Brewer's Blackbird 2010

Kennedy Meadows, Stanislaus National Forest, April 2010

A bird to be seen in the full sun, the male Brewer’s Blackbird is a glossy, almost liquid combination of black, midnight blue, and metallic green. Females are a staid brown, without the male’s bright eye or the female Red-winged Blackbird’s streaks. Common in towns and open habitats of much of the West, you’ll see these long-legged, ground-foraging birds on sidewalks and city parks as well as chuckling in flocks atop shrubs, trees, and reeds.

Size & Shape
A small, fairly long-legged songbird with the well-proportioned look of many blackbirds: the fairly long tail is balanced by a full body, round head, and long, thick-based beak. In perching males, the tail appears widened and rounded toward the tip.

Color Pattern
Males are glossy black all over with a staring yellow eye and a blue sheen on the head grading to greenish iridescence on the body. Females are plainer brown, darkest on the wings and tail, with a dark eye. Immature birds look like washed out, lighter-brown versions of the females.

Behavior
Brewer’s Blackbirds feed on open ground or underfoot in parks and busy streets. Their long legs give them a halting walk, head jerking with each step almost like a chicken’s. In flocks, Brewer’s Blackbirds rise and fall as they fly. At landing, birds may circle in a slow fluttering flight before settling.

Habitat
Look for Brewer’s Blackbirds in open habitats of the West, such as coastal scrub, grasslands, riversides, meadows, as well as lawns, golf courses, parks, and city streets.

Cool Facts

  • Brewer’s Blackbirds are social birds that nest in colonies of up to 100 birds. The first females to arrive choose a nest site to suit them, and later arrivals follow suit. Eggs are extremely variable in color and pattern. Some studies suggest the variability helps the eggs match the background pattern of the nest, helping to camouflage them.
  • Most birds fly south for the winter, but a small number of Brewer’s Blackbirds fly west – leaving the frigid Canadian prairies for the milder coastal regions of British Columbia and Washington.
  • Brewer’s Blackbirds cope well with humans and the development we bring. In the last century, they spread eastward from western Minnesota, taking advantage of agricultural fields, farmhouses, and towns. Where they overlap with the Common Grackle, the grackles take the streets and suburbs, leaving the Brewer’s Blackbirds to the fields and grasslands.
  • Brewer’s Blackbirds are sometimes shot, trapped, or poisoned around agricultural fields in an attempt to protect crops. Although they do eat grains, this species’ appetite for insects makes it more of a farmer’s friend than a pest. Brewer’s Blackbirds are quick to notice new food sources and have been credited with helping to curb outbreaks of insect pests including weevils, cutworms, termites, grasshoppers, and tent caterpillars, among others.
  • The oldest known Brewer’s Blackbird was a male, and over 12 years, 6 months when it was found in California.

https://www.allaboutbirds.org/guide/Brewers_Blackbird/id

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