Brewer's BlackbirdEuphagus cyanocephalus

adult male
Brian E. Small/VIREO
juvenile
Joe Fuhrman/VIREO
adult female
Rick and Nora Bowers/VIREO
juvenile, heavy molt
Joe Fuhrman/VIREO

Description

This is the common blackbird of open country in the West, often seen walking on the ground with short forward jerks of its head. It adapts well to habitats altered by humans, and in places it may walk about on suburban sidewalks or scavenge for crumbs around beachfront restaurants. In winter, Brewer's Blackbirds gather in large flocks, often with other blackbirds, and may be seen foraging in farmland all across the western and southern states.

Habitat

Fields, prairies, farms, parks. Occurs in many kinds of open and semi-open country, including shrubby areas near water, streamside woods, aspen groves in mountain meadows, shores, farmland, irrigated or plowed fields. Often around human habitations, foraging on suburban lawns and in city parking lots.

Feeding Diet

Mostly insects and seeds, some berries. Feeds on a wide variety of insects, including grasshoppers, crickets, beetles, aphids, caterpillars, termites; also some spiders, snails, tiny crustaceans. Eats many seeds of grasses and weeds, plus much waste grain. Also eats berries, especially in summer.

Feeding Behavior

Walks on the ground as it searches for food. Sometimes wades in very shallow water. Sometimes catches insects in flight. May follow farm machinery in fields to feed on insects turned up by the plow. Except in nesting season, usually forages in flocks.

Nesting

Often nests in loose colonies of up to 20-30 pairs. In courtship display (or sometimes in aggressive display), male points bill straight up or forward, fluffs out body feathers, and partly spreads wings and tail. Nest site is quite variable; usually in tree 20-40' above ground, but may be on ground among tall grass, in bushes, or in crevice in cliff. Nest (built by female) is a rather bulky open cup made of twigs, grass, weeds, and pine needles, lined with fine grass, rootlets, animal hair. Often has mud or dried manure added to base. Eggs: 4-6, sometimes 3-7. Pale gray to greenish gray, spotted with brown. Incubation is by female, 12-14 days. Young: Both parents feed nestlings. Young leave the nest about 13-14 days after hatching. 1 brood per year, sometimes 2.

Eggs

4-6, sometimes 3-7. Pale gray to greenish gray, spotted with brown. Incubation is by female, 12-14 days. Young: Both parents feed nestlings. Young leave the nest about 13-14 days after hatching. 1 brood per year, sometimes 2.

Young

Both parents feed nestlings. Young leave the nest about 13-14 days after hatching. 1 brood per year, sometimes 2.

Conservation

Widespread and abundant. Expanded its range eastward in Great Lakes region during 20th century. In some areas, may be affected by competition with Common Grackle, increasing in the west.

Range

Present all year in parts of West. Spreads eastward in fall, with winter range including much of Southeast. Migrates north relatively early in spring.

Listen

song & call #2
quit calls
song & call #1
chuck calls
group singing & calling

Similar Species

adult

Gray Catbird

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adult male, breeding

Rusty Blackbird

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adult male, Eastern

Bronzed Cowbird

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Brown-headed Cowbird

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Shiny Cowbird

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adult male

Boat-tailed Grackle

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adult male

Great-tailed Grackle

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adult male Coastal (Purple)

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adult male

Yellow-headed Blackbird

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