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
Brewer's Blackbird
Brewer's Blackbird

Description

8-10" (20-25 cm). Robin-sized. Male is solid black with purplish-blue iridescent head and yellow eyes. Female is gray with dark eyes. Similar to Rusty Blackbird, but male Rusty has faint green reflections on head; female Rusty has yellow eyes and jerks its head as it walks.

Voice

Gurgles, squawks, and whistles.

Listen

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

Habitat

Prairies, fields, and farmyards.

Range

Breeds from British Columbia, Manitoba, and Ontario south to southern California, New Mexico, and Texas. Winters north to British Columbia and Carolinas.

Discussion

This blackbird, named for 19th-century ornithologist Thomas M. Brewer of Boston, is best known especially in winter as a visitor to stockyards and farms, where it feeds on spilled grain. It also takes insects that are stirred up by livestock and plows. Brewer's Blackbirds nest in hay fields, but the young are usually fledged before the hay is harvested. During breeding season, the male has an elaborate display that includes fluffing out the feathers, making the wing quiver, cocking the tail, and pointing the bill upward. Following man and his cattle, the Brewer's first pushed north into Washington around the turn of the century. Later it traveled northeastward, reaching Wisconsin, and it is still spreading in Ontario, Canada. A very social species, it mixes not only with its own kind but with other species such as the Red-winged Blackbird and the Brown-headed Cowbird.

Nesting

3-5 gray eggs, with dark brown spots, in a nest of coarse grass and twigs reinforced with mud and lined with fine grass and hair, placed on the ground or in a tree. Nests in loose colonies of up to 30 pairs.

Similar Species

adult

Gray Catbird

8-9 1/4" (20-23 cm). Smaller than a robin. A slender, long-tailed, dark gray bird with black cap and rusty undertail coverts.

adult, breeding

European Starling

7 1/2-8 1/2" (19-22 cm). Smaller than a robin. A short-tailed, chunky, iridescent black bird; long pointed bill, yellow in summer and dark in fall and early winter.

adult male

Red-winged Blackbird

7-9 1/2" (18-24 cm). Smaller than a robin. Male is black with bright red shoulder patches. Female and young are heavily streaked with dusky brown. See Tricolored Blackbird.

adult male

Tricolored Blackbird

7 1/2-9" (19-23 cm). Similar to Red-winged Blackbird. Male is black but with dark red "epaulets," very broadly margined with white.

adult male, breeding

Rusty Blackbird

9" (23 cm). In spring males are black, with a bluish and greenish iridescence; females are dark gray. In fall they are much more rust-brown, especially head, breast, and back.

adult male, Eastern

Bronzed Cowbird

8 1/2" (22 cm). Male bronze-black with bluish-black wings and tail. Prominent red eye can be seen at close range. Female similar but duller.

adult male

Brown-headed Cowbird

6-8" (15-20 cm). Male black with glossy brown head; female plain gray-brown. Both have a finch-like bill.

adult male

Shiny Cowbird

7-8" (18-20 cm). Male purplish black glossed with blue above, shining purplish black below. Female grayish brown, paler below. Bill large, conical, and black. Eyes dark.

adult male

Boat-tailed Grackle

Males 16-17" (41-43 cm); females 12-13" (30-33 cm). Tail very long and keel-shaped. Male black, iridescent blue on back and breast; yellow or brown eyes. Female smaller, brown with paler breast.

adult male

Great-tailed Grackle

Male, 16-17" (41-43 cm); female, 12-13" (30-33 cm). Tail very long and keel-shaped. Male black, with iridescent purple on back and breast. Female smaller, brown with a pale breast.

adult male Coastal (Purple)

Common Grackle

12" (30 cm). Jay-sized. Long, wedge-shaped tail displaying a longitudinal ridge or keel when in flight.

adult male

Yellow-headed Blackbird

8-11" (20-28 cm). Robin-sized. Male much larger than female. Male is bright yellow on head, neck and upper breast, blackish elsewhere, with conspicuous white markings on wings.

Vireo

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