Scavenging is an important way of life in Yellowstone, especially in the spring time. During the long Yellowstone winter those animals that are weak or sick often succumb to the weather and die. The carcass, which is preserved by the cold temperature, becomes a food source for predators and scavengers after the snows melt and the land begins to thaw. Some scavengers come with claws, like wolves, coyote, weasels, and bears, while others come with wings.
One of the most numerous winged scavengers that we saw was the common raven. Even though the raven is the largest passerine in North America its high intelligence have allowed it to adapt and thrive in areas populated by man. Another member of the crow family that can be seen scavenging in Yellowstone is the black-billed magpie. Besides scavenging the magpie's diet consists of eggs and young chicks, that it finds in the nest of other birds, ticks, that it picks off of the backs of ungulates, insects, small mammals, as well as seeds and grain.
As with the ravens these birds are intelligent and do well around people. These shots were taken in Mammoth where these birds take advantage of what people leave behind.
We also spotted a Yellow-headed blackbird on our way out of Yellowstone. Although some what similar in appearance to crows blackbirds are actually members of the Icteridae family which also includes orioles, grackles, cowbirds and meadowlarks. Yellow-headed blackbirds nest in the tall reeds in wetland areas. The male will establish a territory and defend it from red-winged blackbirds and marsh wrens as well as other male yellow-headed blackbirds. The male will usually attract multiple females to nest with in his territory. This bird had just finished singing his territorial song from his perch above the reeds when we took this pic.