (digiscoped) photos.

On Saturday, the day after I'd found it, John Hebert & I arrived at the Sunnyside SVID reservoir where we met Scott Downes & Luke Safford. Luke asked me about my sighting -- about its bill shape, its call, where specifically I'd seen it & to where it had flown. They were doing a "big day" & hoped to relocate it. I asked Luke to phone if he sighted it. Later that day he phoned saying they'd found it & that Scott was taking photographs of it.
Later, in Scott's BirdYak post about their big day, he reported seeing it, and they both have it listed on their eBird checklists for the day. I've not seen any of Scott's photos yet, but heard something about them not turning out. Scott cited my photo as if it were proof of him seeing the bird. That's just wrong. I was birding when I found it & photographed it the day before. Scott was already complaining about being bleary as he was listing (contrast with birding) during a big day. If Scott actually saw a Tricolored Blackbird, and is willing to post his own photos to prove it, he should do so. If the photos show a Red-winged Blackbird, as I suspect, he should correct his sighting, and admit it. And Scott should not submit a big day report for that day, since he knowingly (according to his birding partner for the day) violated big day rules.

A week later Denny Granstrand found a blackbird with very white wing bars, but orange/red above. It seemed to be a good candidate, at least for a hybrid of Red-winged X Tricolored. Denny's interesting Red-winged Blackbird photo He photographed it, posted & sent photos to several experts -- among them either Gordon Orians, the author of Blackbirds of the Americas, or Alvaro Jaramillo. Gordon or Alvaro commented that no hybridization occurs between Red-winged & Tricolored Blackbirds. He & Dennis Paulson, another highly regarded birder & author, both said that Denny's was definitely a Red-winged Blackbird.
Denny talked about this at our May Yakima Audubon chapter meeting. I thought it very good of him to explain what he'd hoped for & the process of review he undertook, & to share the results. Whenever I post bird photos, I know I'm opening myself up for criticism, but I continue to enjoy learning about bird identification.

I think this is the only photographed or credibly reported male Tricolored Blackbird in Yakima County. I've been told that there are two prior sightings of Tricolored Blackbirds that were accepted (by either Washington Ornithological Society or Washington Birder.) Those were of females. One of those was photographed by Denny. The other was reported by Andy Stepniewski.

Here's a link to an article on the identification of female Tricolored Blackbirds (popup window):
A Closer Look: Confusing Blackbirds